Success at Work : Techniques : Computer Literacy

By: Stephen Bucaro

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Success at Work : Techniques : Computer Literacy

By Stephen Bucaro

It's hard to believe that there are people in today's
workforce who don't know how to use a computer. In today's
society, being computer illiterate is equivalent to being
functionally illiterate. Obviously no one reading this
article is computer illiterate, but maybe you know someone
who thinks they can avoid computers and still be successful
at work.

Let me tell you a story about a good friend of mine back
when I worked at Motorola. The company moved the
manufacturing of automobile alternators offshore, resulting
in his transfer to my department. Although he had about 20
years with the company, this was to be his last stop before
being booted out the door.

He was assigned to me as an Electronics Technician, and the
first assignment that I gave him was to lay out a small
printed circuit (pc) board. It was a tiny circuit for a
tester, so computer drafting was not required. He could
just sketch it out on paper. After several days, he came
back to me explaining that he didn't have the technical
ability to lay out a pc board.

An Electronics Technician that couldn't lay out a simple
pc board? Don't all Electronics Technicians make little
hobby circuits at home? At least all the technicians
I knew did.

I explained that he needed to draw outlines of the
components and then use the schematic to draw lines between
the components connections. Then, maybe rearrange the
components if that would result in fewer crossing paths.
I also explained something much more profound, how to deal
with the complexity of technology.

Many people, when they come into contact with technology,
consider themselves too stupid to deal with it. Technology
is only for geniuses and geeks.

Sometimes technology is too
complex, but it's not because people are stupid, it's
because the technology is poorly designed.

For example, take software, like a graphics program,
spreadsheet or database. Is the intended user of the
software a computer programmer, or an average person?
These applications are intended for use by an average
person. If an application is too complex for the average
person, the application is at fault - not the user.

Why are most computers and software applications too
complex for the average person? Because they are designed
by programmers who are under pressure to get the product
out the door. Does the application have simple, easy-to-use
help files? Software developers consider help files even
less important than application usability.

- The bottom line is, people are not stupid - computers and
software applications ARE too complex.

In today's world, where workers are required to use
computers and technology, how can they deal with the
complexity? Back to the story about my friend at Motorola.

After receiving my instructions, he successfully completed
the pc board layout. I then introduced him to Computer
Automated Engineering (CAE). I showed him how to drag
electronic components from a library, use the mouse to draw
circuit paths, make the computer simulate the function of
the circuit, and then make the computer layout a pc board
for the circuit.

He was able to easily master complex technology because he
now understood that he wasn't stupid. Computers ARE complex.
When he needed help, he studied the help files or asked
someone for help. Eventually, his CAE skills became known
and I lost him to another manager. "His last stop before
being booted out the door?" I don't think so. There's no
way Motorola is going to let this valuable employee get away.

Even though it's the programmers fault that computers and
software are too complex, that doesn't relieve you of all
responsibility. You must make an effort. Like my friend at
Motorola, you must study the help files or ask someone for
help when you need it. Not only must you study the help
files, but you must also be willing to "try things".

Many people fear that if they click on the wrong thing, the
computer will blow up and they will be blamed for it. A
properly designed software application prevents the user
from making a fatal mistake, either by making it impossible,
or by providing a warning message. A properly designed
application lets the user "back out of" or reverse any
action. One of the best ways to learn is to "try things".
If the computer blow ups because you made a mistake, you're
using improperly designed software.

When you're learning how to perform a function with a
computer, if you expect you may need to perform that same
function again, take notes. No one will think you're
stupid if you take notes. But if you keep asking over and
over again how to perform the same function, they will
think you're too stupid to take notes.

When I worked at Motorola, I used a technique called
"strokes" to make symbols appear and move around the
computer screen like magic. Some people called me the
"Electronic God". How did I get so good? I tried things.
I failed. I studied. I tried again. I understood that
technology IS complex. So what?

In today's societyArticle Submission, being computer illiterate is equivalent
to being functionally illiterate. Make the effort to study
the help files and to "try things". Don't get discouraged
or blame yourself if you don't succeed on the first try.
The computer won't blow up if you make a mistake. You can't
be successful at work if you fail to embrace computers and

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