We are developers

Subject: We are developers
Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 15:26:01 PDT

I agree with Glen Accardo and John Brin who say that the best way to stay
abreast of features is to befriend and become part of the development (or
engineering) team. Documentation is a significant part of the product (and
for software products we also create a key part of the software--the online
help). So we should consider ourselves documentation specialists but
developers nonetheless. For some, this means educating the development staff
and fighting an entrenched corporate culture.

I'm a senior member of our development team and, in addition to development
meetings, attend strategic planning meetings. So if there are new features to
be implemented, I usually know of them before or at the same time the
developers do. Sure, we have that 12:1 ratio that means I can barely keep up
with the product, but at least I can make it clear up front to management what
is possible given my resources rather than being handed an impossible task (or
worse, having to ferret out on my own what those tasks are). After all,
managers may not want bad news, but if it's coming, they always prefer it up

This was a hard-won battle at my last job (as opposed to a welcome perk at my
current job), but it's worth fighting for. It's also a trend that's catching
on at a lot of high-tech firms. I encourage everyone to do what they can to
come across as a professional and to make it clear that you're part of the
development team. This sometimes means befriending developers but it also
means learning enough about the product that you gain their respect.

So don't wait to be invited to development meetings where they discuss
strategies (as opposed to technical meetings where they discuss widgets)--take
a more active approach (do whatever it takes to weasel your way in). Try to
have your own suggestions ready that show you've thought about the product.
But be careful to listen more than you talk--you're there to find out about
what's coming down the pike, not to show off your opinions.

This ain't gonna be easy for some of you, but then again you may find that the
developers welcome your presence, are interested in what you bring to the
table, and that they really didn't know that leaving you out of the loop makes
your job miserable. Good luck!
Rich Julius Oracle Corporation
Senior Technical Writer Box 659504
Tools and Multimedia Division 500 Oracle Parkway
(415) 506-4971 Redwood Shores, CA 94065

"The advantage of a classical education is that it enables you to despise the
wealth which it prevents you from achieving." --Russell Green

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