What IS it that you do?

glassesWhile working for a smaller company, fulfilling many roles, my title didn’t matter, and it never changed. This didn’t affect me until the company I worked for was acquired in 2014. The larger organization did a mapping by title, and I fell directly into the Information Development (ID) department.

I was not happy. I had enough of writing manuals and with 20+ years of experience in technical communication, I was forging a new path as a Business Analyst. However, I learned more about what the company had to offer and it seemed that this ID team was innovative. I considered that there might be work that could excite me and decided to stick around and give it a chance.

I have never cared about my title. It never meant much to me. But, these days I take great pride in calling myself an Information Developer. Ask my family and friends what I do and they cannot tell you.

I jump into a software project with a set of fresh eyes, enthusiasm, and communication skills.

Part of my job is to ensure that we use consistent terminology across software products. This means that I get to work with the engineers and User Experience Design (UXD) experts to perform early reviews of the labels and messages in the user interface. While doing this, I often bring up usability issues or other things that I might notice because I have that fresh set of eyes. It does take a certain level of skill to raise these issues so that the project team listens, without feeling attacked. So, you have to bring a sense of leadership, collaboration, and respect to the team.

I also make sure the user has what they need to help them use the software – we call that user assistance. You may know it as documentation, help, or embedded help, among other things. But, I prefer the term user assistance because that means that I am truly helping my customer!

I think about how the user would like to access the information and even talk to users as often as possible. I use different methods to obtain information from our users, from surveys to interviews. You might hear an ID refer to this as user research.

As time goes by, if I continue working on a product for a while, I eventually lose the fresh eyes, but I become a Subject Matter Expert (SME). This means that I can help train others on the product, which is always fun as well.

Each day varies. Researching, writing, reviewing prototypes, facilitating meetings, trying to solve technical issues, and collaborating with engineering, business analysts, and UXD are just some of the things that I do each day.

There is so much work to do, and so little time. So, I try to make everything I touch even just a little bit better each time I touch it. Then, when I shut down my computer at the end of the day, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I added value to the business.

Originally published March 21, 2017

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