JUST A FEW MINUTES

Flash Talk – You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?


computer and keyboard

“Good morning. You are,” glancing at my résumé on his desk, “Marilyn Armstrong. And you’re here about the … ” pausing to look at another piece of paper, “Technical writing position.”

“Technical writer,” I nod. “That’s me.”

“Tell me about yourself.”

The dreaded moment. What do they want to really know? Theoretically, all they need is whether I can do the work, which obviously I can. My credentials speak for themselves. They want to know if I’ll ‘fit in’ to their ‘corporate culture.’ Whether they or the other people in the department will like me.

Competency? They could give a rat’s ass. It’s all about being likable and I don’t feel convivial. I hate interviews. Even when I’m doing the interviewing.

Speaking of which, I have a heartbeat to turn this around. “I’d appreciate your telling me something about your company and the position before I proceed,” I respond. I’m smiling broadly. Very phony too. Because I already know this job is not for me. It’s too corporate, too stitched up and formal. I can tell by the clothing everyone is wearing. By the cubicles I passed that are so antiseptic, it doesn’t look like anyone works in them. No pictures on the walls. No toys on the desk. No happy murmur of people hanging out near the coffee machine. And as far as I can tell … no coffee machine to hang out by. High tech is fueled by coffee and take-out pizza. If there’s no coffee machine, that’s a very bad sign.

“Blah blah yada yada blah blah blah,” he says.

“Yada yada blah blah,” I respond.

“I can do this job,” I finally say, tired of the crap and getting a headache. “I know database design, object-linked and relational. I can write a manual from preface to index as long as I have periodic access to the design engineers and a playpen for testing.”

“You want to get hands on?” he says. Alarmed.

“I won’t write about a product I have never tested,” I say. “I write manuals, not fiction.”

“The engineers can tell you how it works.”

“The engineers will tell me how they think it is going to work. Between that and reality can lie a vast wasteland into which customers — your customers — can wander and never be seen again. Think of me as a double threat — writer and beta tester in one adorable package,” and I give him another smile.

He is perturbed. It turns out they don’t have a working prototype. No one is exactly sure what the user interface will look like because … they haven’t created it yet. And all the engineers are Russian, which is fine, except they are creating the GUI and they don’t write English so good, you know? Did you ever wonder about those inscrutable menu selections? This is how they got there.

And the completely irrational placement of critical functions? No user (not an engineer or developer) tested the product before release. Seemed okay to them, you know?

And so it goes, and so it went. And that’s why the manual that (maybe) came with your expensive device or software seems to bear no resemblance to how it really works. Because I didn’t write it.



Categories: Computers, Software, Technology, Work, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. A manual that said ‘recycle the device’, which actually meant ‘turn it off and on again’, but how was I to know? You defintely didn’t write that one!

    Like

  2. There’s really nothing to add to this except Amen. 😀

    Like

  3. I am so glad and absolutely happy that I no longer belong to the system. Annual appraisals filling out forms for the boss which I usually refused to fill out seriously. He was almost old enough to be my son, a fine bloke caught up in the system, and so he just laughed and did his best to discuss my faults. We could write A, B or C. I made everything a B. He said why a B. I said he could either make an A out of it or a C. Further laughs and I usually got away with an A, perhaps one B and never a C. That is human psychology. Oh dear Marilyn, arn’t we glad to have it all behind us. You summed it up well.

    Like

  4. Well that explains a lot 😀

    Like

  5. FOUR minutes is a lifetime for a TV news story these days.

    Like

  6. Wow. I can think of a single, digital and very graphic user interface that could replace your entire response to this guy, but it would have been rude. You have one on each hand, but people usually use the one on the right. 😉 This happened to me in a teaching job interview I really wanted. The job requirements said, “Skillful at using PowerPoint and other technology.” I did my 30 minute teaching demo with a beautiful Ppt show. The TRUTH was 1) none of them could have done that, 2) the students in that college wouldn’t have understood it. I constantly made the mistake of going where students needed to go rather than going where students were… In that case what I got was the chance to teach there part time for 10 years with the love and support of my boss, but not tenure. The admins couldn’t get it. Same digital interface upraised…

    Like

    • They don’t get it. They NEVER get it. I was in a highly volatile business and changed jobs often. Potential employers were forever demanding skills that had nothing to do with the job, nothing to do with writing. While forgetting that it didn’t matter how much technical expertise you have, if you can’t explain it in words, it’s a waste of time. I am SOOO glad I’m out of it!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice take…. I did a double take..ha ha!! 🙂

    Like

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tish Farrell

Writer on the Edge

THE SHINBONE STAR

NO LONGER ENCUMBERED BY ANY SENSE OF FAIR PLAY, EX-JOURNALISTS RETURN TO ACTIVE DUTY TO FIGHT THE TRUMPIAN MENACE!

Light Motifs II

Paula Light's Writing Site | The Classic Edition

Touring My Backyard

Rediscovering Singapore

Our Eyes Open

Come along on an adventure with us!

Travel with me

Travel snapshots from Toonsarah

Thoughts & Theories

My Personal Rants, Ravings, & Ruminations

France & Vincent

Writing Magic, Myth and Mystery

Barb Taub

Writing & Coffee. Especially coffee.

This, That, and The Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

Keep it alive

A look at life, achieving good physical and mental health and happiness

Covert Novelist

Light Hearted Mysteries

Salted Caramel

Blogging, Motivation, Lifestyle and much more.

Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.

Green Screen

The Environmental Movie Podcast

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.

musingsofanoldfart

Independent views from someone who offers some historical context

My Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Views from the Edge

To See More Clearly

serial monography: forgottenman's ruminations

wandering discourse, pedantic rant, self-indulgent drivel, languorous polemic, grammarian's bête noire, poesy encroachment approaching bombast, unintended subtext in otherwise intentional context, unorthodox unorthodoxy, self-inflected rodomontade, …

draliman on life

Because sometimes life just makes you stop and think

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns

Sparks From A Combustible Mind

EMBERS FROM SOMEONE DOGGEDLY TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL...

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Welcome to the Anglo Swiss World

ScienceSwitch

Your Source For The Coolest Science Stories

%d bloggers like this: