RE: Thank You Re: Interviewing SMEs

Subject: RE: Thank You Re: Interviewing SMEs
From: "Michele Marques" <marquesm -at- autros -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 09:58:11 -0400

Andrew Plato in a couple of messages has written advice that you should
strongly research the subject matter before interviewing SMEs and that you
should appeal to their technical vanity rather than just their sweet tooth.

While I agree with these points, I disagree with some of the antagonistic
attitudes that seem to come through in these messages. In one message he
wrote that you should know the answer before asking a question, so that you
don't get mislead by a developer feeding you incorrect answers. In another
he writes:
> Also, SMEs are usually more than willing to talk about their designs. Its
> merely a matter of approaching them properly and manipulating them into
> you what you want.

By holding an antagonistic attitude towards the SMEs, you may well
antagonize them ... in which case they won't be so helpful. I would advise a
modified approach to Andrew's suggestions:
* As Bruce and Andrew suggest, research the topic as much as possible before
approaching the developers. They're busy with their own deadlines and will
appreciate spending less time answering questions. Also, you will have some
idea what questions must be answered, and can minimize going back to them
multiple times (for details that they forgot to mention the first time).

* Make sure you are going to the correct SME. Maybe they all think they know
something about xyz - but, just like you, they may have incorrect or
incomplete ideas of how it works, except for the lead xyz-coder. At first
when you start out in a company, you may not know the areas of expertise,
but over time you should learn. If the real expert is too busy to be
interviewed, maybe that person is willing to answer one or two questions to
verify details after you do your initial research, possibly with

* Try to befriend the SMEs. Make small talk in the lunchroom or hallways.
And sometimes ask about what they're working on (and/or other technical
topics of interest to them). If they feel you're interested in what they're
working on, they may tell you more details about the topics (which you
eventually need to write about) and/or may show you what they're developing
earlier. But don't just ask about their code .... otherwise, when things are
going badly, they might want to avoid you.

Michele Marques
Technical Writer,
Autros Healthcare Solutions
marquesm -at- autros -dot- com

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Re: Thank You Re: Interviewing SMEs: From: Andrew Plato

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