Re: Hurdles

Subject: Re: Hurdles
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: Wanda Phillips <wanda -dot- jane -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 04 Apr 2008 15:06:42 -0700

Wanda Phillips wrote:
Our product offerings have doubled. Our staff has been reduced. They
> aren't even looking for a contractor to act as an interim while they
> look for a new tools person

I'm crazy about the idea of a tools person, but based on clues you've
given about your work (tech writer documenting physics, freedom to
explore documentation gold standards and re-develop documentation
methodology), I'm agog at the role that any of you play, let alone the
tool rat who abandoned ship.

Though our work is drastically different, the issues you describe make
me realize that my employers let me burn out too, without even providing
any opportunity for professional growth. It's like, "Here's your Word
workstation, here's the template we use, your SME quit yesterday, but
your deadline is firm. Oh, you'll be sharing the cubie with three new
call center operators. Help out with language issues, Ned, they have
scripts, but don't handle variations very well. Also, did I mention that
some of our project managers don't write very well? They could use some
coaching on their lunch hour or after work, that's half the reason we
brought you on! OK, any questions?"

"OK," I chirp. I could cough up a hairball already.

You've seen the cartoon comparing the diaries of a dog and a cat? The
dog writes, "Today was great, went for a walk in the yard, got patted a
couple of times." The cat's entry begins, "Day 932 of my captivity..."

They look to the tech writer for miracles the way cargo cultists pray to
the skies for outboard motors. I don't want to disappoint them.

I don't mean to pry or stare like a bumpkin, but wow, the picture
forming in my mind's eye, based on the clues you've dropped, is one of
glamor + technical writing. May I inquire about your company?

Is it a fabulous multinational industrial giant, the kind that actually
does all of those theoretical things that I've heard about, like real
user analysis with focus groups, internal departments that handle your
graphics and printing needs, real usability studies (like
haptic-inspired designs for hardware UIs), world-wide marketing and
translation of user docs, ... ?

I can't tell you how much I want to hear more about life in the tech
writing big leagues. Seriously, Wanda. Not that I'm qualified with the
higher degrees one probably needs to work that way, but I must confess
that reading about how you work is like a vicarious ride in a big
convertible. Thank you for taking me sightseeing in this neighborhood, I
wasn't aware it even existed anymore. Or, maybe you're in a different
country--didn't you once mention being in CA?

(there was another position that was
> recently vacated and they couldn't fill it and the tools person, so
> we're slowly shrinking.)

Oh yeah :-(

I recognize this syndrome. My last big gig featured a similar scenario:
Someone with important skills left, and the role got filled with an
intern, someone who professed an interest, or appeared to have aptitude,
but had no experience, and worked for an order of magnitude less money
than the right person would. So everyone else had to take on the work
while found out what the job was about for the next couple of years. It
is a senseless, uncomprehending, top-down from the boardroom sort of
thing. The top-down convertible ride is vastly preferable to this death
by a thousand cuts. There's just no comparison.

Here's hoping for more about your work, and that reason prevails in
getting the right roles filled with the right people.

My $2 for the gas tank,

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

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Re: Hurdles: From: Elaine Logan
Re: Hurdles: From: Wanda Phillips

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