Kept in the Dark

While working as a technical writer, I often felt that management deliberately concealed information from me.  They were my superiors so they never consulted me, thus I was kept out of the loop on many things.  I got this job because I had experience writing operator manuals from my previous positions.  I was picked because I knew how machines worked and I had the ability to analyze the PLC and HMI code that made these machines work.  I enjoyed writing and when I worked as a design engineer, this was always the last deliverable due to the customer.  As a design engineer, I totally understood everything that was going on, because the design was mine.

As a technical writer, I was given just enough information, what the company felt was necessary for me to do my job adequately.  Being adequate was not on my agenda, I needed to be spectacular and this meant that I had to find out what I needed to know.  I needed to organize complex material into operating instructions that could be easily understood by machine operators.  In order to write this, I had to become the SME Subject Matter Expert.  I was authorized to do this job, but the task of gathering the required information was left up to me.  I needed to develop a deep understanding about everything related to this particular equipment.

I had to immerse myself into the machine and the best way to do this was to watch it in operation and talk to the operators.  These machine operators spend day after day working with this equipment and they got to know the ins and outs along with all the quirks.  They are not writers, like I am and because they have spent so much time around these machines, they can probably do this job in their sleep, but the ones that I wanted to talk with were the ones that paid attention.  I was also able to get a lot of good information from the maintenance group, because it was their job to keep these machines running.  I finally realized that the company was not keeping any information from me, I was not being kept in the dark, it was just that they wanted me to dig the information out by myself, because they were not going to spoon feed me.

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