Soft Skill Sell

Student workers made up most of the IT work force when I was working at a university. The labor was cheap (no health or retirement benefits, $7-15 an hour) compared to hiring staff. For the grunt work, in my case making web pages and moving files, it was convenient. Sure training them was a hassle, but getting them up to speed was not terrible.

I cared more about selecting for the soft skills in an interview and preferred to teach the hard skills. As Maureen Downey quoted in A harder line on softer skills: If young people can master PhotoShop, can’t they figure out alarm clocks?:

She explains that while hard skills are the factual and technical talents that workers bring to their jobs, soft skills represent their ability to get along with colleagues, sell their ideas, get to work on time, problem solve and motivate others.

I needed them to establish and maintain positive relationships with the various departments whose web sites we maintained. They also needed to work well with each other as one might be asked to make an emergency change to a page while another was out. Being on time to a meeting with a department representative was important to keeping that person happy. I broke all of them calling me if they were going to be a minute late to the office. As long as they kept the clients happy I really did not care whether they were a few minutes or even hours late. (It was work I did not have to do.)

My management style probably introduced bad habits like the supposed soccer coaches rewarding kids for just showing up. I am doubtful this is all there is to it. As I recall, when I was in the position of being a student worker, the same complaints about us late Gen Xers. Going back even younger, I recall my grandmother complaining about student workers having the same complaints about early Gen Xers. My grandmother described her brothers at 18-22 as the same. This is not a brand new problem with Millennials. Identifying who will do a good job is the job of a manager. Get used to it.

The certificate of soft skills mentioned in the article sounds stupid:

A comprehensive career and college readiness bill passed this year by the General Assembly authorizes the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development to establish certification in soft skills such as punctuality, ability to learn, appropriate business attire and the ability to work as a team.

We really are wasting taxpayer money on this? I disagree this is common sense (these things must be taught). My parents did teach me much of these kinds of things.

Product Confusion

Someone hit my web site looking for “blackboard administrator certification”. So I was curious out what was out there on the Internet for this. I ran across a Blackboard training web site. In looking though the offerings, I was struck by the use of two different names for the same product. (I don’t mean like CE6 is Vista 4 Lite. There are minor differences in the products.)

  1. Academic Suite
  2. Bb Classic

As far as I can tell, these are the same exact products. Its confusing, so I don’t know for sure.

Certification Courses

Today I received an email announcing new certification courses from Blackboard. Every administrator around our system did as well. We have a large body of certified trainers and administrators with multiple individuals at every campus who have been through the certification plus all the functional support have been through both training and admin certification.

I’m not a big fan of certifications as a way of determining what people know. I do think having so many people go through the certification has allowed us to use jargon consistently. Pre-cert, we’d have to waste time explaining what the jargon means. Post-cert, everyone seems to understand these terms. Sure, we are constantly expanding the terms used, but its nice to have a common basis.

Back to the email…. Here are the certifications mentioned in the email:

  • Blackboard Learning System™ GUI Administrator Certification
  • Blackboard Learning System™ Server Administrator Certification (NEW)
  • Campus Edition GUI Administrator Certification
  • Vista GUI Administrator Certification

The points of the message were, I think to announce the new “server administrator” certification and remind people about the existing ones. Initially I was interested because I thought it meant there is a new certification for Vista, whose license name is Blackboard Learning System™ – Vista Enterprise Edition (say that 3x fast), but no… Its just for Academic Suite.

I think Blackboard’s marketing department should do a better job of understanding which products their customers use. Highlighting to over 60 people here in Georgia they are offering cool things to the clients who were not spoils of the WebCT buy isn’t helping Blackboard.

tag: , Blackboard Inc, WebCT