RE: Tech Writers of the World Unite (inspires a LONG autobiograph y...)

Subject: RE: Tech Writers of the World Unite (inspires a LONG autobiograph y...)
From: "Sorensen, Jane" <jsorensen -at- doubleclick -dot- net>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 21:10:19 -0400

Everyone likes to tell their life story to a certain extent. If you like
reading rants, too, read on, but if you're not at all interested, please
delete this. I don't wanna come across as being a snot-nosed
tech-writing-turned-internet-whatever brat. And I'm NOT the best writer in
the world (for that you should read Mr. Blue on, so I probably
will. Anyway, on to How Learning to Code Helped Me.

I got a solicitation to be somewhat less vague than I was--in other words:

> Pray tell! Let us in on this saga!



I was getting fed up at the general lack of support and respect I was
receiving from management at my old company. It was a total pecking order
there and, like how BlueSky antagonizes its clients into solidarity, this
company basically antagonized its workers into "performance". You weren't
performing if you weren't working OT...and so on. Well, I didn't feel
particularly suited to the job, either, and without any support or training
(training was "here's a book on DCOM"), things weren't really going to get
any I shifted focus to things that needed doing in the company
that no one was doing: marketing and web writing. We didn't have a marketing
department. I also knew that they would be getting one soon, and I knew as
much as a decent marketing person should know about the product. So I put in
word that I wanted to do something ELSE...and they took that as
insubordination, I presume. So they started "building a case" against me,
which generally means, make rules, then change them halfway through and say
that the original rules still hold true against changed outcomes. Which to
some degree they do, and to some degree they don't. And they did not forget
to delete any traces due diligence after the fact (which meant deleting all
my relevant code change reports off the server).

Prior to leaving, I attended Philip Greenspun's ( seminar on
building web-based communities. Armed with that, I did a critique of my
company's website, and submitted a site proposal to them. I received no I was preparing to quit, but they beat me to the punch, of
course. I learned the personal lesson that It Is Always Better to Quit Than
Be Fired. However, word of my success has trickled back, which is sweet even
if no one really gave a darn. The other thing is, they went ahead (after
telling me they had no positions) and hired a clatter of marketers, whose
first deliverable was a new company website...and it's just like they did
90% of everything I recommended in my proposal. So either a) they did
exactly that, or b) I'm just as good as some $80K marketer/web site designer
that they hired out of Silicon Valley (which is where they hired the

Also prior to leaving, I enrolled in a Java programming course. Which was
the best thing ever. I loved it. I had people I could go to for help when I
was stuck on niggly little concepts that are hard to understand at first. I
also think about how much it would have helped me at the old job if I
could've taken it then. Funny thing is, it only cost $200 at the local
college. And I must admit, I needed a bit of encouragement. I just prefer
the positive kind.

The next thing I knew, I was contracting at an e-commerce solution provider
that was totally powered by Java and XML. They got my resume off the
MonsterBoard. I helped them write their business plan. I wrote help and
marketing information for their websites. I started an internal document on
proprietary Java servlets that update the content databases. I learned a bit
about producing, mostly by observation. Also, from that company, I learned
about website personalization. I fell in love with a Java-based server
application that does that for them, and subsequently landed an interview at
the maker of that application. However, I also interviewed the same week
with DoubleClick (I was headhunted through Dice), which does all that
personalization-of-ads stuff for their clients, and DoubleClick offered
first, and probably best.

Unlike my previous tech writing jobs, my current position is not producing
end-user documentation for clients. My audiences are almost all internal. I
publish information on project status (teaching me about project
management). I administer the upcoming engineering intranet site, through
which people will be able to check-out and check-in internal documentation
and view various project alerts and other project-related info. I will also
publish technical articles (which I will find and/or write) that will
explain different web ad and info serving technologies to people who only
need to know the basics and where to go from there. I'm also learning XML on
my own, as well as brushing up on the latest 4.0 HTML stuff that most of you
probably know. It's also a new position, so if there's a lot to fix up in
the internal documentation, I would be in the position to hire. Scary.

I believe I got the job because:

- I'd been keen on this area of publishing, in spite of my inclination that
"publishing" is just way too massive in this day and age (at the same time;
IM other HO, right-wing publishing is way more massive than left-wing, so
you might as well keep it comin' until it pans out, and the Internet makes
it easier)
- because I want to know and do as much as possible in the area of managing
a project (with an emphasis on enlightenment--being managed badly, on a
product managed badly, really makes you want to avoid pitfalls);
- because I want to have a way of knowing who's out there on the client side
and how to keep them happy (this interest is essential to tech writers--
incidentally, my biggest help project at Old Evil Company is now
*highlighted* as a product feature on the web page);
- and lastly, I want to stay close to the technology as possible because
it's the way to keep yourself in the game (street-cred and anti-BS). There's
a reason coders like what they do. At least there is for me; I like it, too.

And where ever I go from here, it'll be more of the same or up. I think I'd
also like to write anti-establishment how-to books for kids, about
technology and how it's cool for all the wrong reasons. Not for the reasons
the media tell you about. I'd like to take a lot of artistic license there,
too, and irk all those technology purists. Also why it's important to not
only to question authority but even more importantly, to question majority
and to question yourself. Then again, I'd also like to buy some land in
France and garden and paint and drink wine and not think about these things
for the rest of my life, and let the silly children grow up to become
sillier adults, after all, when I'm in France, it's their problem, not

So far, I really like working at DoubleClick. Their compensation package,
perks, and regularly-scheduled events (like a martini party I went to last
week) are intended to make people feel valued, and that it's a fun place to
work (haven't seen nerf darts yet, but both nerf- and real basketball). It's
glamourous in that there's a rooftop terrace with a spectacular view of
lower Manhattan and the west side/Hudson River harbour. It's easy to get to
from all over, since it's right beside Penn Station. And, well, hey, I live
in New York. I've hit one goal on my lifetime list.

Thank goodness for TN permits.


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