Do you get inspired? Are the people you are inspired of, tremendously successful? Have you ever wondered what could be the one factor that made them successful apart from their personal strengths? Dig a little into their awe-inspiring lives and you will definitely find one common thing: The presence of one or more great Mentors. Now, I would like to emphasize my point with a story. Mythological stories are always paradoxically cryptic and enlightening at the same time. The first time you hear it, you may like it, probably you might even derive a moral out of it but that’s it.… Read More »Why I think, behind every successful person there is a great mentor?
Do you remember the bedtime stories you heard as a child? Do you still feel the euphoria of being pulled up into the stories and living a life very different from your own? I do.
These days, I am more of a storyteller than an audience. I think childhood is much better than adulthood because of that one unique quality where we listen more than we speak, where we learn much more than we teach. If only we could still be kids in those aspects life would be much easier.
Breaking from tradition, today, I was the recipient of storytelling rather than my kids. Today, my dad had a story to tell and I was as raptured by it as I was during my childhood days when I used to listen to stories told by my grandparents and parents. For those few moments, I was once again a child as enraptured by my dad’s story as ever. I guess parents have that power of keeping the child in you alive, I hope I can do the same for my kids. Anyway, the old Indian fable goes like this:
A guru wanted an important task to be done. He wanted a disciple worthy of doing the same. So he chose his best three disciples and gave them a test, whoever succeeded in the test would be chosen for the task. He called his disciples, gave them each a pot full of oil and said, “Keep this pot in the centre of that road. Bring it to me in the morning and ensure that you don’t spill even a single drop of the oil”.
The road on which they had to keep the pot of oil was a road frequented by cows and unlike humans you couldn’t expect them not to hit the pot in their hurry to return back to their abode (these days probably humans too won’t bother about what’s in their way)
Next morning, the first disciple came, placed the potful of oil near his feet and said: “Master you gave us an impossible task, I couldn’t do it for the fear of the cows hitting the pot”. Hearing this the master was disappointed and sent the disciple away.
The second disciple approached him and said: “Master, I tried my best to do as you instructed, but I couldn’t save all of the oil, a little of it spilled when a cow hit the pot”. The master was disappointed but kindly let him know that he was happy that he tried.
Then came the third disciple, he promptly placed the potful of oil near the master’s feet and stood back with folded palms. The master was surprised and asked “How?” The disciple said: “Master, you asked me to keep the pot of oil in the centre of the road but you did not mention how long I should have kept it. Hence I kept the pot on the road, picked it up and went back home, now the pot is in front of you as you commanded”. The master gave a smile of satisfaction and chose the smart disciple for the task he wanted him to do.
Who is the one person most unlikely to receive a letter from you? Yourself?
Ever wondered, why people write letters to themselves? Or what could possibly be written in a self letter? Or why somebody would engage in a seemingly “waste of time” activity? If the answer is yes, then this article is definitely for you.
Now for people who know what it is, have you written one? Yes? Congratulations, you have one more technique in your kitty to be Zen like!! No? Then maybe you should try it. It works for many!
Now, what is it anyway?
Self-letter is writing a letter to yourself.
(Am sure that was not very helpful !!). Basically it’s a time bound letter you write about yourself for yourself.
Sounds fatuous isn’t it? As fatuous as watching the sunrise, enjoying a good view or laughing your heart out, but totally worth it. If you have nobody but yourself to motivate yourself, then this definitely is worth a try.
Why do it?
- For clarity: All of us have been/are victims of confusion. These are times of, a galore of choices and the more choices you have the more confused you get. Writing a self-letter can clarify some things up for you. If nothing else you’ll get to see things from a different perspective.
- For help in Decision Making: From time to time, we all undergo something called as the Decision paralysis. We block our own decisions. Most of us normal folks unintentionally depend on others for our decisions. We rarely consult ourselves on the best course of action. We ask the opinions of everybody who is anybody to us and finally take decisions based on whichever opinion is convenient to us. When things go wrong we go to great lengths convincing ourselves that it was not our fault. Self-letters can help you avoid skirting the important process of deciding things for and by yourself.
Self-letter is not an end in itself. It is just another time-tested tool like journals, notes, diaries and so on.
How to do it?
The first sign of a bad culture in a company is: pettiness.
Yes Pettiness. Big problem because it is mostly left undiagnosed until it’s too late.
Petty gossip, petty opinions, petty cribbing all these are signs of the beginning of a bad culture. Companies must focus on nipping pettiness at the bud rather than focusing on just incorporating rules to blanket the pettiness.
Rules are good. I for one am a great fan of rules. It gives stability and to an extent predictability. But rule without a conscience is as good as having no rules. The strong good intention behind every rule must be solidly backed up by the way it is implemented. Then we won’t have to worry about the loopholes in the rule or fear it being misused.
Coming back to the point of pettiness, I strongly believe that the little things that we tend to ignore or tolerate are the things that come back some day to bite us. Pettiness is one such thing, it has a butterfly effect. One cribber is enough to spoil the morale of an entire team. One petty gossip is enough to demotivate a whole bunch of people. One petty judgment about a person lightly thrown may hurt his ego so bad that it might have a cascading effect on his attitude towards people around him and his work. It’s not the responsibility of a company to mother its employees. But when a company is laying its first blocks of culture, it must remember to handle the pettiness within the blocks of the company i.e. the employees sensitively and promptly. Ignoring or tolerating it is not an option. Judging it is even worse.
In a time when everybody is driven to reach new heights, when everybody is eager to achieve greater things, it is hard to even stop and think about how we really are growing.
- Are we stepping on somebody else in our hurry to grow?
- Are we burning bridges with prospective friends and allies?
- Are we being insensitive to the point of being cruel?
- And due to our occasional pettiness are we blocking somebody else’s path because we are unable to grow?
These must be some of the things each employee must have in his checklist for the day. Bring some perspective into work. Encourage conscious working. Appreciate good work and most important conscious work. The more good behavior and attitude is encouraged and appreciated the more it is cultivated. With more practice it becomes a habit. That way good culture is automated.
My Top tips for a good culture
I am surprised to find that I miss appraisals.I had a checklist when I was job searching and guess which point did not make my list? Yes, having an appraisal. Who would have thought appraisal as a tool beneficial not only for the employer but also for the employee? I have not been a part of my company’s appraisal yet and I find that after my self-imposed break of 1.5 years from the corporate world, subsequent change in career choice and a new job, I am desperate to know about my performance.
According to Merriam-Webster, appraisal is: The act of judging the value, condition or importance of something. Something that states an opinion about the value, condition, or importance of something.
All these years as a software engineer I assumed that appraisal was a process for the companies to analyze the performance of their workforce. How wrong I was! Little did I realize that the employee himself could benefit so vastly from the appraisal process?
I miss the pit stops we take in the name of appraisals and the goal setting we do to keep ourselves motivated and realistic about the goals we set.
Here’s why I think everybody needs an appraisal. Self or otherwise.
- Feedback motivates: Feedback is always a major motivator. Try to get feedback from your mentor, supervisor and anybody who is in a better position to analyze your work. Any feedback is good feedback because it always helps you grow in your area and you grow in the direction which is beneficial to you and the organization.
- Helps you set goals and stick to them: Though I am a rookie technical writer. I prefer working with deadlines and set goals. Goals help you focus. It gives you a perspective and always indicates what is achievable and what is not. It helps you realize the worth of your work.
- Aspiration check: Majority of us enter into a field with a set of aspirations. Appraisals are checklists that help us achieve and keep track of our aspirations.
- Strengths and Weaknesses check: Helps you to know your own strengths and weaknesses in your area of expertise. You can enroll in courses or upgrade your knowledge based on this analysis.
I took a long break from writing. Let me clarify, it was not intentional. First it was due to me taking a break from work (intentional but definitely not one of my best decisions), then it was me having a nervous breakdown as a result of a rare and strange sounding auto-immune disease named GB Syndrome. After a series of breaking (yes, there was a day when I even broke my bones, duh! obviously I had a fracture), recuperating and soul searching, here I am back with more health, more happiness and much more life in me than ever before… Read More »How emotional detachment can help your workplace attitude?
When I held Nisha’s hand with a vice like grip it was to stop her from biting her hands off. No, not in the literal sense of course, but she was stressed enough to bite her non-existent finger nails to extinction. Reason? STRESS; yes the six letter horrible word that every employee these days is so well acquainted with.
The reasons and effects of STRESS have been spoken about ad-nauseum, that, I assure you this blog will not at all STRESS upon the word STRESS. So,“What exactly was Nisha so stressed about?” It turns out she attended an interview and she was waiting for the results. I groaned inwardly, shuddering at that memory. Who has not experienced the heart wrenching, stomach curdling, excruciatingly long, waiting period after you give an interview? (Yes, I am breaking every rule in the Technical writing book, writing wordy sentences, but this occasion demands these adjectives, believe me)
I abruptly left her, knowing this is going to be a very long discussion. Got a hot cuppa,came back to find her still fiddling with her ridiculously small hands. In a last bid to save her hands hastily I placed the cup in her palms.Enlivened she burst out saying “I have still not heard from them, what do I do?” I automatically answered “You wait” , realized I am not really helping her, all the while thinking to myself: “How can we fast forward time?”, “How can we assuredly get things that we so desperately want?” Most important, “How to teach ourselves to be patient and calm during such stressful situations?”
I have been through this before, why even Nisha has been through this before but the feeling never gets stale, it hits us in a wave and leaves us breathless. This waiting period is always hard, much harder than rejection. I personally feel getting rejected on the spot is far better than getting rejected after a week. At least you get to move on after the rejection, the hurt will be the same but it will heal faster, right?
On that note, my top tips for helping you through this hard period of waiting are:Read More »My Top Tips to curb your Post Interview Anxiety
Before you jump the gun let me clarify, I am not talking about all Software Engineers. I am talking about those Software Engineers who have a flair for writing and who want to shift base to technical writing. I am neither in any way implying that Technical Writers from other fields are not competent enough to be recruited. My case in point is: when a Software Engineer is rejected for a Technical Writer position for lack of experience. Now that I am done with the clarification part, let me get back to: Why I think a Software engineer’s experience must… Read More »Why hiring a Software Engineer as a Technical Writer is a good idea?
You have a new job and an exciting career ahead. You have dreams of being one of the most accomplished Technical Writers around. You wait for your first task and here your manager gives you a huge word document to edit. What do you do? Edit, of course you say, but a teeny voice in you is nagging you with: “How do I begin?” “What if I miss something?” “Why am I given a document to edit when all I want to do is write?” type of questions.Do you hit the panic button or do you just jump in to do the task? My suggestion: “Have a Plan”. You can refer my earlier blog on the “The Beginners guide to Reviewing and Editing” to know more about planning your task and making a good job of it.
For now let us focus on the key points to consider when you edit. Being a good editor is like passing the litmus test to become a good writer. You need to be a good critic to write good articles and editing teaches you to be that critic. It is less likely that you will be trained to edit, you will definitely be expected to show your ‘On the job’ competency and ‘Learning curve’.
The following general guidelines can be followed to edit any Word document:
- Enable ‘Track Changes’: Never forget to do that. You would not want your feedback to be misunderstood or worse ignored because it was not tracked properly. Any changes you do must be recorded and must be available as feedback for the author.
- Ensure the Word document settings are set to reflect your name as the Reviewer. It is especially useful when you are adding comments for the author(more about adding comments in further steps). Click on File tab -> Options. Ensure your name is reflected under the ‘User Name’ Text box. Input relevant initials.
- Add comments: in relevant places to elaborate on the mistakes you have found. Sometimes authors might find it difficult to understand their own mistakes. They might need more clarity and explanation. Adding comments is a good way to ensure that. Click on ‘New Comment’ in the Review section of Word to add comments.
- Review in Passes: Always do the Review in more than one pass. Do not attempt to finish your editing in a single pass. Its hardly ever efficient. The more numbers of times you read through the document the more mistakes you will find. Do a formatting check in the first pass. Technical Review in the second pass and so on.
Note: There are many kinds of editing; this post focuses on editing a word document containing Technical information related to the Software field. Treat it as a general thumb rule that can be modified to suit your editing needs.
Note: Remember to stick to your timelines , more than 5 passes is not only impractical but also unnecessary.
Checklist for Editing
Reviewing and Editing is an important part of the Technical writing process. No writing is complete without it being reviewed and/or edited.
As a novice Technical Writer, my first few tasks were to edit and review documents.My biggest challenge then, was to know the difference between editing and reviewing. You may ask, “is it not self-explanatory?” My thought exactly; that is, before I started off reviewing a document, over shot time by editing it, ended up missing my deadline and finally learnt two important lessons.
Lesson number 1: Know the scope of your work
Never start your work without knowing the exact limits of your work. By limits I mean:
- What you can do
- What you need not do but can do if time permits
- What you should not do
People crave for limits. limits are something that gives a logical conclusion to any task. Without limits and restriction no work will ever truly get done.
“What you need not do but can do if time permits?”, is the grey area in the editing and reviewing world. It shows your dedication and the extra bit you want to put in your work. But how far is too far? Trying to find that out is when I learnt my
Lesson number 2: Estimate your work
Define timelines for your work.It gets easier when you know the scope of your work. You will learn more about defining your scope of the work in the following section. When you define timelines it is easier for you to decide on the ‘must do’ factors and ‘can do’ factors. Your work will reflect consistency and quality when you follow the timelines based on your scope of work.
What is Reviewing and Editing?