Confessions of a dyslexic technical writer

I had the good fortune to be diagnosed as having dyslexia when I was in the second grade. Good fortune is probably the wrong way to describe it. Back then because not much was known about the learning disability, so the early diagnosis probably saved me from a much different future than the life I live now.

So how did the kid with a learning disability grew up to become a technical writer and gets paid to learn new things and write about them to help other people learn?

Here’s how I made it work…

I’m better organized electronically than in hard copy

Being a technical writer requires pretty heavy duty organizational skills. Organization was hard for me in the days of print manuals. However, when the first personal information managers (PIMs) came out, I was all over them. I could remember my deadlines, meetings and track my tasks.

Scarily enough, I’ve become a power user on Microsoft SharePoint and lots of other online collaboration platforms along the way.

These days OmniFocus (iPad/iPhone/Mac) serves as a central hub for the project related tasks I’m working. Asana comes into play for my editorial checklists and some idea capture. Evernote is where I stash my research and web clipping all nice and tagged for future reference. It is nearly impossible for me to lose anything since I’m an Evernote Premium user.

Numbers are torture to me I’m definitely not a spreadsheet guy but when I have to work with numbers, I always check and double check my calculations again and again.

I *see* the project complete and work backwards

College was tough for me, but I found a talent in writing. Test taking was never my thing. There was a time; I chose to trade taking four philosophy class tests to write a major term paper. I try to envision whatever I’m writing in its complete state and work back from there.

One of the most influential classes I ever took in college was called The Composing Process taught by Dr. Molly Walter-Burnham (One of the few professors I respected). Her class challenged me to break down how I write. It was a class I drew upon even years later when I was trying to wrap replicable processes around my technical writing projects.

Change before blame…

My composing process is a direct result of compensating for my dyslexia. When something stops working, or I hit a snag, my first question is how to mitigate the risk not to blame my dyslexia. Instead of blaming my disability time is better spent putting together whatever was needed to ensure the mistake wouldn’t happen again (or at least less often).

Checklists are my co-pilot. I use checklists and replicable processes pretty heavily when I’m writing articles and blog posts for sites like CNET TechRepublic and others.

Passion is an important part of working

There’s nothing seedy about this confession. Rather, I think that dyslexics need to be especially passionate about whatever work they choose to do with their lives. I’ve had some real professional highs and lows in my career. My passions for writing and technology carried me through those times.

While free writing is tough with my schedule these days, I’m trying to use Medium and the LinkedIn Publishing System to publish some of my work. The introduction of these two platforms also gave me an excuse to revisit some old personal blog posts and update them to my current perspective.

Final thoughts

You have two choices as a person with dyslexia. You can feel sorry for yourself and let the disability cloud your prospects. The other and only true choice is to channel dyslexia into your success.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

How BYOD will change IT


The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend and how it will change the IT department of tomorrow was a popular point of discussion during a panel discussion I participated in earlier this year.

The advent of BYOD will not only affect the everyday operations of IT staff, it will have an impact on the mission and basic business functions of the department.

Here are some major ways in which BYOD will affect IT departments in the future:

1. The IT department will evolve into a services and apps broker.
With the increasing popularity of subscription-based cloud apps and enterprise app stores, the IT department’s role will shift toward that of a services and apps broker. IT will take a technology leadership role in managing software and services licensing across employee-owned devices as well as the remaining corporate-owned PCs and mobile devices still remaining in inventory.

As BYOD makes enterprise gains, even more systems will migrate to the cloud to ensure support for users across devices. Applications migrating to the cloud include:

  • Email, calendaring, and productivity apps
  • Project management apps
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Accounting and financial apps
  • Online collaboration and social enterprise apps
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Likewise, the IT department will administer cloud app accounts and manage an enterprise app store or standard app list for the company’s BYOD users.

2. IT will morph from hardware provider to advisor.
The IT department will become less and less of a hardware player as employee-owned laptops, tablets, and smartphones replace corporate-owned systems.

Corporate servers being taken offline as systems migrate to the cloud will further lessen the hardware footprint. Corporate printer numbers will also decline as more collaboration and document reviews take place on tablets or online.

IT professionals will still need to put their device selection skills to work in organizations that follow the COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) model, and as advisors to employees seeking guidance on making BYOD choices appropriate to their roles.

3. IT’s responsibilities for security and communications will expand.
The IT department’s responsibilities and support around communications and security will certainly grow in a BYOD future. IT will manage the mobile device management (MDM) and/or secure authentication solutions that will be in place. Responsibilities for end-point security will also increase as BYOD-enabled personal devices grow to become employees’ primary work platforms.

As a communications provider, corporate WiFi network management responsibilities will increase to accommodate more devices accessing the office network. Working with service providers to ensure that employees have adequate coverage and understand service plans and limitations will be essential. IT and accounting departments will both have a share in managing the allowances given to employees with BYOD devices and in controlling expenses.

4. IT can have a larger role in onboarding and educating employees.
On an employee’s first day, a stop by IT will be part of the office tour where the IT department will provision their devices with necessary apps as well as access to the corporate network and/or cloud applications. Employees will learn about corporate policies, security best-practices, and their personal responsibilities.

While change can be painful for some organizations, the changes that BYOD brings to the future of IT draw upon past expertise. This enables IT to become a strategic player behind the services and device choices that power a BYOD-enabled workforce.

What other changes do you see BYOD bringing to the IT department of the future?

Image by basketman courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

Disruptive mobile technologies enter the future


I recently spoke with Fay Arjomandi, global lead of Vodafone xone, a business unit that focuses on finding and cultivating startups that produce disruptive mobile solutions in Vodafone Europe, Middle East, Asia (EMEA) markets. She foresees some disruptive (and quite interesting) mobile technologies in our business and personal futures.

Welcome to the “Internet of Me”
When it comes to disruptive mobile technologies for the consumer, Arjomandi opens with, “Everybody is trying to define their role in the next wave.” She also credits cellular communications as personalizing telephony for consumers as the number of subscribers has exploded. (There are 6.8 billion mobile customers worldwide, and there is one smartphone for every five people, according to some recent numbers she came across.)

One disruptive mobile consumer technology she sees in the future is the “Internet of Me.” She explains it as a system responding to a mobile user’s needs in a very dynamic and autonomic way.

“It’s about getting my music when I need it, content when I need it,” Arjomandi explains. The “Internet of Me” transcends content and device ecosystems as it pushes content to a mobile user. It provides freedom of access to anything the users need.

She also sees self-optimized networks (SON) — she uses the term self-optimized system (SOS) — in the future. SOS is a system that is so intelligent, and in which everything is interconnected so thoroughly, that it knows the user well enough to evolve with the user through the day. Arjomandi gave the example of the technology knowing that after a full day of work you are tired, so it sends your calls to voice mail, except those from people you specify. The SOS even starts the dinner you placed in the microwave that morning.

Run your business and your personal life from one device “The border between consumer and enterprise is getting blurrier every day,” says Arjomandi. She predicts the further rise of “prosumer” mobile technologies as mobile workers continue to shift between personal and business tasks on their mobile device throughout the business day.

In her predicted rise of “prosumer” technologies, Arjomandi sees more mobile solutions in 2014 and beyond that enable users to run and manage business tasks, whether one is discovering sales results, website engagement statistics, IT system performance, or staff attendance and time tracking.

Signs of this prediction are already appearing as startups and major enterprise app vendors alike are adopting mobile first strategies and as more intelligent mobile and cloud technologies launch, offering more highly mobile options for business users to interact with backend systems.

Toward a future of mobile disruption Arjomandi points to a future where enterprise mobile users will have even greater convergence over personal and business tasks on their mobile devices. There are consumer, smart home, and even enterprise mobile technologies taking shape that are feeding into Arjomandi’s predictions about the future of disruptive mobile technologies.

What disruptive mobile technologies do you predict in your professional and personal future?

Image by nokhoog_buchachon courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.