Asking SMEs?

Subject: Asking SMEs?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 05 Jan 2005 09:14:18 -0500

Eileen Neumann reports: <<I know it's often said on this list that you should become an expert yourself under your own steam. I say, it depends...>>

Indeed it does. Our goal should always be to become sufficiently independent that we aren't constantly nagging the SMEs for information. This shows that we have a brain and are prepared to work up a sweat using it--which puts us on the same footing as the SMEs, who also have sweaty brains. <g>

<<As shy persons, we may be reluctant to ask people for things. While solitary research and learning is also good, sometimes it's not cost effective for the company for a writer to try and figure everything out themselves. It can be a whole lot faster to find the expert that can help you out than to spend days trying to run a program you're unfamiliar with or find the bit of information that must be 'somewhere' on the Intranet. What's your time worth?>>

Time is money, as they say, but there's an even more important reason not to be shy: it's all too easy to let yourself become isolated and withdrawn. That's part of the nature of the job (writing is, after all, a solitary profession), but we humans are social animals. If you become too isolated, you greatly diminish the pleasure that comes from working as part of a team and getting to know your team-mates as humans. You won't like all of them enough to become friends outside of work, but there are many pleasures to be had in belonging to a group.

There are also two significant risks that arise from isolation. First, you drop off the radar, and become just another anonymous name on an org chart when it comes time for the next downsizing. Nobody knows what you do, thus your work can't be important, thus _you_ can't be important... Second, when you really do need to get information from a SME, they'll treat you as the demanding, importunate stranger that you are rather than as "one of the gang".

Make yourself part of the team, but not in an annoying manner: make sure people know that you exist, know your value as a person, and (hopefully) learn your value as a communicator. This makes life at work much more pleasant for everyone, adds a small measure of job security, and makes your research that much more efficient. You lose a certain amount of time each day keeping these relationships in good order, but you'll be amply repaid in the long term.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)



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RE: Asking SMEs (was Seeking counsel - yet another): From: Neumann, Eileen

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