Edit: If you want to see the end of the story, here’s the conclusion.
So a couple of months ago an exciting but scary opportunity presented itself to me at work. I’d been trundling along with the same general activities for quite a while, there are challenges and long term projects running all the time and I thought I was pretty contented.
Then I got picked to spend 9 months of this year being mentored by someone from the executive team. It was an accident, so I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to achieve with my mentor. We had an initial chat for 15 minutes to put faces to our names and then our first proper meeting.
We shared our potted life histories – my mentor and I have very different backgrounds, but also very similar outlooks and approaches to life in general. We talked about our careers and our families, got to know each other a bit. I was completely honest about my accidental position as a mentee and he isn’t bothered. We talked about the parts of my work life that I find challenging: the arsehole, getting stuff done, a general desire for promotion and progress, and about what could make the job of everyone in my role easier.
By our second meeting a month later, I was starting to form an idea of a project. It’s a big deal. I want to invent a new job role in our company, to bridge the gap between the technical writing teams and the operational R&D team. Then, if we can persuade the powers that be that this role would be beneficial to lots of functions and would add value for our customers, then I want to do that job.
I’ll say it again, it’s a big deal. I’ve worked in the same job, effectively, for over 14 years. I started as an associate technical writer and now I’m still a technical writer, the level below a director. I still spend a not-insignificant part of my working week writing or preparing to write user guides, working with dev teams and PMs and QA. For the last 4 or 5 years I’ve also taken on more leadership activities, though absolutely not management. The thought of leaving this very comfortable, familiar position for a new team with some lofty goals set out for me to achieve is, frankly, scary as f*ck.
I think it could make a massive difference, the processes for the technical writers could be much smoother and the requests for enhancements could be dealt with and acted upon more quickly. I feel like its a promising opportunity to make things better for the writers and for the customers as a consequence – better processes will leave the writers with more time to, well, writers. Added to all that, I think I can do it and do it well. I’m professional, effective, I learn quickly and I’m pretty technical without being a developer, I communicate well and I listen carefully, I know the life of a technical writer so I know what we need.
The remaining question is how to make it happen.
I have no idea. I’m pretty lowly really, there are about four people between me and my R&D leadership which runs parallel to the Operations leadership. I have connections the level or two above me, but not above that. I don’t know how to get onto the radar of the people who make the decisions.
So I’ve started by talking to people at that director level above me. I’ve asked a couple of people to talk to their managers, start planting the seeds. One of those people is a long-standing colleague who offered to help anyway he can, he’s someone I sincerely admire and his good opinion of me is highly valued. He thinks I’d be great in the role, he told me why he thinks I’ll be good at it. My head almost exploded, not with self-confidence but surprise as this isn’t someone who praises easily.
My mentor has also set me off writing a status/target/proposal presentation and a sales-type story about why we need a role like the one I have in mind.
Then the next steps? Well I’ll meet with my mentor in a couple of weeks and see what he suggests. I’ll try to write some more about how it goes when I have news.