Redundancy: Bad news, but also good news!

Being ‘let go’

I found out last month (April 2017), the day before my birthday, that my role was being made redundant as of May 19th 2017. My last day of work at Cheshire Datasystems will be Friday 28th of July.

I’ve not posted about it on these pages before the ‘due date’ for two reasons: I was still recovering from my broken ankle (see previous post) and I didn’t want to ‘rock any boats’ with colleagues in work, or the head of HR who’s been dealing with the situation(s) that have led to this outcome.

No one else is involved company-wise and no details will be posted on this site about the situations that led to this (for CDL) quite unique outcome.

Not the first time, but hopefully the last ..

It’s not the first time I have been made redundant, however this was 12 years ago when IBM closed down the Liverpool-based helpdesk as Royal & Sun Alliance wanted a ‘better deal’. All of our jobs were farmed out to IBM India.

I still have my red Buddha statue that was given to me by the guy who was going to convert the Helpdesk Information (HDI) that I had kept up-to-date. I really didn’t envy his task as he was going to attempt to convert the RoboHelp-based project into Lotus Notes!

A ‘modern’ technical author

I turned 47 last month (April) and I find myself back on the scrap heap; it’s very daunting, yet challenging as to what I do next? Especially as I still have (I hope) at least two more decades before I head off to the retirement village 🙂

The problem I have is not the loss of my job as the redundancy pay will keep me ticking over for a few months in the worst case scenario. The main problem I’ve found (based on recent job searches) is that I could be considered as ‘out of touch’ with modern technical authoring skills that employers want.

There is an assumption that a modern technical author, within the software industry, also needs to be a .NET / JavaScript developer (ex- or on a part-time basis). Ergo there is an assumption that I will know everything there is to know about JSON, XML and APIs. However, these technologies aren’t really used in my current role – unless it is a case of putting them into a document in order to ‘make them look pretty’. Off the top of my head, I’m aware of 3, maybe 4 documents that I’ve looked after in the last decade that needed regular XML updates putting inside them.

Time for some training

Handily, the professional LinkedIn account comes with a free account, so that will help. There are also technical writing courses in Udemy that I can purchase. It looks like it will be a case of using my 10 weeks’ notice to dive into the above methodologies and learn all I can about them.

My VBA skills will come in handy for some scenarios, but I also have to seriously think about learning JavaScript and/or a .NET language. The skills that I’ve picked up whilst running this website and the two others I have, and getting to know a basic level of WordPress, will also come in handy.

My Word Toolbox will continue though ..

I am going to continue the development, so no worries there. Having spent almost 3 years keeping it going, means that I am not going to give up on it yet. The Document Reporting functionality is near enough complete, but I have hardly looked at the code whilst I have been recovering from the broken ankle.

Anyone who has ever broken their ankle can tell you how difficult it is to just sit at a table for hours without their ankle (especially the ligaments!) reminding them that it’s in pain. So, bear with me and hopefully the normal service will resume 🙂

However, looking for a new role comes first. I will post this blog post on my LinkedIn profile and see what kind of reach it gets and take it from there.

Broken ankle v1.0

Last week (Monday, March 6th) was the last planned day of a long weekend helping out at the other half’s place with some de-cluttering etc.

There were four of us in total, where boxes or bags were packed up, passed down the chain and as I was at the end, it was my job to relocate the box or bag accordingly.

At some point the broken lid of a plastic box was passed to me in order for it to go in the bin on my next trip downstairs. All well and good.

Except for the next trip downstairs involved an extra large bin bag. And me not looking where I was going.

End result, after lunging forward into space, then landing on my right foot, but toppling rightwards even further, is a rather painful broken ankle and some time off work whilst I recover.

Hopefully I can get a lift into work to pick up my laptop as that has the latest code on it. When the pain threshold allows, do my work-related stuff that I have missed in the last week, plus try and work out how far I had got with the code.

Thankfully I have enough reminders on my Trello board as to how far I had got 🙂

Document Report/Overview update

Work has been continuing on this new feature. And it’s coming along quite nicely once I’d got past some severe head-scratching bits where I had to liaise with my Australian guru (Ken Endacott) about why code to export to a Word document that worked fine in one of my Excel projects, just wasn’t working as I’d expected it to do in Word. Got there in the end 🙂

Each function that lives on the ribbon of the Toolbox, there’s an InspectXXX function that works out the details and populates a list box on the respective form. What I have to do is unravel this inspection code from the form, put it into a separate module and then recode it so that the same information is now sent to an array instead. The form’s listbox is then pointed at the array and likewise the report code can also see and extract information from the array.

So far I’ve managed to port across the Comments, Bookmarks and Sections code so that either the form or the report can access them. These were picked as they’re slightly smaller than the others, such as the Image and Shapes code. In total, there’s another 7 or 8 forms and/or functions that need converting. The report can also be exported into a PDF file too.

It’s slow going, but I’m getting there.

My Word Toolbox has been reviewed in Micro Mart …

… unfortunately it’s the very last issue of Micro Mart that will ever be published.

I’ve got fond memories (from my Atari ST days) of trawling through every issue of Micro Mart looking through the adverts. Many of my early friendships are based on those early days of disk-swapping with other people who advertised in the small ads of Micro Mart. It’s probably why I ended up with so many floppy disks of Atari ST demos and other types of public domain software. Plus it helped me to distribute the stuff that I was coding too!

Anyway, I digress. I’d like to thank David Hayward for reviewing my Toolbox for this last ever issue and I’ve uploaded a copy of the article (PDF format) on my Other Articles page.

It will be sad to go into W H Smiths tonight and pick up a copy of the last issue of Micro Mart. It’s certainly the end of an era.

Replace Styles function added to v1.86k

The ability to easily replace style x with style y has been on my To Do list (on my Trello board) since June of 2015.

After some screen estate jiggery-pokery, I made some room for the function on the Styles tab within the main Toolbox. The Total label and field have been removed from Styles, Breaks, Comments and Bookmarks and instead now appear in the main frame’s title on each tab.

You now see two drop-down boxes which list *every* available style in your document. Select the old style, e.g. Heading 2, then select a different style in the other checkbox and click the Replace button. Depending on the size of the document and how often the old style is used, the style replacement is done as quick as possible.

The latest beta version can be found on the usual DropBox links.

Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda! (Happy New Year)

As this is the last post on this blog for 2015, I’ll make it a short one.

Although some of you around the world have already ‘seen it in’, I’ve still got 7.5 hours left before I can raise a glass and say Happy New Year!

I’m taking a short break from my Word Toolbox. That gives me some time to work out which are the next functions to implement and which ones need some optimisation (or not).

Toodle pip and chin-chin 🙂

Tweaked Custom Styles UI

Here’s the replacement UI for the old Custom Styles screen.  This is still classed as a WIP purely because I’m awaiting feedback from my colleagues as to what else they would like to be able to see appear in the list box.


You can remove Custom Styles as before but the additional feature is that you can also toggle the styles ‘Automatically Update’ status.  Select the style(s) and click the button.  Much easier than having to wade through Word 2013’s Style Gallery, find you custom style, then right-click on each of them to see if you want it and/or want to have Automatically Update switched on 🙂