Re: Gettin' Engineers to trust you and this Darn Economy

Subject: Re: Gettin' Engineers to trust you and this Darn Economy
From: "Jenny Berger" <jenny -at- malleron -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002 15:03:09 -0500

Have you talked to the engineers at all about what *exactly* leads them to
think that you, among "all tech writers," should be treated as "just a
formatter"? It's been my experience (as I've been treated similarly myself)
that more often than not my SMEs have been burned by previous writers in one
way or another which resulted in a marked lack of trust in the writer's
ability to convey the SME's "story," as it were, to the users.

Of course, I only found out about these horrid experiences when, at a
previous job, the applications manager (a terribly busy guy who seemed to
speak only in acronyms and abbreviations) personally thanked me for doing
such a good job on a set of documents his engineers needed to use to do
their jobs. I accepted his kudos graciously, but since I'm compelled to look
a gift horse in the mouth, I asked him why he was so pleased. He then told
me that he'd never worked with a writer who was interested enough in the
content to work closely with his team, figure out how things were done (and
how they probably needed to be done), ask useful questions, or present
information the way his team needed it to be effective. When I told him that
that's what tech writers are supposed to do anyway, he just rolled his eyes
and said "You'd be surprised" and went back to work.

Since that was my first tech writing job, it did surprise me very much. And
it continues to surprise me, albeit a little less each time I hear horror
stories about The Tech Writers Who Weren't. But it did have an effect on how
I handle new work situations with new SMEs. Now, if I encounter resistance
to my being on a project because of my "writer" status, I put on my
"interviewer" hat and dive in directly to find out what the big issues are.
Not only does it prepare me for future contact with the resources I need to
do my job, but also disarms those who see me as more of a hinderance than a
help. So, instead of them dismissing me out of hand because I'm "only a
writer," their interest is piqued and they sit up to see what I can do.

Once they see that I'm "on their side" they lighten up considerably and are
more interested in helping me help them. Of course, there have been times
where this direct approach didn't work and I've had to muddle through as
best as I can, grumbling to myself all the way. But luckily, those
situations have been few.

As for the "unsureness" in company health, I've never had to volunteer to
forego my paycheck, but I've also been in positions where I could see stuff
like this coming and move out of the way as needed.

Anyway, it's just a thought,


----- Original Message -----
From: "Doc Writer" <doc_writer -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Friday, July 05, 2002 2:29 PM
Subject: Gettin' Engineers to trust you and this Darn Economy

> __________________________
> Q1/ Is anyone else experiencing this sense of unsureness in your company's
> health?
> Q2/ How can you be firm about showing engineers that you can do the work,
> (just give me the darn specs) without causing more problems?

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