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Experience is the Best Teacher

A little over a year ago, my husband graduated with a degree in Supply Chain Logistics Management. While our whole family rejoiced and were elated by this recent educational endeavor and even more so by his accomplishments, I just couldn't help but wonder what lay ahead for him.

Let me start by saying that I am exceedingly impressed by and proud of my husband. This is not just because he's incredibly intelligent, that he went back to school later in life, or because he's setting a wonderful example for our two beautiful children. I am mostly proud of him for getting this degree because he knowingly chose a challenging career path with many obstacles. In fact, daily functions left done incorrectly in this field can lead to severe consequences. This does not only apply to his employment but it also applies to the integrity of the supply chain as a whole. It's not hard to see why many people would cringe and falter in pursuit of this degree and career field.

My husband once told me that he chose this degree because it fits his personality; he likes to solve puzzles and he likes helping people. This really makes sense to me, because we often joke that, like Batman, he always has contingency plans for his contingency plans. Though we poke fun at this, it's so true in the field of supply chain and logistics. You have to be and think like Batman. Obtaining the right skills and knowledge cannot only be useful, but be critical to pursuing employment, reaching for promotions, and in training new talent. You must navigate through this pool of decisions if you wish to succeed. Lucky for him, he has me. Told you he was smart.

Currently, my husband works as a buyer for a distribution company. He is somewhat new to the industry and he is new to using an ERP system. Although some of the ups and downs of being a buyer have made for many interesting dinner conversations, I am happy to say that he is progressing very well. I'd like to think that I've helped with this progress. 

Having worked for Epicor for 13 years, I've learned a lot about both distribution and using an ERP system. Unlike my husband who is picking up a ton of information at once, this knowledge came to me gradually and perhaps mostly from my years in Support talking to customers every day and tuning into their specific problems. In Support, my focus was on a specific area of the system: sales and operations. Not to sound arrogant, but after a couple of years there weren't many issues I couldn't handle in that area. My knowledge grew through my years of going to Insights, our annual customer conference, where it's almost trial by fire; customers come to you and ask you any question about any area of the system. I remember at my first Insights when a customer came up to me with a huge stack of papers. I asked, "What is that?" He said: "These are my 72 questions I would like answered." This gave me real world experience. As my Support team became smaller, I had to learn all facets of the software: inventory, system administration and accounting. When I transferred to the Epicor University team, I started talking to the Product Managers, who are experts in both the software and industry, and my knowledge grew again.
The point I'm making is that I know a lot about this field, more than I ever realized, and while I love to talk about my amazing husband, I promise both of our back stories have a point. 

Currently my team is working on creating a large number of classes in a short amount of time. For the past two months all I've done is write scripts, over 40 of them. When writing a script or any writing at all, we naturally assume our reader, or in this case our viewer, has a certain level of knowledge about our topic. We also assume that they have a certain level of knowledge about the industry, whether it is manufacturing or distribution. Epicor University identified customer roles, and we assign them to our courses for just this purpose. But since my husband has entered the field I have a whole new appreciation for the knowledge that I have and take for granted.

He has become my touchstone. I use his level of knowledge about ERP systems and the distribution industry when I determine if a course has all of the information a customer needs to understand the topic. I ask myself if there is a single piece of information I'm assuming the customer knows, and if he didn't would he understand this course. More often than not, I find I'm missing something. It's usually small maybe a sentence or two and it's very simple to add it in.

My point is that we as trainers, technical writers, and content developers need to remember that we have a lot of experience and that we can't lose sight that sometimes our audience needs a little more from us than we think. I recommend that everyone find a touchstone. Step back and read your work, then determine if there is one small piece of knowledge hidden in the back of your mind without which your class, video, or documentation doesn't make sense. I think all of our work will go a lot farther in helping our customers if we do that.

Posted by Jamie Rementer, Trainer, Epicor University


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