From print books to the Kindle: My evolution

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Print books have always been a source of comfort for me. When I was a child, I was an avid reader right down to the large selection of hardbound classics handed down to me from my grandmother. Reading was also a favorite pastime when I was growing. In college, I was an English major finally sealing my fate with reading and the printed word.

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A lesson I learned as a contract technical writer

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As a favor to an old friend,  I spoke to one of their friend’s kids who got laid off and was forced to go into contract IT work so they could keep paying the bills.

Here is one question and answer that stuck out from our phone call:

Them: What do you find true about contracting?

Me: The very people who will criticize you for the tiniest mistake will be the same people who take credit for your successes and good ideas after your contract gig ends.

Unfortunately, depending on the organization, it happens to full-time employees too.

Weird things I saw when I was a contract technical writer

alex-kotliarskyi-361081-unsplashI’ve been out of full-time contracting for almost two years and recently thought back to some of the stranger things I saw during the contract technical writer chapter of my life:

  • A fellow contractor was posting nude pictures of his wife on Usenet from his client account. He was busted and walked offsite by armed security guards when a Usenet reader emailed the Webmaster of the client’s domain.
  • A client who demanded the word, Please be used to begin every procedure in a user guide.
  • Contract agency recruiters who just told so many obvious lies I wondered if their nose grew. There should be a special place in hell for unethical contract agency recruiters.
  • A contractor who got sick and went AWOL while on a business trip to NYC. The contracting agency had to evict her from her hotel room. After taking over her hotel room, I could understand how she would want to lay in bed all day in that hotel.
  • A contractor who inflated their resume so much it made me see the problems that swept along technical writers and swept along trainers cause for real professionals.
  • A contractor who quit via email the Sunday evening before leaving Monday on a trip to Los Angeles. He knew the whole time he was going to stop. While I understand At-Will Employment cuts both ways, there is professionalism and decency.

Once upon a time, contractors could always count on other contractors. I stayed too long at the party. The contracting market I entered was not the same one I left.

What weird things did you see as a contract technical writer?

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Reflections on my technical writing career

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I was once asked in a job interview: “Why do I stay a technical writer when it must be such a dull and boring profession?”  After the meeting when I was peeling rubber out of the parking lot, I took a few moments when I was decelerating to think about some of the more interesting moments (at least to me) from my career:

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An alternative perspective about taking meeting minutes

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I was talking to a recruiter once who asked me how I felt about taking meeting minutes. The first thing I said was “I think meeting minutes are overrated because I’ve rarely if ever seen them consulted again by meeting participants. When is the last time you consulted meeting minutes after a meeting was over?” While we both laughed about my response, I was quite serious and didn’t know how serious I was myself until well after the call was over.

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The center of continuous technical education must be you

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I’ve come to realize the importance of working in environments where continuous technical education is imperative to the success of projects and overall company health.
We live in a world that harps on the value of work/life balance. I have no arguments with balance but technical learning needs to be an integral part of that balance.
Yet, keeping abreast of the latest technologies should be the responsibility of the employee not always the employer. We live in a web-enabled world where new apps and services are accessible via download or through a trial account.
Today, accessibility to new technologies is too easy especially compared to when I started in the IT industry.
Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash