|Beginning the First Project|
A few weeks ago, Elise, a recent graduate, began a project in the south of the country for a company specializing in advanced radar and aircraft systems. Elise is in her '50's and has taught English at the college level - this is her first technical writing job.
Interviewer: Elise, what type of project is this? Are you working in an establshed documentation team, or are you on your own?
Elise: The project is actually multi-faceted - the company needs one User's manual to be revised and updated, and another to be written from scratch. But that's just the technical writing part. The fact is, their entire website is out of date and needs drastic improvement - so that is another project that they want us to handle. In addition, they want to use the material from the website and the newly revised manual and create a brochure out of it.
Interviewer: Wow, that's a pretty tall order for a beginner! How did you handle all of this? Were you nervous starting such a large project, especially your first project?!
Elise: Actually, I had a lot of coaching from YEDA before even getting the project. YEDA's manager helped set up the tasks and milestones, gather some of the material, and pave the way for smoothly entering the job. I was also able to plan every move with the manager so that there were no surprises - at least not at first.
Interviewer: Hmm - what do you mean "not at first?" - sounds ominous.
Elise: Well, I felt very on top of the material. The funny thing is, that after I did the research, as well as conferring with the project manager from YEDA, I had full confidence in doing the job. I still do. But there were some surprises. For one, it turned out that the company did not have the answers that I needed to complete the manual. It wasn't that they couldn't describe what I needed to know - it was that they simply had never even considered the questions themselves and realized that there were a number of issues about the product that they had never resolved. So, they are "on hold" for awhile so that they can come to some conclusions and get me the required information. Although we learned about situations like this in the YEDA course, it was still surprising to see it in reality...
Interviewer: How do you feel about this?
Elise: Of course, I'd like to see them resolve the problems as quickly as possible so that I can continue with the work. But it also gave me a feeling that I've contributed much more than just writing some instructions about how to operate the system. By asking the questions that I did, I've actually helped the company redefine the way they look at their product - and the way they want to present it to their customers. I never thought, as a technical writer, that I would have that kind of influence.
Interviewer: That's pretty interesting. But what about the marcom work? How did that go?
Elise: I felt very confident in that as well. I made a list of their main competitor's product features and compared it to theirs. There were a lot of discrepencies - as if we were dealing with two completely different products. Apparently, the competition has a very different way of viewing the product. The question soon became "how do you want to position this product?" and "Who is your market?".
Interviewer: Well, and did you get the answers?
Elise: Here again, the company has been forced to deal with issues that they never thought out very clearly. For me it's very exciting to be able to grapple with these issues, especially as we learned a lot about them in the course. This is like a homework assignment where we get to apply what we've learned.