A picture is worth 1000 words (but maybe a few more dollars that I would like to spend)

I often refer to myself as a “Mack of all trades” (a play on the phrase “a Jack of all trades” if you’re not familiar). I have intermediate to advanced level skills in programming and developing, data analysis and reporting. And like many engineers, I have an artistic soul that cries out…

The Creative Suite is a graphic (wannabe) artist’s dream. Adobe an has always lured me to purchase and subscribe to the latest and greatest and over time, I have become proficient in InDesign, Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator and building skills in Animate.

I have a high level of respect for graphic designers who can mentally construct images and design the pieces to put them together. Given my budget as a freelance IT, translation and training professional, I often have to find free stock images online, or take the creative route of designing my own.

Though creating new images takes time and effort—including the time to research how-to videos— Today I needed to create a custom magnifying glass. With that idea in mind, and an hour of focused time, I searched “how to create a magnifying glass in Adobe Illustrator.”

Continue reading “A picture is worth 1000 words (but maybe a few more dollars that I would like to spend)”

Another type of Virus: Covid-19 Scammers

Today I received an email message that, from all appearances, was from the state department of business services. Except, there is no state department of business services.

Stop and evaluate before you click.

I read the email message, hovered my mouse over the links and checked the email address–nothing was familiar. I recognized the email for what it was: phishing. I reported the email to the real department in my state that this scammer was pretending to represent.

I have seen a disturbing increase in the number of fraudulent emails since the crisis began to take hold in our country—to the point that I have mistakenly blocked senders that are potential business partners.

Unfortunately, there are individuals (in-country and outside) who are attempting to make a bad situation worse by preying on people who really need assistance, employment or business contracts. They are impersonating business representatives and misrepresenting company details in an effort to commit theft.

In addition to email phishing, social engineering by phone, scammers are active on the web, too.

Scammer Attack: A well-known job site has numerous fake job postings listed.

Continue reading “Another type of Virus: Covid-19 Scammers”

Do I need a CRM application?

I was introduced to an HVAC design engineer a few weeks ago who told me, as I passed him my business card with the QR code on it, “I still have a Rolodex.” Yikes! Well, the funny thing is that I am experienced enough know exactly what a Rolodex looks like without having to Google it.

CRM tool of antiquity

As a contractor, I try to keep up with clients, students I teach, and colleagues. I note their business needs and interests, and even their favorite activities. After all, I am trying to form long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships and it’s helpful to know something about the person behind the business card.

So the question is: do I need a CRM application? Well yes, I do and I started by using Microsoft Outlook to store name, address, phone, email and notes about my contacts.

As my electronic Rolodex (MS Outlook Contacts) grew, I decided that I needed to capture more detailed data and categories on my contacts. For example, I wanted to collect the date that I was first introduced to a person, and the mutual contact’s name if applicable. Then I could create email groups by mutual contact or month of introduction, and I could then send update email messages from time to time (you know, to refresh their memories about my existence = relationship building).

Since MS Outlook was limited, I looked to another MS Office applications for a solution. I chose to construct a contacts database using an MS Access template.

MS Access Contacts database
Continue reading “Do I need a CRM application?”

Stop–Don’t throw that envelope away!

No, that envelope is not a piece of junk mail! The Census notices are being mailed out twice. Have you filled out the questionnaire yet? Thanks to the US Department of Commerce for the online option.

A 5-Minute 3-Step Process With a Reward

1. Open the envelope. You can use scissors, letter opener (do you even know what that is?), or an index finger.

2. Find the Census ID in the box. It’s in the box labeled “Your Census ID is:” (Pretty easy so far, right?)

This is an ID unique to your residential address.

3. With the Census ID letter in one hand (not the hand you type with), and your other hand on your phone, tablet or PC keyboard, open your favorite browser and go to my2020census.gov and complete the questionnaire. (Checkpoint: don’t forget to power the device on!)

For detailed guidance, click the INSTRUCTIONS link at the top of the page.
Continue reading “Stop–Don’t throw that envelope away!”

Zoom…ing in on another meeting app!

I signed up for Zoom a few years ago to do some online teaching (worked out better than using Skype). I recently had to resurrect the app for an online systems class. The course began in February with our 100+ participants gathering in a huge meeting space. However, as of last week we are meeting virtually via Zoom.

Although I would normally complain about the switch, adapting to an online class is minor compared to all the other important changes that we have had to make in our lives. Again, I am grateful for developers and their technology that keep us communicating and working, at least to some extent.

So back to Zoom! Getting Zoom is easy and best of all, there is a free version. Get your download at Zoom.us or install the app on your mobile device. I originally downloaded the Windows .exe file and when I opened the dusty version of the app, it automatically did an update.

Downloading the App

Congratulations! You are ready to start working in Zoom. If you prefer to link passwords, sign in with your Google account or Facebook. You can also create an account using your email address, or using single sign-on if your organization supports it. Let’s dive in!

Continue reading “Zoom…ing in on another meeting app!”

Getting Slack…Again

I used Slack briefly during a period when my client’s Unified Communications group was searching for virtual team collaboration tools. They eventually selected Microsoft Teams but I for one, was impressed Slack.

Now that I am 100% virtual like half of the workforce, I thought I should get reacquainted with Slack.

Continue reading “Getting Slack…Again”

Finding Time to Meet

Now that I am in isolation at home, I have renewed my search for online tools. After being away for quite some time, I have missed out on some really neat apps. Let’s get (re)started!

Walking over to a colleagues desk for a quick chat often eliminates the need for a scheduled meeting, an efficiency that does not exist in a virtual office place.

So when can you meet? can become a discussion that involves a lot of back and forth calling, emailing or texting, particularly when attendees are from different companies, or if a common calendar tool is not in use.

This week, I discovered Microsoft FindTime, an Outlook add-in available to Office 365 customers.

Microsoft FindTime

This can help to coordinate a meeting faster, especially for >2 attendees! The key requirement is that the organizer has a Microsoft 365 account.

I tried it out and found it rather simple to use. I started in Outlook by creating a meeting.

Continue reading “Finding Time to Meet”

What a difference a few days (or a decade) makes!

As the coronavirus is continuing to disrupt our families, nation and the world over the past several days, I wanted to take a moment to count my blessings.

I am thankful that working in IT has provided a steady income for most of the past 10 years. I have been able to share my knowledge with others and help them to work more efficiently, and build systems to collect and report on data that aids their decision making.

Beyond the financial rewards of working in the IT field, I consider how fortunate I am to be in an age where technology allows me to continue with daily functions right now, despite the fact that I have drastically reduced how much I leave home. I could never have imagined the progress that has been made since I started this blog nearly a decade ago.

We have numerous options to:

  • Shop for food and other goods online, and have them shipped to our homes, or we can drive to a pick-up station
  • Meet with colleagues and potential clients using online/virtual meeting software
  • Send/receive payments for work completed using online banking
  • Send/receive communication 24/7
  • Take classes and earn a degree online

And, we can still use our mobile telephones to hold a voice chat with a relative or friend, old school style.

Let’s stay safe and help keep our aged family and neighbors safe from harm and prevent further losses of life!

The logos are owned by the respective companies.

Let’s share ideas!

IT Consultant…who woulda thunk it?

It has been quite a while since I posted to the site. The good news is that I still work at home but now I split my time between client offices and my home office (where my four-legged assistant provides reminders about my schedule).

Here are some professional highlights:

  • I graduated with the degree in Instructional Technology (yay!)
  • I started working as an IT Project Manager and Business Analyst (the Lord just plopped me down into that role and it seems that it’s the path I’ll follow!)
  • I started a corporation and I have a few corporate clients, one primary and a few infrequent (making hay while the sun is shining…)
  • I am nearly finished with a degree in computer science (odd that I started a business in a field BEFORE getting the specific university education?) — two classes remain for fall 2016!
  • Earned Project Management Professional and Microsoft Project certifications
  • I’ve increased my fluency in Spanish and Portuguese (and I’m still waiting for the break-out opportunity that will allow me to use the languages along with the other skills!)

So what can be expected for 2016 and beyond? Well, I’ll get back into the practice of posting to this blog some of the neat technology I’ve come across for personal and business use that I hope will be as useful to you!

Let’s continue to share ideas!

Collaborating via Wiki sites

One major assignment in my university course was collaborating via a course wiki.

The site has turned out quite nicely, save a few problems with the overall organization, which is the issue I would like to address today.

First, one student took charge of the initial site organization and after a few changes, the main topics were established. Somewhere along the way, students started veering off course and there was no consistency. If I were to collaborate via wiki in the future, I would definitely assign one person  to enforce page hierarchies, and categories. If the site is difficult to navigate, it’s pretty much useless to the community.

If you’ve ever collaborated via wiki, how did it turn out for you and your group or organization?

Let’s share ideas!