Top 10 Things I Wish I'd Know Before Going Independent

Subject: Top 10 Things I Wish I'd Know Before Going Independent
From: GEORGE Grider 901/360-4002 <ggrider -at- fedex -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 13:39:12 -0600

Folks:

One item that ranks near the top, both in importance and subtlety, is
FIND OUT WHO'S CALLING THE SHOTS.

It's not the person who you think it is. Probably not the one who you
interviewed, especially if that person is from Human Resources. Or even
from Technical Pubs.

It's happened to me more times than I'd like to admit, and it goes
something like this. You think you're working for Susie, manager of
technical pubs. She interviewed you, hired you as a consultant, set you
up with a desk maybe. Susie tells you after your second week that
everything is fine. You come into the office twice a week to deliver
your drafts, with no comments. All is hunky dory. Right?

Wrong. What you're doing is not paying attention. You didn't notice that
on two occasions Susie mentioned the name of an engineer. As someone who
hasn't quite yet gotten around to reading your drafts. Your mistake is
to think that Susie is your actual client, the one you're charged to
please, and that she and the engineer are of one accord. Your second
mistake is to assume that if the two fail to communicate, the powers
that be will take action against your boss and you'll be in the clear.
We all know the world doesn't work that way.

What happens is you learn that the person you're really writing for is
the engineer, and you learn too late. He is a behind-the-scenes guy, and
he doesn't want to be bothered with documentation stuff. One day, out of
boredom or panic, he picks up your beautiful work. "WRONG," he says. He
says this to your manager. She hears it but she doesn't exactly pass on
the message. She doesn't say, "Gosh, I guess I didn't talk this over
with Robert the way I should have. We'd better start over." She says,
"Just a few changes." You change a couple of paragraphs, as directed,
and the next time around what Robert says, likely to the president, is
"FIRE THE CONSULTANT." The only consolation is that when she tells you
not to bother to come back, she is as confused about the whole thing as
you are.

My recommendation: First thing after getting settled in is to find out
who's calling the shots. If it's the engineer, take his boss out to
lunch. This ploy works to ensure you've reached high enough. Once you've
found the actual source, start taking notes.

George Grider


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