One of the most satisfying parts of the work I do is helping others.
In my early years as a technical writer, I found that I regularly asked questions. It was the only way to learn. I hadn’t taken a course – there weren’t any when I was first starting out. I would try to do something and if the help didn’t help (and it often didn’t), I turned to friends and colleagues (here in Israel and abroad). After a while, I found that as often as I asked a question, I knew the answer to someone else’s inquiry.
As time passed, I found that the trend continued and I was actually answering more than I was asking. At some point, eHelp’s tech support asked if I would be a RoboHelp MVP. “What’s that?” I asked. They explained.
“What do I have to do?”
“What you’re already doing,” they answered. That and serve on their Advisory Board and beta test upcoming versions of RoboHelp. And for this, they told me, “free software.”
It sounded like a nice idea and I agreed. It was the company’s way of saying thank you for my efforts. Interestingly enough, I viewed my efforts as thanks to those who had helped me. This is what makes our community so special, I have often thought.
A few years later, Macromedia bought out eHelp and contacted me again. “We’d like you to be a Macromedia Team Member,” they wrote to me.
“What do I have to do?” I asked.
“What you’re already doing,” they answered. More free software.
When Adobe acquired Macromedia, the conversation went much the same. I was asked to be the Moderator of the HATT list at one point; Techshoret at another. Both were recognitions of my wanting to give back to those who had helped me. It often only takes a few seconds but can truly help make someone’s day that much easier.
One of the nicest compliments I received, as an Israeli technical writer, was a compliment from a foreign list member. He was amazed at how polite people on the Techshoret list were. He said he had never received so many letters of appreciation as he did from people on Techshoret. Many contacted him with questions and he answered many questions on the list. And quite often, someone would take those extra few minutes to thank him for his efforts.
So what made me think of all this? For the last few weeks, we have been working with a company to find them the ideal technical writer. They had very specific requirements, very technical, API documentation, etc. We reviewed the resumes we already had, and collected some others from senior writers who are looking for work. We sifted through those who really shouldn’t have applied, and those who had some but not all of the needed skills. We focused on those we knew in person or by reputation. We did the legwork so that we could send the best to the company. And waited.
They picked two excellent candidates, interviewed both, and settled on one. They called to discuss it with us, making us a part of the process and showed that they valued our input. The offer was made last Thursday; the contract was signed on Sunday. The company is very happy. The tech writer is very happy. It was a great match.
And me? Well, on Friday as I was madly dashing around my kitchen cooking for Shabbat, the doorbell rang. A delivery of beautiful flowers in honor of the Sabbath and a note from the tech writer thanking us for our efforts on his behalf. These flowers graced our table and brought smiles to my face several times (I’m a sucker for flowers).
I’m not suggesting that everyone who is placed should send flowers to the company who placed them but there was something so incredibly nice about this gift because it was so unexpected. As the economy finally seems to be turning, we have, I believe, so much for which we should give our thanks. We can do it with flowers – but we can also do it simply by sharing our knowledge with others.