You’d think that “Where’s TechCommGeekMom?” would be a variation of “Where’s Waldo?”. You might not be too far off…
Yikes. It’s been quite a while since I last wrote any entries. I apologize for that. I am keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (not Google+ so much), so people do know that I’m alive and well.
The last few months or so have been incredibly busy. Much of my summer has been making the long commute to the office and back almost every day. I’ve gotten a bit of a reprieve for August when I’ll be working from home most of the week, due to an arrangement I made with my director so that I can stay home part of the time while my son is home for the last part of summer break. I’m grateful that.
Despite commuting issues, working on the UX team I belong to can be stressful. I finally settled into the position, and only now I’m feeling okay about speaking up and asserting myself. Yes, I’m a closet introvert, despite my seemingly outgoing personality. We’ve had a lot of very tight deadlines lately, and have not been given ample time to create UX artifacts that completely do justice to a given project, but that’s the way it goes, unfortunately. I’m fortunate that the team I’m on is full of good people who are both total professionals and who support each other’s efforts.
For my part, as I’ve continued to adapt, there have been intense frustrations and tears shed, and a few tiny victories in between. Writing copy for UX design has been a challenge, but I have to say that I think I have a good knack for it. Sometimes my copy gets overruled, but sometimes I know I come up with something good. It’s not like it’s something like marketing or customer service-related content, or even help content, but debating the semantics of “edit” versus “modify” versus “update” when writing customer-facing instructional content is the kind of stuff that gets my brain to work at its best. The other day, I needed to change the text on a button, and the text had to be instructional and have a marketing slant at the same time. I asked the UX graphic designer the limit of how many characters I could use in that space. She said it had to be less than 31 characters–including spaces. The fewer characters there, the better. I got it down to 21 characters including spaces. Those are the kinds of challenges I like! So, work has been truly occupying a lot of my time and energy for the most part.
Even though I have been told that I’m doing a good job and I provide a fresh perspective on the content being created, I decided that this was not the job for me. I asked my manager not to renew my contract at the end of the month because it’s really not the kind of work I want to be doing. I gave it a try, but this kind of writing–not to sound conceited–was not what I went to grad school to do. I know I can contribute much more than what’s expected at this job. I think my abilities are more than labelling buttons and headers or writing two instructional lines at a time. My manager was understanding, fortunately, which I was glad about. This means that I need to figure what my next move is.
I have also been continuing my part-time gig doing content management for my old job. While it doesn’t provide me with many hours, it does help me keep my foot in the door of the content strategy and management world. I also enjoy that job, so even if it’s just a few hours a week, it’s a good thing.
I’ve also taken on a volunteer position. I was elected to be the vice-president of the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter (STC-PMC). Of course, I don’t know what I was thinking. I wanted to help, and I was encouraged. Now, I’m trying to hustle and learn what the position is about while trying to get the job done! The VP of the STC-PMC, in addition to supporting the chapter president, also acts as the program manager for the chapter. So, I’m trying to figure out how to coordinate several meetings for the upcoming program year. While my chapter president is very supportive, and we work well together, it’s a little overwhelming. What was I thinking? I’m trying to get as much done now during the summer so it won’t be as high pressure in the fall, provided everything is in place at that point. I’m also co-chair of the CONDUIT conference, so I’m trying to get some things started with that as well. I want to do well as VP at this point, because it’s really my first crack at any kind of leadership position I’ve had in almost two decades, and I need to feel good about something related in my career.
I’m in a weird position in my career right now. I’m not so young anymore, and I have experience. I know that I do good work, I can make intelligent decisions, and that when given the change, people value what I have to contribute.
BUT…when looking for appropriate work, I’m either inexperienced (not enough years doing something), not enough background (content marketers=a marketer who understands content, not a content strategist who has some understanding of marketing, for example), or I don’t know the right software. I’ve often seen rare positions come up that were totally appropriate, and then find that they were an hour and half (or more) commute away one-way, or they didn’t pay enough, or both. I’m starting to lose confidence in my abilities because I’m losing chances to gain experiences. Or, the only way to gain experiences is to take steps backwards. I’ve already stepped backwards several times in the past year, and I’m fearful of falling off the cliff’s edge now. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out what direction I should try next. Or better yet, I’m trying to figure out what direction I should go in that aligns better with my interests, not what the “market” says I should do.
The irony is when I attended TC Camp this past weekend, I felt validated in my abilities. I could learn from others who were more experienced than I am, yet I found that I could speak competently about the subjects discussed at hand. I didn’t sound like an idiot, and people found what I said helpful. One friend/attendee even asked me if she could pick my brain about how to approach a project she had. I never had that happen before, but I was happy to offer the approach I had used and suggested some tools she might want to try. For a day, I felt like a real technical communicator again!
I’m trying to figure out whether I need to get more training on my own. Even if I did pursue that, I really don’t know what direction to go in anymore. I was told to learn DITA, but guess what? There are no DITA jobs near me, so that would be a little pointless. UX jobs? Well, I don’t have enough design background to apply for something. I have several interests within the tech comm world, but none of it seems to align with positions available in my area. It seems like instead of “one step forward, two steps back”, I keep falling farther and farther behind, and my prospects get weaker and weaker as I get older and all the skills I gained in grad school and other former positions become a faint memory.
Hopefully the rest of my life this year will not be something similar to “Where in the World in Carmen Sandiego?” Hopefully, you’ll find me here!
The STC-PMC VP role alleviates some of that frustration, even though it has its own issues. At least within the STC-PMC, I have a great amount of support, and enough space to learn, fail, and pick myself up again without dire consequences. I feel more confident in that role. I can’t say the same for the rest of my career at the moment. While I don’t have a direction, I knew that staying longer where I have been lately was not good move for me. I want and need to be able to do more, and I am in a spot where financially I can take the break, and I have the support of my family and my tech comm community behind me while I figure out my next steps forward.
So, that’s where I’m at. TechCommGeekMom might still be looking for her place in the tech comm world, but I’m hoping that with a little luck, maybe what I’m looking for will be found. I’m hoping that in coming months, I’ll be able to bolster this blog again, and you’ll see some more content coming through.
But I’m still here!