I just got off the phone with Italo Osorio, who is the former Director of Application Services for IT at our university. He’s one of several who got a better job offer during the summer and is headed for greener pastures. In the meantime, I am one of a couple of people who is trying to complete a new website for our school.
The project was put on hold about February, and I went on to other things, like teaching my classes and pretending to be a writer. Then just about a week ago they decided to fast track the new website, so we are all playing hurry up. Right now, what I am dealing with are “sliders,” which are banner photographs at the top of each webpage. The name comes from the fact that you can have multiple photos on each page, which are timed to “slide” away so you can see the next one.
Since we are dealing with literally hundreds of pages on the University site, some of the pages will feature redundant photographs that were used elsewhere on the site. Problem is, I forgot how to link the naked pages that need a slider with other pages that already have one. That’s why I was on the phone.
Flash back fifteen years. I was still a book editor at Pacific Press Publishing Association in Boise, Idaho. We were having a summit meeting to talk about “the future of publishing,” as if we had a clue what that future would bring. I made the comment that I saw editors becoming “jacks of all trades,” seeing the need for editors to be able to write, edit, take and edit photos, do layout, know software, know printing, do marketing, know sales, etc. Another book editor friend of mine spoke up and said, “No, that’s not going to happen.”
Later I stopped my friend and asked him why he said what he did. Why would you believe that editors won’t need to know all this other stuff? “Because I can’t do it,” was his response.
And that, unfortunately, is the mindset that many in publishing are taking these days. We deny that the future will happen because, really, we don’t want it to happen. I had a meeting with the VP for marketing for Pacific Press recently, who told me that he believes there will come a day when the self-publishing bubble with burst. “People will realize that the best books come from established publishers, even if they have to pay more for them.” That may be true to a certain degree, but I have a hard time believing that people would rather pay $12.99 for an ebook than $2.99 or $.99. The only reason I know that I would do that is if it is an author that I know and like and I am wanting a specific book of his. If I am just grazing, as I often am as a voracious reader, I will be wandering through the indie $2.99 ebooks or down the aisles of Half Priced Books.
So what does that have to do with me working on a website, fixing sliders? Well, the reality is, I never would have believed, 15 years ago, that I would today be webmaster at a University. But one of the talents that has saved me in my career multiple times over the years is being flexible and able to multitask. That’s also one of the skills I emphasize to my students. Be excellent at one or two writing styles, but be able to write in multiple styles. You may want to work at a TV station, but a job may open at a magazine. Flexibility and versatility can save your butt. I know it has saved mine.
And then there’s this whole future thing. They tell us as teachers that many of the jobs that students will be doing as they graduate haven’t even been invented yet. So how do you help them prepare for them? Students need to learn the basics, and once again, they need to learn versatility.
It sure hasn’t hurt me in my career over the years.