By late 1999, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career with front end web design and technologies, so after some research on local schools in the Bay Area I settled on the digital media department at West Valley College, in Saratoga, CA.
In 2000, I enrolled in my first courses with 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 a program called Director®, owned by Macromedia; Flash® was also a Macromedia program at the time. I also enrolled in a Photoshop class, alongside my general education classes. 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, along with the incorporation of audio, specifically in an interactive format where a story could be told by virtue of the user clicking through quickly became my number one goal.
To help 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 (owned by Chick Webb). As luck would have it, I landed the job. I had no idea at the time that I was beginning a career in the world of instructional design that has spanned nearly two decades at this point.
My primary focus at The Webb Group was with eLearning. They quickly indoctrinated me into using Dreamweaver (at the time a Macromedia product) 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 (long before Adobe acquired Macromedia). I was surprised back then when I discovered that a couple of the junior course developers built courses in Dreamweaver but could not look at a page in HTML and 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 so love to work 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, as well as other types of training pieces, that have been well received by the companies I have worked for. It’s the fine details that result in a smooth 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 stint with them), RealNetworks, and most recently a company named Clearwater Paper. At each of those companies, except for Certivo, software simulation style training pieces have been part of the training agenda I have been called on duty for. However, at each of those companies there have been a variety of other types of training styles I have been responsible for creating, including everything from linear, informational courses with the inclusion of graphics and/or audio to be edited, to light animation sequences or even a video presentation at RealNetworks produced in DVD format as a tool for recruiters to take to colleges and universities.