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I was in an interesting hybrid situation: being a one-man
band in a small (and geographically distant and rebellious)
R&D subsidiary of a larger company that had a full-fledged
documentation and packaging department.
The advantages were numerous and included creative freedom,
great atmosphere, immersion in technical teams, and minimal
bureaucracy. There were some disadvantages, though:
* I kept getting drained off into us-versus-them corporate
politics (willingly, I must admit) in the service of the
* There wasn't enough of me to handle both user manuals/
online help and technical documentation, and one of me
was all they could afford to hire. Since the user stuff
was part of the product, the technical stuff tended to
get ignored except when a customer wanted it.
* To first order, all the above requests came from the same
source, and diplomatic yet effective "refereeing" was
hard to get.
* Although I had highly competent publications support
(editing, illustration, typography, layout, and printing)
at HQ, my editing/review needs got lip service until
the last minute. One of many motives for my departure
was sitting in a hotel room until 3 a.m., drinking coffee,
watching colorized war movies on TBS, and keying-in
changes that the documentation-boss-cum-editor-in-chief
didn't think of until the day before the typesetting
deadline. (After which, of course, the schedule slipped
a month for technical changes: in hoc signo vince Murphy).
It got to where I could probably give the oxygen-mask
spiel for an L-1011 better than most of the stewardesses.
Now I'm on permanent detached assignment to a scientific division,
with the support when needed of a large, physically nearby, full-
service technical information department. It seems to take three
meetings, five memos, and ten weeks to get anything through the
system, but everything I need to do a job is available, and there
are Higher Authorities to appeal to when different people ask for
two things at one time.
Ultimately, I agree with Len: a job is often what you make of it
(though what you make *from* it plays a role! :), and each scenario
has its advantages and disadvantages for any particular person.
We're all different and so are our companies.
"Just another personal opinion from the People's Republic of Berkeley"