Computer Illiterate? Seek Help!

Let’s face it… the internet is NOT a fad (sorry Al Gore) and the role both the internet and computers play in our business is vast and ever growing. Let’s take a look at what parts of our business are computer and/or internet based:

• Communication (with Colleagues & Prospects)- Email, usually Outlook is used in our business
• Learning Management Systems- Does your company offer online learning?
• Property Management Software- On our computers and generally on the internet
• Social Media
• Rent Payments- A good portion of us allow residents to pay online
• Advertising- Our biggest source of traffic, in a lot of instances is
• Weekly/Monthly Reports- Excel and Word play a big role in how we relay information
• Performance Appraisals- Many are integrated into our HRIS systems, which are internet based
• Payroll Time Tracking- Does anyone use a manual system anymore?
• New Colleague Orientation- Unless your company is 100% local, the internet is often used
• Accounting- Most accounting departments use our property management software in conjunction with computer and/or internet based financial software
• Payroll- The majority of us rely on Direct Deposit, which uses a computer to transmit.

I could go on and on… I think the writing on the wall is pretty clear, to be successful in our business you MUST have some sort of computer know-how. I’m not talking learning HTML here… I’m talking the VERY BASICS of computer understanding!

Frankly, I’m blown away, nearly on a daily basis; at the lack of computer knowledge so many in our industry seem to be plagued with.

One person comes to mind and the story goes like this… she was replying to an email announcement to enroll in one of our course offerings (before we had our current LMS, which allows the user to enroll themselves, which we provide in-house training on). She’d sent me 4 emails. Finally, at the 4th I called her and let her know I had in fact received her emails and she was enrolled, no need to send anymore. She seemed confused and told me that nothing had happened. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I said; what do you mean nothing happened? She then proceeded to tell me that when she clicked the link to reply back and enroll that after she wrote she wanted to enroll and sent it, nothing happened.

I’m still sitting here, not understanding what she’s telling me… so I took a few seconds and processed. Then it hit me. Oh man…

I started, when you clicked the link, it opened up an outlook email message, right? She said yes. I then said and you typed a message that you wanted to enroll and then clicked send, right? She said yes… and added that’s when nothing happened. So I asked, what did you expect to happen? She said, I don’t know like a confirmation or something, I’ve never done one of these before.

Now, I was very concerned. I said, you’ve never sent an email message using Outlook before (which I knew wasn’t true… I’d communicated with this manager plenty of times, via email… and YES, I SAID MANAGER). She paused and said… well yes, I’ve sent an email before, but that’s not what this was.

I was taken aback… could someone be THIS computer illiterate? Again I paused, remaining the consummate professional, and said… yes, that is what this was (and of course, I double checked to make sure the hyperlink wasn’t wrong). That’s why what popped up when you clicked the link, looked just like an Outlook email message… because it is one.

She was silent for a few seconds, realized what I was saying, probably tried it again for herself and then said… Oops. I’m just not too good with computers!

You don’t say…

The moral of my story is this… If you want to succeed in multifamily housing (or any other industry, for that matter), take your career into your own hands and learn how to be at the very least a computer USER and overtime… maybe even computer savvy. Computer and internet knowledge is no longer a PLUS, it’s a MUST!

At Sterling, we offer our colleagues the opportunity to take the courses that Microsoft offers for free and we provide a link on our company Intranet for them. If your company doesn’t offer any in house computer training classes, then click here:

Microsoft offers tutorials on all of their products (which most of us use) and best of all… they’re FREE! Aren’t you worth it?


  1. Hi Tara – I think you’re right on about the critical importance of computer skills in the world we live in. My wife sometimes points out that I received formal computer training in graduate school and then in my first professional job after that – effectively two semesters worth of free training in Word, email, Powerpoint and Excel. She didn’t have any of that formal training and consequently isn’t as comfortable with a computer as she wants to be. Point being that these skills are like any other learned capability and need to be consciously acquired. And if your school or work didn’t already invest in you, it’s critical to invest the time (and maybe the money) to do so yourself at whatever phase of your career you’re at. At some point, computer literacy will be like reading literacy and you won’t be able to work without it. Old-timers like me remember the introduction of mobile workflow applications for multifamily in the late 1990′s. At many communities, veteran maintenance associates quit because they couldn’t read well enough to function using the devices. Device literacy is a real skill and critically important. Well said.

  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks so much for your comments (I appreciate that YOU read my blog… I’m flattered, really).

    It’s so true, device literacy is vitally important and if you don’t have it… you will lose out on opportunities. It’s just a fact these days! I remember when DOS based programs were the hottest thing (as opposed to running a property with ledger cards) and the transition to DOS programs was painful for some. Then along came web-based PM software and more… many just couldn’t keep up.

    It’s amazing how many people don’t take the time to invest in themselves and instead wait for someone to give them training… being proactive will only benefit YOU, both professionally and in a lot of ways, personally.

    Thanks again for commenting and sharing!


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