Fulfillment and change

Empire State Building at nightAt the beginning of the year, I reviewed the goals that I set for last year. The results were hugely disappointing. I hadn’t fulfilled any of them to the degree that I’d hoped. I had started making progress on a few of them, but I was never able to make enough progress to consider any of them a success.

I was in a career situation that wouldn’t allow me to succeed in the way that I wanted to. I was frustrated and looking for a change, and found an interesting opportunity.

But not as a technical writer.

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(Not my) predictions for 2015

It’s the time of year for technical communication industry predictions, but that’s not my speciality. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of techcomm; in fact, I’ve been feeling like I’m in an isolated backwater. When people learn that I’m using ZenDesk for documentation they think that I’m either very brave or very masochistic.

As Luke Skywalker would have told me, “Well, if there’s a bright center to the [technical communications] universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.”

[Speaking of, what sort of help system would you write for a lightsaber? “Point shiny end away from face and good luck”?]

Getting back on target…

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Building a team

I’ve been at my current company for a year and a half, and my role is a mix of technical communications and customer support (which is really technical communication with a specific person instead of a group of current customers and prospective customers).

As my company is growing and taking on more customers, I need to build a team. I’m figuring out what that team will look like, and what sort of skills and personalities I need to fill those roles.

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Enough with the heroics

My boss keeps telling me that the great thing about startups is that everyone wants to do everything. And the worst thing about startups is that everyone tries to do everything.

I should have listened more closely. Heroic efforts are good sometimes. But you can’t base realist plans on that. If you do, it’ll bite you in the ass. That’s what happened to me.

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Why you shouldn’t do it all

Responding to my post about startups vs. large companies, Anindita Basu asked, “I am curious why you don’t recommend stepping up and taking on as many things as we can (when in a small company).”

Not too long ago, I would have replied that it’s exactly what you should do. I would have explained that it’s important to try to do as much as possible because that’s how you establish and maintain your relevance and authority in your company.

But that’s the wrong answer. Doing that will lead to burnout, frustration, and disappointment. Let me explain…

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Fast. Good. Cheap?

I usually work in a tactical writing mode: documenting new features and workflows in an agile development environment, or writing special content for training or specific customer requirements. I’m very comfortable working at a tactical level. But in the iron triangle of fast/cheap/good (where you can pick any two), going for fast/good incurs a cost that’s very easy to miss for a while: losing sight of the strategic goals…or failing to create them at all.

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