Week Four, Friday

Well, here I am, just about a month in at my new job, and I’m still happy to get up in the morning to go to work. The work seems like it will continue to interest me in general, my co-workers are pleasant enough, I like my boss and his infectious enthusiasm, and the office environment works fine. 

They have added a ton of snacks since I started, not only the nonperishable Nutrigrain bar type snacks, but also fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, hummus, nuts, and the like. If I was willing to subsist on Mac n Cheese and ramen noodles for lunch, I wouldn’t have to bring any food at all. As it is, I’m pretty much just bringing a main dish for lunch and eating snacks from the kitchen. 

One guy commented the other day, “It’s like they want us to never leave!” Exactly.

The days have gone pretty quickly, especially around the new release time. I remember at my first job, the days would drag out forever, especially after lunch. I would sit in my cube surfing the web, or wander around the office looking for work, and I was so glad to finally hit 4:00 so I could get ready to leave.

I can tell that won’t be the problem here. If anything, I have to leave sooner than I (or my boss) would like, and I already have plenty to do. When I actually take on my full responsibilities, I’ll be quite busy. It’s varied work, though – some learning about new features a in meetings or one on one, some writing, a little bit of photo editing, some urgent-drop-everything editing for the marketing department. 

Right now there’s also the learning our tools, co-workers’ names and roles and who to talk to when, and also doing product training to get deeper knowledge of what I’m writing about. When I go home, my brain is tired.

I’m liking my bike commute. As I adjust to it, I may consider adding another day of biking home. At first it felt so long and I was going like 15.3 to 15.5 mph average. Now it’s getting more normal, and yesterday I had my fastest-ever solo ride home, averaging 16.2 mph over the whole ride. That includes my downtown Seattle section with stoplights and the slog up the hill by my house.

 I hope to get up to averaging 18 mph over the whole ride eventually, but for now I’ll take a 0.7 mph improvement!

In less cheerful news, Benji got a cold and has been grouchy, and now Ian just came down with it. I just dodged the cold that took out the entire User Education team at work; I can’t imagine I’ll be so lucky at home. I feel bad for Ian, because being sick with a heathy kid stinks. I’ll be so glad when virus season passes.

One Hour

In the time between when I wake up at 5:00 and Benji gets up at 6:00 every morning, I get so much done.

  • Get dressed
  • Make my breakfast
  • Make my lunch
  • Put together most of Benji’s lunch
  • Put away clean dishes
  • Wash dirty dishes
  • Eat breakfast
  • Read Bible/have quiet time
  • Pack my bags for work, including bike gear
  • Brush teeth, finish getting ready
  • Start load of laundry
  • Fold last night’s laundry

Then, from 6:00 to 7:20 it’s Benji time: Morning milk, stories, maybe watching a video or playing a game, and then it’s off to the bus.

Normally I’ve been writing a blog or reading a book on the bus, but I think I may start taking a nap!

SMEs

At work, they have people who are “Subject Matter Experts.” These people know everything there is to know about one of our products. Of course, nobody calls them Subject Matter Experts; they’re SMEs, which is then pronounced “smee.”

Evidently this is pretty standard in many fields, but all I can think of is this.

Pictures from the Week

Monday: It snowed. I walked to a bus. It worked OK on the way in but on the way home my bus never came, so I had to do an alternative that landed me in downtown Bothell, 2.5 miles from home without a bike. Fortunately, Ian and Benji bailed me out.
Monday Snow Day 1

Snow Day at Work

Tuesday: I rode my studded-tire bike to the bus across ice without any slipping issues at all. I’d forgotten how it feels to ride a tank.
Snow Tires on Red Bike

My work had a meeting on the 76th floor and the view was, as always, spectacular.
Tuesday No Snow Day (from the 76th floor) 2

Tuesday No Snow Day (from 76th floor)

After Tuesday I didn’t take any more pictures. Sorry. I had a busy week at work, with the run-up to my first release. I only got to bike home two days, what with the horrid weather, but on the bright side arrived home early enough on Wednesday and Friday to have dinner with my family! Still figuring things out, but doing OK.

First Time for Everything

My new company does new software releases every 60 days. As part of the development team, technical writers participate in that cycle, putting out new documentation simultaneously with each new release. Release day, as you can imagine, is a busy day for everyone. Technical writers are making sure everything is documented correctly, all the pages are updated that need to be, and nothing was broken while making those changes. 
Then, too, the release can’t actually happen until 6 pm, to ensure it doesn’t interfere with any users. Even though technical writing could probably put out the updated documentation a few hours earlier, they choose not to. Everyone stays and does the release, and then does all the checks to confirm it all went OK, starting after 6 pm.

Yesterday was my first release day.

Fortunately for me, my boss let us publish to production early, so I got home not that much later than normal.

I did, however, spend the whole day reviewing all my pages and making sure everything looked good in the test environment. 

There were some UI changes to some pages that required additional documentation at the last minute, and I spent most of the morning on that. I expect I’ll get more efficient over time, so it won’t take so long. But when I sent the changes to my boss for approval, he told me this was exactly what they are looking for, and he had a few minor style suggestions.

Now I know that we say, “choose X from the Y list,” rather than calling it a drop-down menu; and I know that we capitalize the name of a report it’s mentioned, but not the word report or the thing in general. So I would say “choose the the Bike Mileage report from the Statistics list,” but then say, “when viewing bike mileage, you can sort by…” I also learned to keep my sentences shorter than I normally would, and to crop screen shots as tightly as possible while still giving context.

Hopefully I’ll be able to retain my regular writing voice here, rather than turning into all revival technical writing all the time. 

This is really cool – getting to actually generate my own content that goes out into the world! At CRL, the lab reports were all firmly templated, and we only rarely diverged from the template. At my other jobs, I got to do a bit of that, but nothing as independent as this job. Here they basically say, “Here’s a feature. Understand it and explain it clearly. Go.” 

I still need a lot of hand-holding, but the baby steps I took this week made me excited for the future.

Week Three

Well, here I am, halfway through my third week at the new job. I now know where to find the bathrooms, which fridge contains the snacks for everyone, where to find the developers’ table of release-week treats, and I’ve learned a few people’s names and jobs.

 I can also find my way around the 13th floor, where my desk is, without getting lost; and I can find my way from the lobby to the correct elevator bank–no mean feat, considering how confusing the lobby is! Oh, and I have access to the secure bike parking cage, which I still consider to be bike parking nirvana.
I have also learned the difference between TWR and IRR, how to use our WYSIWYG editor and compile a build to the test support environment, and that we select and clear check boxes rather than check and uncheck. 

I’m slowly picking up the Tamarac version of the Microsoft style guide and our specific phrasing, such as, “For more information on X, see Link Y.” Seems nitpicky, but consistency is key, especially with three or four people all writing on the same material.

And I’m still figuring things out: what to do with my phone and what the correct phone etiquette is; what outfits work and are acceptable; how many days to bike commute and optional route; what time to arrive and leave each day so I can get my work done and keep my boss happy while also seeing my family occasionally; bringing lunches and snacks and how much food I need for the day to stay not grouchy… The list goes on. The biggest one remains timing and schedule.

Yesterday we had a company meeting, and part of that involved recognizing exceptional employees. That is great. But what stood out to me was that most of the supervisors said something like, “this person is at their desk working hard before I arrive every morning, and still there working hard when I leave at night.” 

Now, I’m absolutely going to be there for my full eight hours every day, and on release nights, even later to check all the production files. I’ll take the time I need to get urgent tasks completed, and I’ll do the best that I can in every task. That’s part of the job. I really enjoy the work so far, and I’m eager to do it.

But: I don’t put my work first. I don’t live for any employment. No matter how much I enjoy it, I’m not willing to sacrifice more time away from my family just to get some work done. I’m always going to try to maximize my family time. Which means I realized yesterday that, although I intend to give my best at this job, I doubt I’ll ever be the one receiving those accolades. I’m OK with that.

Anyway, all that to say that we are still figuring out some of the family dynamics, but otherwise, I think it’s going well and I’m very happy and grateful for this opportunity.