Being Human in a Technical World

I’ve had several meetings with new clients over the last few weeks and in almost every case, as I leave, I think to myself – I liked them. Technical writing is a job, a career even. What it shouldn’t be – ever – is your whole life. Pretty much every meeting I go to begins with those few minutes of socializing – in Hebrew, or in English, it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that the company wants to know who they are hiring, and the person behind the skills is part of what they want to know.

One meeting I had several months ago remains clear in my mind. The team brought in to handle the project included not only the writers but also a graphics team – young, dynamic women who were confident, businesslike, professional. What they weren’t, sadly, was particularly personal. There are times when personal matters don’t belong in business, and there are projects where this interaction is an important part of the success.

In the end, the success went to WritePoint for the personal touch and we were asked even to the point of insistence, to take a more active role in the project based on the personal connections we made. This has happened many times in the past.

Beyond the skills you bring, which are, of course, extremely important, is the human touch. At the end of the day, the person is a part of the package. In Israel, a country always on the defense, almost every family has a soldier in it. It could be the husband (or the wife), sons (and often daughters). It could be a cousin, cherished uncle (or aunt).

Almost six years ago, for the first time, I crossed into that greater unit of Israelis. To cope with the fears, concerns, etc. of this new phase of my life, I began a blog (A Soldier’s Mother). I never realized that it would become what it is; that it would, for many, define who I am.

It doesn’t often come up during meetings for technical writing positions, but more than once it has. In one particular case, it helped change a comfortable relationship to a warm one that continues to develop. It turned out the owner of the company was the father of a soldier who had been severely injured in a terrorist attack. An instant bond was formed, a connection that transcends technical writing. The graphic artist team was focused on the work they had to do, dismissing the personal side of the meeting that was unfolding.

Once the business discussion was done, the man’s son turned the discussion to some business that he had. Immediately, many of us could feel the need of the graphics team to escape. They quickly made their excuses – other meetings, no time, little chance for success. The young man was a bit stunned; the CEO father clearly disappointed.

I stepped in and began talking of social media, of things he could do. I asked if he needed a website in English, but his primary audience was in Hebrew. There was little I could do, but the offer to help was recognized and appreciated. Later, someone in the room wrote to me to thank me simply for being human.

The next time I went there, the secretary remembered that I prefer tea to coffee and though I didn’t really even need that, she quickly made me a cup of warm tea. Over and over, through the years, I have been rewarded not only with work and contracts, but with friendships.

Being a technical writer does not change the fact that we are human beings. Sharing that sense (in moderation) of who we are beyond the job we do, can enrich the relationships we build with our clients.