Heather Ackmann is a Microsoft MVP and full-time author and trainer for AHA Learning Solutions, specializing in Microsoft Office, business professional, and soft skills training videos and educational materials. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging at Heather Ackmann and crocheting hats and scarves for her children who refuse to wear hats and scarves. You can follow her on Twitter @heatherackmann and Docs.com/heather-teaches.
In this interview, Heather talks about her new book, Conversational Office 2016.
Geetesh: Heather, can you tell us more about your new book, Conversational Office 2016. What is this book about, and why does it have the word “conversational” in the title?
Heather: Well, before we get into Conversational Office 2016, I think you first need to understand the publisher, Conversational Geek. This book, or rather “minibook,” is part of a larger series of minibooks published by Conversational Geek created by another Microsoft MVP, J. Peter Bruzzese and Nick Cavalancia.
I remember when Peter first came up with the idea (he’s always coming up with ideas and sometimes they are hard to keep track of), we were working together at TrainSignal. He was always reading and writing, both professional and some creative stuff, and I being a former literary magazine editor, we had a lot to talk about when we got together. When he told me about the idea for Conversational Geek, I think I told him he would never make any money off of it. I am so glad I was wrong.
Peter’s vision for the series of books was born out of a larger frustration with technical books and whitepapers. As an author, he was well-acquainted with the hard long hours it would take to write 1,000 page mega-books that nobody reads, and as an IT professional he found it annoying that industry white papers would lure in people, dangling the promise of new information and a solution to his IT woes, only to find himself reading a 10-page fluff piece put out by a desperate marketing department. Basically, he was tired of lecturing and being lectured to. He wanted…no, he needed something more conversational and fun, something with humor and cartoons, something that he could pull up on an airplane ride and ingest and give him an expert perspective on a technology, industry, and piece of culture that would normally take years of work to absorb and fully appreciate its contribution and dent in the larger space of things.
And that is what Conversational Office 2016 attempts to do. It’s meant to be the start of a conversation, me talking to you, about how I see Office 2016 shaping the application space and business world as it stands. It is not a how-to book; there are plenty of those books out there collecting dust. Sure, the book does cover and introduce the newest features of Office 2016. But it also explains a lot of terminology, concepts (like the “cloud”), and common points of confusion amongst Office consumers—but in a fun and honest way.
Geetesh: In your opinion, what is the major takeaway for a reader of Conversational Office 2016?
Heather: Perhaps the most valuable thing this book does, as far as I am concerned, is to give a thorough explanation of the difference between the Office 2016 applications you get from an Office 365 subscription vs. the traditional out-of-the-box installs of Office 2016.
Being completely honest, I’m supposed to be an “expert”—I spend all day and sometimes all night thinking about Microsoft Office—and some of the stuff, the marketing and support articles from Microsoft, has even me confused. I can only imagine how much more confusing it would be to someone who only casually follows the buzz, or not at all.
And that confusion is really quite tragic, because Office 2016 is the most exciting version of Office in a while, and not for any single new feature or set of features, but because of where Microsoft Office is heading. We are in for some major changes with how we as end-users interact and consume productivity software. And if you just heard/read that last sentence, and have no idea what I am talking about, then this book is for you—it’s design is to take a complete newbie to a technology and make them capable of understanding and holding their own informed conversation at a party about a given piece of tech.