Holly French is the owner of Software On the Go, LLC, is a long-time trainer for Accelebrate, and loves to instruct, motivate, and share her passion for software and training. She teaches a wide array of technologies including Microsoft, SharePoint, HTML5, Adobe, and more.
We asked her about her background and the life of a trainer. Here's what we found.
For the entire video interview, please visit https://youtu.be/kIuFi1eM34U
Accelebrate: Tell us more about yourself.
Holly: I grew up in Connecticut and when I went to college I went to the University of Connecticut (go Huskies!). I went there for a year and actually met my husband there. I ended up getting married at a pretty young age and then I left with him to Utah. I finished my degree out there, so I have a degree in computer information systems and that helped me a lot actually it's always something with my training. I can put together computers if I wanted to, I just choose not to. Then I moved to upstate New York and continued to train for multiple companies there and then my husband got transferred down to Atlanta, so we were in Atlanta for 18 years. I continued to train and consult and do DBA programming. Just three years ago we got transferred again down to Orlando. Now I live in sunny Orlando, in Disneyworld!
Accelebrate: What are some of your most popular courses?
Holly: I'm lucky enough to teach lots of different software. I'm a little bit different from most trainers. A lot of trainers choose a topic and focus on it. Like, you will see a lot of SharePoint trainers and that is all that they teach and they're really, really good at it. I do teach SharePoint and I love it but I also teach all of the Adobe products, so I get it get to go into a classroom and teach animation with flash. And then I also get to teach Dreamweaver and HTML, so I love all that. I teach most of the Office products and most of the Microsoft products. I teach Microsoft Project which I also love. I also look at the high-end classes. I concentrate on Excel VBA, so, programming. I love to both do programming and train others on programming. It works really well when a trainer not only trains on the subject but does it and works with it and consults on it. It gives me a great view in the classroom.
Accelebrate: What How did you get into the software industry?
Holly: Wow, so I started out in college actually, I was supposed to go for computer science and I had that one ultimate class - all computer degree people say this - all software people say this. I was going for computer science and I had that one class called network architecture; I even remember it to this day and it was a lot of years ago. Just imagine opening up a computer and knowing what the motherboard does. I had to know what happens when someone hits the letter T on the keyboard; what flags open up on the motherboard when circuits open up and what zeros and ones are and all that, and I left that class running. I just didn't enjoy it at al. I knew it, I just didn't enjoy it. It wasn't my passion. I quickly switched to the business school and in my senior year I think in college I discovered databases and I never looked back. I love databases, and I then I knew I loved software. When I first got out my first consulting job was as a programmer, so I've been a programmer in the beginning, and then you know, like rest of the world, imagine a programmer sitting by themselves - a lot of people imagine a programmer sitting by themselves in a basement, in a little dark room. But I was programming when I just knew I liked it, but only for the short-term. I needed people. I needed to be in a training room. Someone gave me the opportunity in my consulting company to start up training in the company, just going around locally and start teaching classes. I was nervous in the beginning but that's where I belong, I loved it. People told me I should stay there, and I never looked back. I absolutely love being a trainer.
Accelebrate: What is it that you love so much about databases?
Holly: Because I always understood databases. I tell this to other trainers and I can't explain it to people, that, you can teach a lot of different classes; you can teach Excel, but to teach Microsoft Access well, to teach of any kind of database programming, you have to understand databases. You kind of have to understand relationships, and you have to understand the syntax and the terminology. You can't just teach, it you have to understand it. It just comes easy to me and I'm passionate about, it so I stick with it.
Accelebrate: Do you have any database fun facts to share?
Holly: Well, a lot of them seem to be warnings, because people will come to the Microsoft Access classes because their company has implemented Access databases. They look at the agendas and they think that they can jump right into Access intermediate. I fight that really, really strongly, because Access intermediate has queries, and everyone thinks they need to know queries, so they jump right there. That's really the warning; that Access is one of those barriers that you have to understand from the very beginning. I always recommend: even though you think you know Access, you really need to start at the beginning level. In my beginning level class, we actually teach you what's behind the scenes; how it was created and how you create yourself, and how you create the links and the relationships. That's usually my highest recommendation, is to definitely take all the level so that you know how to create from scratch and only then give you the queries after that and lead people through at least Access databases.
Accelebrate: Do you have any favorite resources for either databases, or Adobe or Microsoft products?
Holly: Well, because I teach so many different applications, I don't really have one source, because I also teach Macs and if anyone knows that Macs have a totally different source than PCs. So there's Office 365 for the Mac and there's Office 365 for the PC, so it's totally different sources, different folks, different websites, different blogs, and different groups for Mac versus PC. I tend to be a little bit more general in that every one of my classes, I teach them how to seek help per that class. A lot of it might just be Google searches, but I train them on how to do the Google search. So no matter what, for instance, I teach them not to be very wordy in their Google search because then you'll get too many bad hits. I teach them to write the word that they're searching first. If they're trying to get some Excel help, I will teach them to please just write the word Excel. Whatever class you're in, whether it is Adobe or Microsoft or Macs, I teach an individual to search correctly and not to just hit the first Google search. I don't have one specific model, but I do teach them how to search better and not use blogs. You can always use the Mac sites and Microsoft sites, they are beautiful. There's a lot of free technical training and a lot of blogs that are accurate. You have all of your Microsoft experts on those sites, so I'm really big on actual Microsoft sites and actual Apple Giants and the SharePoint user sites.
Accelebrate: Is that also how you stay up to date with the different technologies you use and teach?
Holly: Yes. I'm a shortcut kind of girl. I'm a bullet point kind of girl, not a paragraph kind of girl. One really quick thing, in all Office products for instance, my favorite thing to teach ever is the QAT. No one even knows what it is. QAT stands for Quick Access Toolbar. So it's a toolbar in all the Office products that most of the world has ignored forever. I go around, not the world maybe, but the nation, I go around the nation and teach everybody what QAT is. QAT has hidden commands, so one of my favorite commands in Excel is hidden and no one knows about it. I research all the time online. Every six months I will Google "Favorite Excel QAT commands". I want to see if anyone came up with another secret that I don't know about. So, of course the trainers have to keep up to speed and especially if my class is full with tips and tricks and secrets, I have to know the new ones. I'm constantly keeping up to date. I'm constantly researching new secrets. I'll give you the secret - my favorite command in Excel, and once again, a lot of people don't even know about. It's the camera. There's a camera button in Excel and what it does is, it takes a picture of your data so that you can move the picture on to other sheets and other workbooks, but the biggest thing is it's not just a picture so if you try it yourself don't be underwhelmed. The thing is, it is a linked picture, so when you change your data the picture changes.
Accelebrate: What are some of the most frequently asked questions in your classes?
Holly: Wow, that's a really hard question for me once again, because I teach all the different levels, all the time, all the different products, all the time. I don't get the same questions over and over, but what I'm looking for is for them to say, wow, what you just taught me, I thought I knew the answer to, but I really didn't, instead of them saying, wait, how do you do this? They just kind of sit back, I teach them and I and I kind of retrain them. I don't want them to just ask, wait a minute, how do I create the table, or, oh wow, how do you do charting? You can do charting completely differently. I have a magical key on charting. I love questions. I was teaching a class and so many people kept starting their question with, oh, I think this is a stupid question, I'm sorry if this is a stupid question. And you know every trainer is going to say that it is not a stupid question. No questions are stupid, and everyone else in the room was really thankful that person asked the question. Because they wanted to hear the answer too. I love questions - all questions and any questions.
Accelebrate: What's your favorite part about being a technical trainer?
Holly: My favorite part is definitely the beginning of class, because I'm excited, but they aren't quite yet because they don't know me yet, and the end of the class when we're all excited. I am just a geek. I just love the beginning and I love the end. I love seeing the difference of how the students are a little apprehensive in the beginning. They don't know what I'm going to provide, and they don't know if it's going be worth it. They don't know if I'm going teach them anything new; They've been doing it for years, so I love that beginning apprehension and I love the end, where they want more. And that is what Accelebrate training is about. You know, I've worked with other training companies. I've done other training. I've been 25 years into this, and I've seen other trainers from other companies. I've seen bad training and luckily have been involved in very good training. But bad training is when all of the students give out "5" ratings on their surveys, they think they got a great class, they did everything the instructor told them to do, but then they open up that application the next day and didn't change and they're not doing anything different. The company doesn't want that. A good trainers' goal is exactly that - to get them to change their ways. Less clicks, more fun – that is my motto!
Accelebrate: What advice do you have for kids or teenagers who want to get into the technology sector when they grow up?
Holly: Wow, that's actually close to home to me. When I lived in Atlanta, I used to do some side work in my local town. I used to teach computer camp, which was from age 7 up to 14. I taught video game design. If I had a class of 20 kids for summer camp, about five of them would really have the desire to learn. I could see they have the talent. I don't know if parents can always recognize it but look a little harder at the kids when they're playing in see if they have a talent for the programming and the design. Ask very curious questions; not just, how do I kill the bad guy? I tell that to parents a lot - look for talent and if you do have that talent in an industry, let them go do it.
Accelebrate: What do you like to do outside of work?
Holly: I like to eat. I like to travel. I was very lucky to have traveled for fun with my husband, friends and family. We've been to Croatia, which was wonderful trip. Tahiti we loved as an anniversary trip. Hawaii was one of those good trips. Recently my sister and I went to Italy for ten days, just my sister and I. We just floated around the country. So, now that we are back, I'm cooking Italian meals all the time. I am going to stores that just sell Italian food. I'm getting Italian pasta and drinking Chianti and it's on now in the Italian mode.
Accelebrate: Is there anything else that our viewers should know about you?
Holly: I think that through this interview, you probably understand me. I am excited about software. I love it. It is a high in the classroom. I love my job. If I could tell everybody, but especially every woman who also has kids, if you could strike that balance - everybody says that you need to strike that balance - but I've always been lucky to strike the balance, keeping my career as a trainer, and also being at home when I was needed at home. And now after the kids grew up and left, now I actually train a lot more because I can travel everywhere.
Accelebrate: Thank you so much, Holly. It's been such a pleasure talking with you today. We really appreciate you, your work, and your passion and enthusiasm with everything you do - from everyone at Accelebrate.
Holly: WWell, thank you! I appreciate you having this and doing this with me and letting me explain to the world how I also love to train for Accelebrate. It's a topnotch company and I will definitely do as much training as I can for Accelebrate. It's a wonderful partnership so I like it too!
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