In 2000, I enrolled at West Valley College’s digital media department, choosing classes that would apply towards a digital media certificate or degree. One of my first classes was with an animation application, Macromedia Director. I also enrolled in a Photoshop class. The Director class ended up intriguing me more than I had anticipated; it was my first exposure to a timeline-based animation program. Animation became my greatest passion at that time, superseding my focus on HTML. The combination of graphics with motion and audio, in an interactive format quickly became my number one goal.
To pay my way through school, I applied for a job on the digital media job board with an eLearning vendor in downtown San Jose, a startup called The Webb Group. As luck would have it, I landed the job. I had no idea I was beginning a career in the world of instructional design that would span over two decades.
My primary focus at The Webb Group was with eLearning. They quickly indoctrinated me into using Dreamweaver to rapidly lay out expansive web-based training projects in a collaborative environment. Upon learning of my dabbling in Director, the folks at The Webb Group also introduced me to Macromedia Flash (before Adobe acquired Macromedia). I was surprised when I discovered a couple of the course developers built courses in Dreamweaver but could not look at a page in HTML to edit it. I was grateful that I had learned to code in HTML initially, to gain an understanding of the code that Dreamweaver was writing in the background. This enabled me to successfully edit “buggy” code that Dreamweaver occasionally produced; but I also had a respect for how quickly Dreamweaver could allow a front end developer/designer to lay out pages, to lay out an entire site. This was before Dreamweaver had the split window environment that I enjoy working out of these days, with code and design view both visible at once.
Many of our clients with The Webb Group were software companies that required software simulation training. This was an era just before programs such as Camtasia were available on the market, so we would bring screenshots of applications to be trained on into Flash, along with an image of a cursor, and manually animate cursor movements across the screen, capturing various button over & down states to drop in to the Flash timeline at the point where we wanted to simulate the clicking of a button. Of course, we added audio from voice talent folks as well, usually editing in Sound Forge, along with audio snippets of button clicks and any other desired sound effects that would add a sense of realism to the simulations. Years later, after I began capturing screen simulations with Camtasia for other companies, it never ceased to amaze me how far things had come, how easy it was/is to capture the same types of simulations that we used to do all by hand in the past. I think the extra detail that I had to put in, making cursor movements look realistic by tweaking the motion path in Flash, has helped me in making recent software simulations captured via Camtasia to look as realistic as possible, by keeping an eye for details such as smooth cursor movement, proper speed of movement, and eliminating a jerky mouse cursor when clicking. This parallels the earlier experience I had with switching from hand coding HTML to using Dreamweaver, in that a background base knowledge of what’s going on, paying attention to finite details, has resulted in the creation of software simulations and other types of training pieces that have been well received for high knowledge retention rates. It’s the fine details that result in a smooth, easy to follow, simulation.
After my time with The Webb Group, I went on to expand my experiences with several companies, including a global staffing agency called Certivo, Rational Software (who was purchased by IBM during the tail end of my time with them), RealNetworks, Clearwater Paper, and currently T-Mobile. Along the way, technology training has been a focal point, but I have also worked on compliance training, safety training, as well as branding and marketing efforts. My toolsets have crossed from the technical, coding side to graphics, video and audio editing.