time consuming tasks (WAS: Re: Should my ego be squashed?)

Subject: time consuming tasks (WAS: Re: Should my ego be squashed?)
From: jboskey -at- wheels -dot- com
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, <gb_techwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 07 Oct 1999 16:43:08 -0500

Genevieve - As a recent college grad now working, you are seeing that
technical writing isn't always as exciting as one thinks it should be.
:) I sympathize with your problem of having the documents to convert
(see my story below). Getting an intern would be great if you can find
one and if your company is willing. However, if no intern is
available, I fear you are probably right that you need to swallow your
complaints and convert the documents yourself. I'm not quite sure if
your company will get money for you doing this document conversion,
but if that's the case, they will be especially unhappy if the
conversion isn't done. Not doing the work may reflect badly in your
review, as you mention, and you don't want to be seen as some "high
and mighty" technical writer who only wants to work on "fun" things.

Especially since you are the only tech writer in the company, you do
run the risk of being called upon often to do "glorified typist"
tasks. However, tech writers are often perceived in this way, and you
will probably have to deal with such attitudes anyway, whether you
accept this conversion task or not. I think being seen as someone
willing to help out when asked (regardless of the task) is very
important and can only be seen by the company as a very positive
reflection of you.

Now, if such conversions are the ONLY work you start receiving for
many months, that's a different story. But accepting this one time,
helping-out kind of task (and not complaining too much) will be a
great thing to bring up at your review. :)

Good luck. Keep reading if you're interested in my sob-story.....

At my last job (as a tech writing consultant) I was given the task of
re-formatting the Illinois Administrative Code. My company received
the Code as RTF files on a tape. The State wanted the RTF files to
become pretty pages with dictionary-style headers and footers (so that
if section IA.123 was the first section on that page, that section
number had to appear in the header.) Major pain when using Word - each
page had to be a separate section.

After our programmers had done some tweaking of the files, I had to
open each RTF file in Word and run four different macros on it. (Note
I didn't get the chance to create these macros.) Then I had to look at
each page and double check the headers and footers and fix them
accordingly. If a section broke funny, I had to fix it and make sure
all headers adjusted correctly. There were some sections with huge
tables that wouldn't convert well, so I had to manually adjust column
widths on tables spanning pages and pages. Then I had to print each
section and eye-ball each printed page and reprint ones with problems.

I did this for the entire code, 5000 pages! We filled an entire
standard-sized paper box to bring it back to them. It took a month

Tedious? Yes. Boring? Yes. Annoying? Yes. I wore a path between my
desk and the printer. My co-workers were constantly complaining about
how much printing I was doing. I was a recent college grad and newer
hire, which I think is part of the reason I got this assignment. I
didn't like it at all, and it did very little to help enhance my
technical writing skills (I did learn a little about Word).

But the client and my company were thrilled with my work. The State
was thrilled at how error-free the code was, how nice it looked, how
timely it was done. My manager sympathized with me that it was a
boring assignment but was extremely happy with the quality of it. It
showed that I was flexible, willing to less-than-wonderful tasks and
do them accurately and without complaining (too much!) I have used
this assignment when asked in later interviews what my worst
assignment was. But I make sure to add that it shows I am willing and
competent to accomplish anything.

We can't all have perfect assignments every time. Knowing this one had
a definite ending helped me put up with it.


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Should my ego be squashed?
Author: Genevieve Burt <gb_techwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com> at i-mail
Date: 10/7/1999 7:44 AM


*BUT* I have also been given the task of converting
dozens and dozens of old manuals from WP to Word (some
of our customers just switched over, and they want
magnetic copies of all their manuals in Word now). They
donÆt want me to edit these old manuals for clarity
(they need it), or to make them more user-friendly
(they need that too), IÆm just supposed to convert them
to Word with a smile.

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