A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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August 11, 2000

Back to School

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

It is almost impossible to believe that the summer is coming to an end. In another couple of weeks children will be returning to school with new notebooks, backpacks and, hopefully, a little bit of excitement towards what they will learn this year. Whether you are watching your own children go off to school or merely watching the neighborhood children, this month is a good one to go back to school yourself. Nothing succeeds in the high-tech career market like knowledge, so send yourself back to school.

Nothing fancy

Going back to school need not take anything more than your time. Perhaps you have been meaning to learn a bit more about some technology, but found yourself overwhelmed with life and work pressures. We all tend to have too many things clamoring for too little time. Still, increasing your work skills should hold some level of priority in your life. These skills are what will allow you to earn more and work on projects that mean something to you.

One easy first step is to visit your local library. Ask the reference librarian to point you to the "computer books." There you will find a multitude of topics to choose from. Do you want to learn how to program ASP web pages so that you can give your clients more useful web sites? Do you need a quick brush-up on Adobe Photoshop to help you get those new product shots into the company catalog? Perhaps you just need to learn how to update your MS Word documents more quickly. Use the library books to develop your own curriculum. Better yet, check a few of the books out and get started this very afternoon.

You need not dedicate long hours to your studies. Steal a few minutes away from the television to read a few pages. Carry a book with you so the next time you are waiting in line you can learn a little while decreasing your boredom level. Try to learn one small item each day. At the end of the year you will have accumulated 365 new bits of information that can make you a better high-tech professional.


I tend to like the method above for exploring new areas, but some of you will find it better to set aside scheduled time and attention for learning. Classes can help you learn necessary skills more quickly. Some of us just work better when we are under a deadline.

Once you have chosen a basic area of interest, the best way to select a course is by getting a recommendation from someone who has taken the same or similar course or had the same instructor. Word of mouth referrals can help you avoid poorly organized classes and instructors who don't measure up. If your friends can't offer any recommendations you will need to ask the school or the instructor for letters of recommendation.

Regardless of the class you choose, you will want to take every opportunity to interact with the instructor both inside and outside of class. Perhaps they will take questions via email or voice mail. When you are paying for a class you want to insure that you make your money count.

More to the world

Finally, please remember that there is more to the world than high-tech issues. While you are in the library check out other books that interest you. Perhaps you have always wondered how furniture is made, books are written or antiques are sold. Maybe a book about the art of Monet catches your eye. I find that combining technical learning with creative learning increases my appreciation of both. You never know how the development of painting styles might relate to the development of software. More than once I have solved a daunting technical problem due to my reading in another, unrelated area. Too much of anything is a bad thing.Don't confine your learning to strictly high-tech areas.

There are never-ending cycles in the world and in our lives. Fall is a time for going back to school, another year older and, hopefully, another year wiser. This time, though, you will find yourself being both teacher and student. If it helps you to get in the mood, you can even dig out your old Scooby Doo or Monkee's lunchbox and don't forget to bring an apple for the teacher.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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