Last Monday, I started my new role at my work. In many ways, this new role feels like going back to the start of my job four and a half years ago — and not only because I have to wake up at 5:00 am every weekday again.
Back then, we barely had processes in place to figure out what features needed tech writing documentation. We had one regularly organized meeting, but otherwise, writers scoured the development story tracking system (they used a system called Rally, which we regularly inadvertently called Raleigh, the site of our company’s other campus) and went around asking individual project managers what they were doing.
We regularly missed features because of this ad hoc communication system, not infrequently learning about a feature at the last minute or even after the development team deployed it.
This new role, the situation feels similar. I’m attending hours and hours of development and user interface design meetings, but there’s no system for communicating with the documentation team. For example, after telling my team members weeks ago that a feature wouldn’t go out, the project manager realized that client commitments necessitated shipping it no matter what, so they pushed super hard to get it done. We had no idea, and hadn’t documented anything on that story.
Repeat the “surprise story” discovery a few times, add in a large helping of “this is due on May 14, a mere two weeks away,” and you can pretty well imagine my initial onboarding experience. When I’m under a lot of stress, my face usually pops out an enormous zit somewhere super obvious and uncomfortable. This week has been no exception, much to my delight.
Since I switched to this new product, I’ve attended seemingly limitless hours of meetings, assimilated a huge volume of basic product knowledge, churned out half a new dozen pages of documentation on said product. I’ve also started intensively working with the junior writer for this product, and with some clear guidance, she’s great. Together we’ve shifted a Herculean volume of content.
This morning, exactly one week after starting, I sent off the first batch of pages for subject matter experts for their review. (By the way, these are commonly called “SMEs,” pronounced “smees,” which always makes me think of this.) Anyway, it felt like a hugely epic amount of effort to reach the point of being ready to send that email out, and when I finally did, I felt a huge load off my mind.
I still had to learn and document another feature, but I got that roughly done by the end of the day, leaving me Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to clean everything up before the release on Friday.
In short (I know, too late), I don’t advocate coming on board with two weeks left before a major deadline. Nor do I recommend picking up something that was left in a pretty scattered state by the previous owner. But if you do find yourself in that situation, I can recommend boundaries.
Yep, you heard me. From the very first day, I firmly end my workday at 2:00 pm PST. If I’m going to start working at 6:00 am, by gosh, I’m signing off after eight hours — even if that’s midafternoon where I’m at.
I have to say, it’s sure nice finishing work that early. I can go for a bike ride and still get home for dinner. I can pick Benji up after school without taking time off work. I can run errands during business hours. I can take a short nap. Okay, I actually would do that during work hours. Hey, a 15-minute power nap really works!
So, there we have it. My new role: Never a dull moment, at least not in the last week.