Don’t be the secretary

I’m about to head into a two day, brainstorming style, workshop. I was invited along as there will be a lot of useful information flying around, and it’s the beginning of a new stream of work. I will spend the next two days with the people who know most about our product and have already made it clear that my presence will be participatory, not dictationary!

I was quite adamant about this, to the point of being slightly abrasive, as it’s something that happens a little too often. Whilst they may not realise it but asking a technical writer along to “take notes” is basically asking us to sit quietly in the corner and “write stuff”. Because that’s what we do, right?

Part of me gets really annoyed when this type of thing happens, but part of me realises that I probably do the same to other professions. What we, as technical writers, consider important is not the same as that of the developers or engineers and that will never change.

I’m happy that, when I was invited to the workshop on the premise of “taking notes”, it only took a quick chat to persuade the technical architect that what he really wanted from my presence was actually the main focus of the workshop. Whilst we will be reworking (prototyping) some code, it’s not anything we can use and so the bulk of the output from the two days will be in the form of guidelines and best practice information.

And that I can help with.