Knowledge Network will be trading in Australia under the trademark KnowNet.
Release date Feb 2009






Then and now ...
Paul Clark from 1994  to 2009 - technology, learning, life after school, experiences, people, the job market, interviews, managing time, successes, interests and life in the real world ...
Paul was one of the first learners to join Knowledge Network in 1994. He is now 26, has a degree, his own business, a working life, many interests, a band and a career. Paul looks back on then and now and provides us with valuable insight into how technology and a new way of thinking has impacted on his life.

In the years before 1994, the only exposure I had to technology in any form was: the television, calculators and my Atari, famous for Pong and my favourite, Space Invaders. Technology was a minuscule part of my life and at that time that's where I thought it would remain. I was young when I first used a personal computer, and so was the computer industry compared to what it is today. The first time I used a PC it only had a two colour screen, black and green. I can barely remember what I did on that glorified calculator but I was extremely impressed by its ability and mine, once I got the hang of it.

From this point I became interested with technology and its capabilities. I began taking courses at Knowledge Network® in many different areas. I was unsure what I was interested in the most, with regards to computers. I tried website development, programming, graphic design, animation, and pretty much everything else. The only certainty I had was that I was not interested in the hardware side, other than what it could do for software and games.

I used the computer throughout my school career. I was ahead of all my peers in having the ability to use technology to help with my school work. I received many prizes and awards thanks to this skill. I also found my marks improving, while I spent less time working and still learning more. The increase in this efficiency allowed me to follow other paths I would normally not have had the time for.

I was involved with the Knowledge Network® Mini Business and got great experience working at the numerous conferences and events they hosted, as well as working for Microsoft®. I was on TV and Radio and had many experiences most people would never have. At this point everyone I knew recognised my affinity towards computers and technology, and they all thought I would have a career in the computer industry, as did I.

I found that as I got older and had more experiences, I began to understand how the use of computers and technology had become more relevant in business. I then adopted Knowledge Network’s® philosophy - using computers as a tool. I then changed my approach to the use of computers and started to follow my growing interest in business rather than solely focusing on IT. I then studied a BCom Marketing Management degree at UJ (University of Johannesburg) followed by an Advanced Diploma in Project Management as well as my Honours in Project Management at Cranefield College.

At Knowledge Network® I adopted an approach that in life there is constant change, development and growth. There is always something new to learn. This has become part of my life and I will be learning and growing until the day I die. I am currently completing a professional writing course and plan to do my Masters in Project Management. The Professional English Writing course I am currently completing is entirely rooted in technology. It is a course designed to allow anyone to complete it, regardless of your location. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection. The modules are presented on DVD and the assignments in the accompanying study guide must be emailed to the lecturer for marking. Even the final exam is sent via email and when completed returned to the lecturer. My opinion on this type of medium for study has never been positive, but with the advancements in technology and the way in which this course is presented, I almost feel like I am having a private lesson from the lecturer.

This course has also changed my view on how technology can be exploited to increase convenience while keeping the same level of effectiveness. The lecturer also makes you aware of the dangers of over-using technology and how to best use it for your benefit without losing the ability to interact with people. I have seen many people in my working experience who have forgotten that technology should always be a tool, not a way of life. A number of colleagues I have had have sent emails to clients using the kind of type language seen when in chat rooms. For example, they have sent messages to clients using terms like “u”, instead of “you” and “n” as opposed to “and”. As the lecturer mentions, it is important to remember that the context in which you communicate should always be analysed and from this the formality can then be determined.

Before I go into how Knowledge Network®, computers and technology have affected my life, I would just like to raise an important point. Many people today think that using a computer is just a matter of learning a specific program. In my opinion this is one of the biggest mistakes people are making today. Before I started at Cranefield College I looked up all the other Project Management courses and analysed their respective curriculums. Many courses were based on a single principle, method or a single software program. For example, there are courses on Prince2, MS Project, PMBOK, etc. These are valuable courses, but the problem is the reliance on these tools by Project Managers today. It seems today many people do not know what project management is and what the Project Manager’s actual role is in business goal achievement. Many people feel if you don’t know MS Project or Prince2 etc, you are not a Project Manager.

The college had a different approach. They developed the course material and purposefully excluded this sort of idea or approach. Their view is that a solid understanding of project management is vital for any project manager and the other methodologies and technologies could assist in monitoring and controlling projects, these tools can add to a project manager’s arsenal, but should not be the main foundation for any project. Many project managers I have spoken to can’t understand how I can succeed as a project manager/coordinator without using tools such as MS Project for example. This is worrying, as you can’t have software controlling a project. What I gained from the college was a way of thinking and conceptualizing, not a series of steps and processes to follow. This basically gave me the ability to manage and coordinate a project using a pen and paper better than some project managers out there, who can only operate on MS Project. Knowledge Network has given me the same ability when it comes to computers and technology. I didn’t learn MS Word, I learnt how to effectively and efficiently complete any document I need for any situation, be it a quote for a gig or a project report for a board of directors. It is a way of thinking not a series of steps in a software package.

I started working pretty early thanks to all the extra time I had from incorporating computers in my studies rather than using more ineffective methods of achieving my goals. In high school I began DJing at parties and at a local night club. I also began working as a bartender at a local Country Club. The ease at which I was able to effectively use new technology and learn new systems was a great help in both these positions. I am still DJing and run my own mobile rig, which has become better than many fixed installations in night clubs today. I have also branched out into doing stage productions, providing assistance with the planning and technology needs, as well as with all the sound and lighting requirements. I have enjoyed this work and am constantly looking to the future for new technology that I can incorporate into my inventory. At present I am researching new technology for a complete upgrade of my system. This is an invaluable skill I learnt at Knowledge Network®. Effective researching is extremely useful - and I’m not talking about just googling a topic. Being able to research well has made me successful in everything I have undertaken, from my personal endeavors, part-time work and to my full time career.

The advancements in technology have really affected the DJ industry and made traditional DJing exclusively from vinyl almost obsolete. The trend is now moving towards VJing - this allows a VJ to mix music as well as images and videos live, with on the fly transition effects to wow any crowd. Being able to use computers in this regard is a must. The internet is an amazing source of useful information if you know how to use it. I am selling my old equipment online, corresponding with professional DJ’s and international equipment stores to find the best product for my needs. I am even able to see the products in action, as most of the equipment is not sold here and needs to be imported. 

The use of computers and being comfortable with how they operate has been a great advantage in my working career. After my studies at UJ I began looking for work and a career. I must just explain my view on work, having a job, and having a career. Even today, in this stressed economic environment it is relatively easy to find a job. This is how I began to gain experience. A career, on the other hand, is far more difficult to find. I have been selective in the jobs I have been doing. I try to only take jobs that will benefit my career. In every job you do outside your career, you should learn something new and develop your abilities. So far this approach has worked for me and I have been able to develop many of the areas I was weaker in. This has made a huge difference to my capability to take on more complex and difficult work – this helps with getting a bigger pay check too. Now getting a job is obviously easier if you can find someone else to do that for you. This does have its advantages and disadvantages, but that is for everyone to decide for themselves.

I decided on getting someone else to find work for me. I joined a number of temporary employment agencies and consulting companies. The first step when joining one of these companies, is taking a computer literacy test. This happens even before you are interviewed. I got to the agency and sat down to start the test, having completed my Knowledge Network® Diploma I was confident in my ability. The first surprise was when I began the test it was on a system loaded with MS Windows 3.1 (many of you reading this today will not know what I am talking about. But this was the Windows OS used before Windows 95). The version of MS Office I had to use was just as old.

The second surprise was that it was a controlled system, meaning that you basically only have two clicks to get the correct result, i.e. say for instance you had to copy an image, you would only have two clicks to find the correct function. This is not easy when the entire screen format is different. If you clicked on something else or clicked by accident it would move onto the next question and you would get 0 for that answer. Now, I did computer science in High School and in Varsity, and truthfully this would not have helped me at all. This is where the things I learnt at Knowledge Network® helped. Learning to use the computer as a tool is different to just using a computer. This implies that using it as a tool will not leave your ability version specific. This was great for me as I aced my computer test, even though the software I was tested on was about 10 years old. This was the reason why I got more interviews than my peers got. One thing which I found interesting is that in every interview I have been to, my Knowledge Network® Diploma has interested the potential employer more than my BCom Marketing Management Degree. 

After all the interviews, being able to adapt and use many systems was, and is still a great benefit. This again set me apart from my peers and I gained far more towards developing a career. Not being version specific also provides you with a sort of computer understanding or intuition, which allows you to pick up how things work quickly and easily. I was able to learn specialized software which normally takes people 3 months, in 1 week. This again helped me meet deadlines and get better results.

Technology has become part of everyday life, and is incorporated into everything you could possibly imagine. I don’t think there is anything I do that isn’t connected into some kind of technology. I have had online interviews, done research for my assignments in online libraries, I create my sets in an electronic media manager for my gigs, I even learnt to play guitar off my computer. Guitars and other musical equipment has also become technology based. The Gibson Robot guitar tunes itself and has a memory for all your preset tuning, so no more long gaps for retuning your guitar for the next song - just a turn of the knob and you are set. The drummer in our band is getting a set of electric drums which can produce almost any percussion sounds and our pianist is saving for an amazing electric piano. Cell phones have become more integrated into technology and our lives as well. Apart from connecting us with our work, via email, it connects us to our friends and family as well.

Online communities have developed and programs such as Facebook and Mxit allow us to remain in contact with local and international friends, family and colleagues. My cell phone allows me to be constantly connected to the world. I can get my business and personal email immediately anytime, anywhere - which can sometimes be annoying. I can download media, take notes/minutes, will never got lost, I can stay up to date with world affairs through RSS feeds and blogs, play media files, watch full length movies, store thousands of songs, setup my meetings and calendars, have conference calls and edit photos and videos. It is the best substitution for a full time PA for anyone who likes to be in control and know what’s going on.

Technology is a huge part of our lives and will continue to become more intertwined with how we conduct our lives and day-to-day living, in our professional, social and private lives. With the right approach it will be the greatest and most valuable tool available to you.




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Date of update: 18 February 2009