As anyone who reads my blog long enough knows, I do not discuss employers or clients in my blog. This is professional courtesy, as working relationships can sometimes become stressful or contentious, even in the course of a good, productive working relationship. What’s more, most of the time my work is anonymous. People do not typically care who wrote the software manual, and even if my name were on it, it wouldn’t reflect all the people who really put effort into it.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t discuss work. I talk about the work of being a professional writer all the time, the ups and downs, and I do publicly talk about my role as a book author (because really, it’s pretty hard to hide that).
So, the announcement today is that I have a new job!
It’s a full-time contract, with the possibility later to be hired on as a staff employee. I’ll be the “lone tech writer” in a smaller company located in Marquette, Michigan. The bulk of the developers, however, are here in the Bay Area, so I will be joining a virtual team. This means I only need to be “on site” when they fly me to Michigan, or when I go to a fleshspace meeting in San Francisco, but otherwise I work from my home office. Cat on lap, hands on keyboard.
The arrangement is different from how I prefer to work as a contractor. I like working part-time, on a project-by-project basis. I enjoy having a defined goal and an achievable objective. I like not feeling like I need to bill the company for every hour I’m in front of the computer.
But I also like working in a functioning work environment, a luxury I don’t always have when I come in for a project, then leave.
I have a hard time describing how this new job makes me feel. I’m not generally a depressed person, but this fall has been particularly rough. I felt burned out at the end of my last contract, and I immediately came down with a cold that I couldn’t just shrug off. I ended up mildly depressed, which is really saying something– I don’t generally get depressed. I have the appropriate amount of sadness when sad things happen in my life, but I don’t get depressed in the long-term or in any clinical sense.
For the last three months or so, I’ve been diligently emailing my resume, attending networking events, and generally trying to promote myself to potential clients. With ten years of experience, I have a lot to offer, but I found myself not quite making it past the initial interview. This is largely because I was applying for the wrong jobs. You see, I’m a good writer for end-users. Those are people who are using a product and need to know how. Unfortunately, right now there are gobs of jobs available for API/developer documentation writers, and not so many for end user manuals. I don’t think this is because companies have all the technical writers they need. I think it’s because:
a) companies have given up on providing usable documentation to their end users
b) companies think the developers can write user documentation
c) companies think that just anyone can write the user manual.
I am able to definitively point to instances in my manuals that demonstrate “yes, I am a good user manual writer.” I have also learned that I am not great at all kinds of writing. Specifically, I am not great at writing APIs and developer documentation. This is an unfortunate thing to learn ten years into your professional life, when most of the jobs at your senior level are, frankly, API and developer documentation jobs. The opportunities to advance are slim.
But I persevered and was really intrigued when I saw this job posting, because it was specifically for end user documentation, and it’s intriguing, and off-site, with corporate HQ in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (say ya to da yoopee, eh).
During the phone interview and in-person interview for this job, I instantly felt “right.” I hit it off with the person I’d be working with the most closely, and I never got the impression that I would have four bosses if I came to work with them. There’s autonomy and room to really develop a documentation strategy that works for this company. I think this will be a job I can take some pride in, and that makes me happy.
Yesterday the call came finalizing my hire status, after having had such a miserable morning with the moonlighting job (which they know about and don’t mind as long as I get their work done, too). It was like a ray of sunshine in December– much needed and the timing was certainly appreciated.
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