I think hell froze over

Subject: I think hell froze over
From: Gaylin Walli <gaylin -dot- walli -at- CDC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 13:59:05 -0500

*lurker mode off* [long post ahead, you are forwarned]

The weather outside is frightful, several Tech Writers I know are
stressed beyond belief (hiya Copper!), and I'm sure the rest of you
could use a feel-good story to brighten your day.

I've been a tech writer for about seven years now. Almost all of my jobs
have involved documenting computer software and hardware for end users,
trainers, and developers. All the jobs have been quite typical in the
sense that the bitter complaints of tech writers were always present.
Managers made unreasonable requests, engineers simply couldn't
understand why I wanted certain information, programmers couldn't write
enough standard American English to get themselves out of a wet paper
bag....you know the routine.

I believe I've found the perfect job. I'm still writing the same kinds
of documentation, but the people....let me tell you how different they

When I came on my interview, the first thing they did was drag me into
the coffee room so that the blood in my body wouldn't interfere with my
caffeine system. :) Then, as I'm heading towards the interviewer's
office, a game of hacky-sack enuses in the hallway and I am
inadvertantly included.

I was wearing high heels.

During the interview, a koosh ball war started. Or, rather, the BOSS
started a koosh ball war with all the programmers. Again, I was included
in the madness. By this time I was seriously wondering if they got any
work done. Despite my initial misgivings, however, I accepted the job
offer they gave me the next day.

My fears about their lack of work initiative have been unfounded. During
my first month of work we have not only completed an entire software
revision and started on the next, but we have written an 80-page
addendum to the reference manual (you can't really call 80 pages release
notes, now, can you?), started on the next major software revision of,
and put into place an entirely new system of documentation tracking and

These folk have no egos. I get my questions answered on time, in simple
terms I can understand, with no snickering because I've already asked
the questions a couple of times before. When I don't know how part of
the software works, a programmer takes me in hand and tells me how it
works, shows me how it works from their perspective and from mine, tells
me when I might use the portion of the software and under what
circumstances, and then gives me a for-instance example as if I were an
end user.

This puts me in a complete tail spin every time it happens. How can
they be so darn *nice* all the time?

Best of all....I get my documents (all 80 pages) reviewed in 3 days or
less AND THEY HAVE WRITING ON THEM! These folk actually *look* at every
page, even the pages that don't pertain directly to their work. The
reviewers make insightful comments, reasonable suggestions, and they
don't mind at all when they see that I've edited their writing. In fact,
they usually thank me for improving what they wrote (not that I've had
to edit much since they've written wonderful stuff...).

As for the fun and games...I think the interview was my introduction to
the truth that the best of the hard workers, the ones that survive in
the business, play as hard as they work.

The fun has continued. My boss wearing his brand new product t-shirt as
pants was quite a hoot. And I think the impromptu putt-putt golf course
in the hallways and offices was truly inspired.

I do believe I've been skating in hell....Here's to hoping that the
rest of you find a job as fun and rewarding and challenging as my newest
one has been to date.

Regards and best wishes,


Gaylin Walli
gaylin -dot- walli -at- cdc -dot- com or gjwalli -at- mtu -dot- edu

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