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  • Writer's pictureThabo Baseki

Getting the Most Out of Microsoft Products

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

 amobile phone showing the icons for widely used Microsoft products, such as Outlook and Word.

For six years now, I have used Microsoft products in both my personal and professional life. I started using these products back in 2016 when I was learning computers, starting with Windows, Microsoft Office, and browsing the internet with Edge. All products were easy to learn, and they are very accessible with screen readers that I am using such as JAWS, Narrator, and NVDA. I have used most of these products across platforms such as on PC, Android and iOS, and still had the best experience.

Learning Computers

I grew up loving technology, and I taught myself the different components of the computer. When I realized that computers could talk, I would have someone turn on Narrator for me, and they would usually orientate me on the keyboard until I knew it from memory. I then started exploring computers on my own, and when I started my higher education, I was provided with a computer, which is where it all began. There was only one program that was installed on the machine except for the default apps - JAWS screen reader.

I was introduced to a friend who works for Microsoft, David Branscome, by a mutual friend, who then helped me acquire a Microsoft Office 365 license. In my effort to learn JAWS, I came upon the Freedom Scientific training page (Freedom Scientific is the maker of JAWS), where I began taking professional lessons on Windows, Office, Teams, using the Internet, JAWS and more. I did my own comparison of Google workspace, (known as G Suite at the time), and Microsoft 365, and decided that I enjoyed Microsoft Office more. David would always renew my license every year, and this kept me on the move with Microsoft. His positive words of encouragement and his investment of resources, time, as well as funds helped me to continue in the path of learning these products to the end, until I was certified by Freedom Scientific. My learning did not end there, though. I continued expanding my knowledge in Microsoft products. During the outbreak of COVID-19, the accessibility team held a number of webinars on various products such as Narrator and Microsoft Teams, which I took part in. Even to this day, I am still learning from different departments at Microsoft.

In 2017 I got a scholarship to study for Community Development in one of the colleges in Botswana (Institute of Development Management) which I graduated from with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2021. During this four-year period, I fully relied on Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook to get my work done. The institution was subscribed to Google Workspace, but personally I preferred to use Microsoft 365 which was then known as Office 365. This suite of programs helped me achieve a lot, from preparing assignment papers, to creating presentations, to submitting them to lecturers. One instructor once said to me that my work was so clean, giving me greater confidence in the Office products that I was well-acquainted with.

During my third year at the college, I began networking so as to create job opportunities after I completed my learning the following year. I realized so many people were on LinkedIn, and I was told that is where I could make meaningful connections that would result in successful opportunities. I took that advice from my lecturers and set up the account, which to this day I am still using. My presence on LinkedIn helped me secure some interesting connections, some of whom became my clients, while others have agreed to speak on my podcast.

Walking With Microsoft Beyond School

When I completed my academic life in 2021, I worked on finding out what I could do for a living, which resulted in me starting a business that I call Vision In Word. Through this business, I provide word processing and transcription services, training, and audio production. To best deliver these services I use Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, and the power of Office Artifical Intelligence (AI). The most requested services in my business are word processing and transcription service, which I am accomplishing uisng Microsoft Word as well as the online transcription service from Microsoft. Word has also helped me put up my weekly blog posts on the topic of living without sight, which would have required someone to do on my behalf had this service not been available. For example, in preparation of my podcast, the Read Aloud feature in Edge, with natural and expressive voices help me read a lot about my guests, providing me enough information to be able to form questions to ask on the podcast. I'm pleased that these expressive voices have been introduced on Windows 11 to work with Narrator, which is a true benefit for blind people who are unable to purchase products that use human-sounding voices, but who still need something to help them get their work done.

In addition to the above help from Microsoft products, I authored my book entirely in Word. The license gave me access to some high-quality images which help convey the message in the book, and it gives me joy to mention that these images were inserted with descriptions for blind people to benefit from them. Even when downloading, I needed no one to tell me what the picture is about, because of the same description.

Using Microsoft Teams, I am able to organize meetings with guests, to record them, and even talk to other clients independently. I am grateful that in this regard, I've been able to use my Microsoft 365 Business Standard subscription, with gives me access to a lot of features that I need for my business. An excellent example is Microsoft Viva, which gives me reminders and tips to keep up with my clients. I can fulfill what I promised them, and the nice thing is, I don’t need to set up reminders. Everything happens automatically based upon my messages with them.

I recently found work with Alpha Direct Insurance company as a product specialist, which entails reviewing many of their insurance policies and providing practical suggestions. I also do a lot of writing of the company’s reports. The company uses Microsoft products to take care of its services, and I am greatly benefited from having skills in interacting with Word, Teams, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This gives me the opportunity to be as competent as my other colleagues with sight.

Without hesitation, I highly recommend Microsoft to every user out there. Not only do they make products that are great, but the support is also amazing. The feedback I get from my clients and my employer regarding my work is so remarkable. What impresses me the most with Microsoft is its commitment to accessibility. Being as productive as I wish and not being limited by my eyes is incredible. Truly Microsoft believes in the transformative power of engaging many different perspectives. As they say at Microsoft, there are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone.

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