Re: Do you use persuasion in your career?

Subject: Re: Do you use persuasion in your career?
From: Fox Cole <foxcole -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 7 May 2009 10:12:08 -0500

On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 1:02 AM, Gretchen Hollis <misswoodstocker -at- gmail -dot- com>
> - Please respond with your current job title and how you frequently
> communicate with your co-workers (e.g., email, face-to-face, written,
> etc.).

My job title recently changed -- and by "recently" I mean two days ago --
from the title Business Information Specialist to Technical Communicator. I
transferred from the IS group as a lone writer/editor (responsible for
writing user guides, policies and processes, and for editing e-mails sent to
customers and branches, a position I've held for the past eight years) to
the Creative Services group (responsible for all catalogs, magazines,
reports and online publications for the company). For the first time in my
life I'll have direct interaction with a team of other writers. It remains
to be seen how I'll communicate most with this group.

However, with the IS group, the method of communication depended on what I
needed. If I needed answers to a collection of questions about the software
I was documenting, I e-mailed the list. Depending on the SME, they'd either
e-mail the replies or I would meet with them to go over the list. If meeting
face-to-face, I'd have my laptop with me so I could type the answers right
into the e-mail.

I liked the face-to-face meeting because it usually produced more complete
information through discussion; I liked the e-mail because it provided a
written record that I could use later for reference during editing.

For quick answers to just one or two quick questions, I'd use chat. Our chat
tool allows saving chat transcripts... so I had the best of both worlds: the
power of discussion, and written answers in the SME's own words.

> - Can you describe a situation where you needed to persuade a co-worker
> to use your idea? For example, have you ever discussed how you benefit
> the
> company to your supervisor? Or, have you ever talked a developer or SME
> into
> creating or changing something based on your idea?

As the lone writer of user documentation in a company that had not yet
decided it worthwhile to use business analysts and quality assurance
engineers, I was the sole user advocate. So, I was vocal about usability
and clarity in the software products we developed, unafraid to point out
things I thought might cause problems for users. I rarely needed to use much
persuasion, though, because once dev teams saw the logic in how better
interface designs would help avoid user confusion and reduce support calls,
they took my recommendations seriously.... and yes, changes were made.

Unfortunately for my own peace of mind, the company created BA and QA and
project management groups to assist in software development, and I was no
longer involved in the early dev meetings. I consider this unfortunate
because no one seemed to be aware of usability... not even the BAs.
Development has since focused on functionality, and by the time I get
involved in a project, it's too late to change the interface.

My suggestions are recorded for inclusion in future releases, but it
troubles me that we find it acceptable to push some of these products out
the door in their current state. I'm the sort of person who wants it done
right the first time, especially when I know the kinds of problems users
will have.

But, now that I've said that, there is one project manager who is becoming
excited about usability, and we've had several discussions and exchanges of
ideas. He knows I'd like to start usability testing, in which we both
envision my role as being facilitator. An ally at last!

> - What were your results? Did you end up helping the company or your
> career?

I like to think I've helped the company by helping the users. And yes, it's
helped my career. Because I'm now part of the Creative Services group, I'll
have resources to help produce more and better forms of communication. The
vision is to standardize our technical communications across all our
companies (all acquired since I started working here).

And I'll be taking on additional responsibilities, learning to proof
publications and edit to AP style (although I've done that in the past; I
even own a copy of the 2005 AP Stylebook, heh). I'll have more ways to apply
my talents.

One point of all that is, no matter what position a person has in a company,
it helps the company (provided the person is doing their job). The other
point is that through various forms of persuasion, I've at last been able to
climb out of the IS cube and grow my career. I'll be adding value in more
ways, to more kinds of information products. It's win-win.


If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle. -- Rita Mae

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