Subject: Portfolios
From: Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 1994 08:50:07 -0500

Marilynne Smith has a thin portfolio:
>1. Worked with classified information
>2. Worked as a contractor for other companies (I can't show their
> documentation because no one is supposed to know a contractor did it.)
>3. Have written many book-sized works. How many of those do you think
> I want to haul around to an interview?

When your portfolio can't include most of your work for reasons like
these, especially (1) and (2), you need to spend the extra time and effort
to document things you *can* show. If you have a PC, pick some small,
perhaps shareware, applications and write manuals for them. Most shareware
has pretty crappy, usually ASCII-only, docs. The author might even be
interested in reviewing your work and including it with the diskettes when
someone (shock horror!) actually sends in the dough to buy the program.
Regardless, you will then have something you can show. Even better, you
will be free to use YOUR layout ideas and YOUR style convictions.

When you have lots of book-length work, carefully choose *parts* of it for
your portfolio. Most everything I've written here has been pretty lengthy.
The smallest manual I've written here is fifty pages; the largest, five
hundred. They're all too long to show a potential employer, especially
since a typical manual includes so much filler: cover, title page,
revision history page, trademark laundry list, table of contents, Section
Full o' Marketing Hype. (Well, the typical *ACD* manual contains this
much filler!) I have a pool of manual sections (or parts of sections) which
show the things I can do. When I'm asked for samples, then, I find out
what kinds of writing the company needs, and show them the units that
come closest. The pool includes, for example, a section that tells how
to use the Motif-based graphic user interface included in most ACD products,
a tutorial that tells how to create a complex configuration model with
ACD's modeling platform, installation instructions for a hardware component,
a quick reference card, part of a section from a reference guide which
describes a program's menus/commands/screens/fields, and a few pages of
C-language function descriptions which include program examples.

In short, hit 'em with your best stuff, leave out the rest.

>On the other hand, I think I failed an on-the-spot writing test because they
>asked me to write a procedure on how to make a peanut butter and jelly
>sandwich. I found I could not treat the subject seriously.

Platinum Technology up in a Chicago suburb had me do something like that.
They had two such tests, one was the PB&J test, the other was... hm, I forget,
but it's the one I wrote. Something like how to place a phone call, or use
a toaster. I hated the whole test-taking thing anyway. They wanted me to
drive four hours up there to take the thing at my expense before they'd even
consider an interview. I squeaked loud and long until they finally agreed to
fax me the (timed) test and let me fax it back, completed.

They liked my test, apparently, because they called me for an interview.
Their suite was cold, both in temperature and in design. Lots of painted
metal and high, bare ceilings. I talked to something like five people that
day. The interviewers were distant and suspicious. Heck, they weren't even
warm to *each other* when they passed me along. I looked at their manuals;
even *those* had a distant, documenter-on-high attitude about them. They
escorted me to the door after three hours of this, and when I stepped into the
warm, late-summer afternoon sunlight, I knew it wasn't the place for me.
They called me back for *another* interview, supposedly with the muckety-mucks,
and I turned them down. They were flabbergasted.

jim grey |"Ain't nothin' better in the world, you know
jwg -at- acd4 -dot- acd -dot- com |Than lyin' in the sun, listenin' to the radio" - D. Boone
jimgrey -at- delphi -dot- com|GO/M d p+ c++(-) l u+ e- m*@ s+/ n+ h f++ g- w+@ t+ r- y+(*)
|ACD, Terre Haute, IN -- The Silicon Cornfield

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