Here are some lessons I learned a few years back when I was installing Drupal for the first time. It was a rather mixed experience. I tore it all down the other weekend and started over, not as much out of disappointment, but to knock the kinks out of my first deployment.
Here are some lessons I learned:
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.
I’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?
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: