Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Undeath of My Expertise

Read this article - http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2017/05/book-of-the-month.html - about a book I have not read called "The Death of Expertise." It's where I snagged this awesome cartoon:

The way this relates to my work is that I am constantly faced with the choice to be 1) ignorant or 2) knowledgeable. My career as a technical writer has been about learning a new content area and immersing myself within its terminology and methodologies, regardless of the industry I have worked in: life insurance, MSDSs, telecommunication, medical devices, education, and disaster recovery. All of those industries require me, as a technical writer, to understand more than what is told to me by someone else. I am really only doing my job properly if I can pick and choose the details that are necessary to my target audience.

I learned this at my first job. My manager wrote on my performance evaluation that I needed to learn the concepts of life insurance so that I could produce usable documentation. She cited the fact that when I wrote music reviews, I had a mastery of the content (music) and I could pick and choose which details are relevant. I have taken that statement and can apply it to my belief that I have a 'mastery' about Metallica. I live, breathe, sleep Metallica and will see them in concert in 30 days!!!! When I wrote my reviews of their albums for dailyvault.com, I could pick and choose which aspects of what I wanted to write were important and relevant. I could cite the band's previous albums and highlight where patterns in the new album tunes were similar to previously released tunes.

That knowledge didn't happen overnight. It wasn't necessarily hard work, but it was an effort to listen to the albums, more than once, and internalize what I heard. Now, to some degree, that has made it so that I can't listen to a Metallica song without analyzing it. One quick example is that on "Hardwired," I hear references to other tunes, like "Enter Sandman" and "My Apocalypse." I think about those other tunes when I listen to the album.

Thus, my goal is to learn more about the subject matter than what my audience knows so that I can include only the most important details within the final product. With my current disaster recovery documentation, I have the added bonus of connecting the work individual teams into a steady of stream of a linear process - even though there are parallel activities throughout the disaster recovery process. I often talk to Team A and discuss their process for recovering systems and then talk to Team B and discuss their process for recovering systems. It's like the summary of the book where Team A knows that Team B does something, but they don't know what it is; the inverse is true also. A member of Team B admitted that she knows Team A does something, but she doesn't know exactly what it is - only that Team A must be done with their process prior to she being able to do her work.

My work is important and I am glad I woke up this AM in order to do that work.

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