There were some inevitabilities I was prepared for, first in selecting English as an undergraduate major and then moving on to pursue a master’s in Library and Information Services (technically a Master of Science in Information Science, but the former is generally a bit easier to understand): jokes about being a barista or drive-thru attendant, four years of studiously avoiding math, more reading in a week than I had done in a year before starting college. Some things were a bit more of a surprise, like the question “libraries still exist?” and the sudden, unwelcome reappearance of math classes in graduate school – but those still more or less fall under the umbrella of predictability, a combination of a well-rounded education and trying to adapt to a world that refuses to stand still.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM, though. That one came out of left field.
Regardless of position, everyone at Aeon Nexus is highly encouraged to pursue greater understanding in Microsoft Dynamics 365, ideally attaining certification as an MCSA and MCSE. With my background in Irish poetry and literary theory, “greater understanding” comes pretty close to “any understanding at all,” and there is something challenging and rewarding about sitting down to an entirely alien field of study and determining how to make sense of it all.
It gives me the unique position of understanding, and perhaps even advising, how to step into working with software solutions without having dipped so much of a toe in the subject before. How often do liberal arts and libraries overlap with CRM, anyway? More than you might think.
For starters, take heart in the fact that every education, of every kind, begins with a flood of incomprehensible jargon. The ability to Google and the habit of keeping a running list of definitions is perhaps the single most important skill required for preparing for the certification exams, and they are worth developing quickly. (Fortunately, literary criticism has more than its share of field-specific gibberish; after wrestling with semiotics and différance, “SQL Server Reporting Services” and “Extensible Markup Language” are daunting, but not overwhelming, terms to pick up. Get yourself a stack of highlighters, a good internet connection, and a great deal of patience, and you will be surprised at how quickly it begins to feel familiar.
Second, remember close-reading. After four years of undergraduate practice, I now find it almost impossible to read anything without breaking it down into its smallest words and phrases. (For example, Shawn Mendes’ latest single may not have been intentionally referencing Linkin Park with the line “I’m crawling in my skin,” but once that connection has been made it is all but impossible to separate the lyrics of the two hits, and from there it becomes apparent that they overlap in theme and tone, sharing far more similarities than one would expect of a teen crooner and an alt-metal band. Even listening to the radio becomes an exercise in close-reading after a while.) This turns out to be a surprisingly useful skill, particularly when it comes to the aforementioned jargon and challenging concepts. If you make it a habit to take new or difficult material and parse it down to its simplest parts, it becomes easier to digest, and eventually to piece back together into a coherent whole. If a paragraph is overwhelming, shrink it down to a collection of sentences and study each; with a sentence, break it into phrases; unfamiliar phrases, try to understand an individual world. Meaning and knowledge can be built from the ground up, and this applies to massive databases, lengthy proposals, and studying for exams alike.
In the end, this is all about information. Close-reading is the practice of picking relevant information out of a great deal of extra noise; writing anything is just one way of conveying that information to others. Excelling in any field requires the willingness to learn new information, and software solutions, in particular, are focused on providing the most efficient and convenient ways to get that information to the people and organizations who need it.
Everyone has a great deal of information at their disposal. Whether it comes from skills developed, formal education, or past experience, you are a walking collection of valuable information.
The tricky part, and the part that is the most rewarding, is figuring out how to use it.