A fortunate life
I have been fortunate enough to love my work all my life. Every job taught me something new. When I look back, many of the companies I worked for have since changed tremendously, and many of the programs I learned have become obsolete – but their influence remains. I am constantly drawing on my past experience to solve new problems.
Below you will see that I have experience in bookkeeping, bookselling, desktop publishing, computer programming, librarianship, training, taping and transcription, and website editing and maintenance, to produce annual reports, audit reports, databases and presentations, operating manuals, policies and procedures, theses and dissertations, as well as Excel dashboards, Power Query and Power Pivot – in the fields of agriculture, education, engineering, entrepreneurship, interior decorating – and let’s not forget fiction.
What have I done?
I have a BA degree in English, a higher diploma in librarianship, and accreditation as an editor. I have been editing since 1994.
From 1976 to 1981, I worked for the Natal Provincial Library and Museum Services. We took an exchange of books in a book van (like a bus without windows) to about 250 small municipal and school libraries on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal from our base in Pinetown. I was away from home for a week in every month, staying in out-of-the-way hotels between Durban and Port Edward, and inland to Oribi Gorge and Harding.
For the next two years, I worked for Logan’s Bookshop in Durban, selling books to the three major public libraries in the province, and managing a general book- and stationery shop.
In 1983, I set up an architectural library for Franklin, Garland, Gibson & Partners, also in Durban, using a Scandinavian cataloguing and classification scheme specific to the building industry. I then combined maintenance of the library with bookkeeping, under the supervision of the firm’s accountant.
In 1987, I moved to Pretoria to work for the S. A. National Council for the Blind (SANCB) as librarian of the Blindiana Library, a reference library about blindness.
In 1988, I took on the tasks of Publications Officer and was made Head of Information Services. I acted as editorial assistant to the blind Executive Director of the SANCB and produced a bimonthly black-and-white journal called Imfama, three biennial reports and six books in English and Afrikaans. I wrote several of the Imfama articles myself.
I had always thought I was useless on computers, but perforce became computer literate in DOS 3.1, Lotus 123 and WordPerfect. I especially appreciated Ventura Desktop Publishing, which prepared me for MSWord styles.
Some kind person donated a computer program to the Blindiana Library, leaving it open-ended for me to customise, so I learned Dbase3+ and Clipper and developed a comprehensive computer program for the library.
I started teaching myself Visual Basic for Dummies – not very successfully, so I am doing it again now, through the Excel Campus VBA PRO course.
In 1994, I found my forté in editing. I moved to Johannesburg and turned to freelancing, where I used my knowledge of DTP to formulate templates for a variety of documents.
MBB Consulting Engineers gave me agricultural and civil engineering reports, specifications and tenders to edit.
Rural Integrated Engineering gave me a Current Practices Report to the Water Research Commission to edit and typeset. It was grandly called Participatory Development of Training Material for Agricultural Water Use in Homestead Farming Systems for Improved Livelihoods – and I compiled parts of two of the eight chapters.
I edited and typeset working papers, research reports, journal articles, information booklets and a newsletter for the International Water Management Institute, South Africa.
A Challenge Programme funding proposal I edited for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) was the only one out of about 16 that was accepted, so FARA asked me to edit their web page and conference proceedings.
I edited and formatted reports, working papers, conference proceedings, newsletters, brochures and annual reports for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network.
I edited reports for the S. A. Institute for Learning Disabilities on the progress of the children in their programme.
I typed lessons for the South African curriculum of the Grade 1 class in an Accelerated Christian Education school for Mrs V N Lines.
I have always been interested in how adults learn and participated in a church literacy and numeracy course.
I edited a book about how to set up a small business.
I edited a book about interior decorating.
I edited a fantasy novel for young adults. The author of a children’s book I edited received a prize for the best self-published book in its category.
I learned MS Access and PowerPoint to help Orbicom (a subsidiary of MultiChoice) with PR and set up MS Access databases to catalogue their photographs and clients, and produce various reports.
In 1998, I edited technical operating manuals for tank turrets at Lyttelton Engineering Works, a division of Denel.
Contracts and proposals
I edited and typeset generic documents, contracts and proposals to clients for Fedics
Policies and procedures
I researched, designed, developed, wrote, edited and updated a Financial Policies and Procedures Manual and a Finance Training Manual for the Fidelity Services Group so that they could comply with ISO 9001 requirements.
It required logical thinking and reasoning skills to assimilate and structure information into creative, stimulating, user-friendly formats that were appropriate for the audience and intention of the documents. My proficiency in MS Word enabled me to use many shortcuts to improve the work.
I gave up waiting for other people to write down their contributions. Instead, I wrote what I thought they wanted to say and gave it to them to use as a starting point.
The freedom I was given to teach myself whatever I needed for formatting the manual enabled me to add new technology to my desktop publishing skills. For example, to make it user-friendly, I hyperlinked all the various parts of the manuals.
I prepared the Fidelity group’s annual reports for publication.
Theses and dissertations
I edited and typeset Master’s and PhD theses and dissertations for students who attended workshops run by Dr Erik Hofstee’s company, Exactica. I set up its office systems in Excel and MSAccess, and populated the php website. I wrote the Word Tips on the website and, concerned about business continuity, wrote an instruction manual for administering them all. I used MSWord to format Dr Hofstee’s book Constructing a Good Dissertation for publication, and used my librarianship background to compile the instructions and examples for the Harvard, APA, MLA and CMS referencing styles at the back of the book and on the website. More recently, the same librarianship skills helped me check references in the Vancouver referencing style.
My work for Exactica inspired me to obtain accreditation as an editor of English from the South African Translators’ Institute in 2006 – the pass mark is 80%! Now I am one of their examination markers.
Website editing and maintenance
Populating the php website for Exactica prepared me for learning CSS and HTML in order to set up my own WordPress website.
My librarianship training with cataloguing and classification made it easy for me to compile the instructions for using Harvard, APA and CMS referencing that are included in the back section of Eric Hofstee’s book, Constructing a Good Dissertation. This now helps me check the format of references used by the writers of theses and dissertations. Since then I have learned about the numerical referencing styles, like Vancouver and IEEE, used for referencing in health and engineering articles.
For 11 years, I edited audit reports for Gauteng Audit Services (GAS), currently a division of the Gauteng Provincial Treasury, and helped compile and format monthly reports to clients (Gauteng Provincial Government departments) and quarterly reports to audit committees.
Many of the GAS reports were accompanied by PowerPoint presentations. It was fun to make them more effective by applying transitions and animations.
Taping and transcription
I taped conferences and transcribed the records for L & B Recordings.
Training and training manuals
Along the way, I found out that I loved passing on the knowledge I had acquired. I helped various people with MSWord, Excel and Visio (flowcharts), and streamlined their Microsoft systems and office procedures.
I did layout and some editing for training manuals Gray Training.
I wrote training courses in MSWord and Excel for Gauteng Audit Services so I could train PAs and auditors to format and write better audit reports.
Forms, Dashboards, Power Query and Power Pivot
The Fidelity group was using a miscellany of manual forms for SAP so I re-did them all in Excel to make it clear they were all from the same company, and so information could be hyperlinked to related forms.
Since I find forms easier to understand if they are completed than if they are blank, I illustrated the manual with forms completed, checked and signed by imaginary officers in an imaginary company.
I set up Excel spreadsheets for GAS to monitor clients’ implementation of their agreed action plans to remedy the findings of earlier audit reports, and liaised with risk managers to update the spreadsheets monthly. The volume of work required learning from myonlinetraininghub how to speed up the reporting with Excel dashboards, Power Query and Power Pivot.
LaTeX, Lyx and Overleaf
I was recently asked to edit a dissertation that had been written in LaTeX for Stellenbosch University. It was a novel experience, not being able to do much formatting because LaTeX does it for you. To track my editing changes, I started using Lyx, but my client preferred to work online so we collaborated with Overleaf, which also allowed me to track my changes.
How have I used my experience?
Because I have such a wide spread of skills and experience, I could help almost every office to operate more efficiently. I would go to an office, work with the manager to see how things are currently done and how they could be improved. I would design faster and more efficient ways of doing things and then, if the manager approves, train the staff to implement the new methods. This would usually take one month per business unit. If necessary, I could then write a manual for the new policies and procedures, which would make the office ISO-compliant.
This requires interpersonal skills and the ability to network effectively with co-workers to anticipate user needs and to design the most appropriate material.
Both Lyttelton Engineering Works and Gauteng Audit Services gave me security clearance to view secret documents. In fact, they investigated the same integrity that enables me to enjoy a job that requires a lot of conscientious nitpicking (otherwise referred to as a search for excellence or OCD). An editor’s job is not finished until every “i” has been dotted and every “t” crossed.
I have always found the best part of editing to be working as a team with the author to produce effective, polished documents. The author remains the owner of the document and the editor must keep a delicate balance of constructive criticism, humility and professional confidence. I want to be involved in that kind of teamwork for the rest of my life.
Contact me for my CV, if you prefer a more formal account of my experience.