Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Operations Manual I'm Writing Is Slowly Sucking The Creative Life Force Out of My Brain - Somebody Heeeeeeeeelp Meeeeeeeeeee

Pin It ACK. I'm never gonna be done with it either. ACK.

I’ve been kind of annoyed with my work lately, because the engineers I’m working with right now – they’re not all that convinced that I’m actually smart. I’m a contractor, so I work with a wide variety of clients, and this is my first time completing a large project for this particular team. I'm not in the office a lot (I mostly work from home) so they aren’t quite sure what my deal is yet. I think they all just assume I’m some kind of lumpy little team mascot.

I’ll say something like, “I’m working to complete the operations manual for the system,” and they’ll all look at me like, “Aw, how cute. She thinks she understands what our machine does.”

Or I’ll put together a diagram and they’ll be like, “Oh look – she made us a little picture! Good job Sue!” as though I’m five and I just broke out the crayolas.

To be fair, they’re all really nice guys, and the environment is professional and respectful. It’s not blatant. They don’t mean to do it. It’s just the attitude of engineers in general.

Every single place I’ve worked, the engineers tend to think they’re a lot smarter than most of the other people in the room – usually because they ARE. They’re just used to it. And they’re used to people not really understanding what they do.

But that’s my whole JOB. It’s my job to speak engineer and translate it into normal person talk. I may not be as smart as they are, but I'm still smarter than the average bear. It takes them a while to get that though.

The most gratifying part for me is usually the day after they’ve read whatever I’ve put together, when they start looking at me with something akin to respect.

(No, that's a lie. The most gratifying part is totally the paycheck. If I could get a paycheck for just lying around doing nothing, it would still be completely gratifying.)

Still, condescension or no condescension, they are definitely my people. When I DO have to go into the office, it’s cool to be in an environment where they have NO IDEA if I’m fashionable or not. (I’m not.)

Here is ACTUAL SMALL-TALK from a meeting I attended a few weeks ago:

Marketing guy: Dude, you have a hole in your shirt.
Engineer: I know.
Marketing guy: You’re wearing a shirt with holes in it.
Engineer: So what? They’re just little holes.
Marketing guy: It’s time to get a new shirt.
Engineer: I love this shirt. It’s my favorite shirt. I’ve had it since college.
Marketing guy: You got out of school 12 years ago.
Engineer: So? It’s a really good shirt.
Me: It’s like an old friend, right?
Engineer: EXACTLY. See, she totally gets it.
Marketing guy (looking at my t-shirt and jeans): Yeah, I can see that.

THANKS MARKETING GUY.

(Marketing people are NOT my people.)

You know, I think I’d rather be negatively judged for my smarts than negatively judged for my appearance. I’m not sure what that says about me. Probably something dumb.

61 comments:

  1. Apparently my husband is a "marketing guy" and I am an "engineer". Today I am wearing a hand-me-down t-shirt that someone gave me 6 years ago, I have no idea how long they had it. (There is only one hole and it is really small.) Meanwhile, my husband has two full closets: One for dressy/office one for casual/sporty. How do we stand each other?

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  2. I think it says that you're secure in your smart.

    I'm not sure if I'm more marketing or engineer myself. Though If I had to pick one, it would be engineer.

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  3. Wow you can translate engineer speak into English. You MUST be smart. I'm impressed.

    I think I have a little bit of both engineer and marketing in me. Depends on the day which wins out.

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  4. yeah Sue mega respect for being able to translate engineer talk into normal people talk. Because usually when my husband even starts saying anything computerish/smart my brain turns off and my eyes glaze over.

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  5. So, Dick is giving a tech writing talk at BYU-ID's pre-professional conference for English majors on Thursday. I've been telling him about you and how you're an example of someone who does the tech writing but still has creative juice leftover for the blog.

    Sent him this post -- as disillusioning as it was. ;)

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  6. You'd rather be thought stupid than unattractive. That's what it means. What it means for gender equality, I'd rather not think about.

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  7. I am married to an Enginerd. Obviously they are my people, too.

    The husband does dress better, however, but it has taken me over a decade to shape his wardrobe.

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  8. My fashion statement is to frequently wear clothes that still have the little tag that says "Large" on my shirts. It makes me crazy that no one tells me! Does no one look at me all day, or do they just enjoy my embarrassment?

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  9. Engineers. Sigh. They are like that. Says I, the least technical person EVER.
    My favorite sweater has a TOTAL hole in the sleeve. It is very sad. I keep trying to convince myself that it'll heal.

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  10. I swear, the majority of people (engineer, marketing, or not) have no idea what it takes to write and write well. It's not just stringing pretty words together. It's maddening.

    You're a writer. You're good at it. And this writer admires you. So there, Mr. Engineer. (I bet your t-shirt and jeans are way cute too.)

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  11. Anonymous8:06 AM

    My husband ( yes - an engineer ) has only just agreed to let me use his old t-shirt as a polishing cloth. He was still wearing it to bed when it was more holes than t-shirt. He has had that t-shirt since he high school - he is now 45. Is that some sort of record?! Sigh.
    Jules

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  12. You should try working with college students. Mine all treat me like I'm two steps from the grave and totally not at all up to date -- like I haven't mastered using my cell phone or blogging or something. If they knew the truth...

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  13. I'm with suburban, you know you're smart, so the condescension doesn't bother you, you're afraid you're unfashionable so the condescension there does. And I'm right there with you.

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  14. In my younger years, I dated an engineer for a while.
    His fashion sense wasn't too bad, however, what was funny was the time he took me to meet his parents.
    They were delightful people, and I had a lovely time in their home, until we left, and his mom kept saying "Please come back and see us again!"and "Come back again soon!" and "I hope to see you again!"
    I got the feeling that I might have been the first girl he ever brought home.

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  15. My husband must have the soul of an engineer. Holes-shmoles. It's comfy. We've got history. It's like a family member, and you just want me to throw it away!

    He won't even wear something new until it has aged a minimum of two years in his closets. He' gotta have standards. You can't just go around accepting new clothes without a trial period. That would be madness!

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  16. I always leave the tags on too! Even after I tell myself all morning to take them off. Why don't I take the tags off right before I put on said new clothes? No clue.

    I don't think I'm an engineer or a marketing person. Blah on both. *no offense*

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  17. I do that tag thing ALL THE TIME.

    So awkward.

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  18. I studied marketing at school. Please don't hate me.

    I'm wearing ratty old flannel pajamas at the moment though - does that count for anything?

    I try to impress people I've never met, I betcha that says something dumb about me too.

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  19. Hy hubby graduated in engineering, so i totally know what you're talking about. but he's an engineer who wants to be a dentist. Not sure if that's better or worse. Now he comes home and asks me to open my mouth instead of sitting me down and showing me his textbooks.

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  20. Thanks for making it easy for us non-engineers to understand what the heck they are talking about!

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  21. Oh I'd rather be negatively judged for my appearance than my smarts (because at least I KNOW my appearance is awesome.)

    I find that sometimes I get more out of the engineer when I pretend that they are way, way, way smarter than I am. Boy, they love to be smart! And I don't mind letting them think that if it gets me what I want.

    I am the master engineer manipulator.

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  22. Azucar is the Engineer Whisperer!

    LOL!

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  23. My brother is an engineer, so I so totally get it.
    And the shirt thing? Not to put a stereotype on the engineers, but that is exaclty something he would do.
    Wait....do you work with my brother?....

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  24. I knew from reading your blog that you were smart, but now I'm a little intimidated by your brain power. ;-)

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  25. Lol, that marketing guy should have known to be slightly more tactful. But I suppose marketing IS still a step away from public relations, though they ARE related.

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  26. Wait. Holes in shirts isn't fashionable anymore? I have a FAVORITE shirt with a small hole under the armpit. I totally am planning on sewing it one of these days, but that doesn't stop me from wearing it in the meantime...

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  27. I'm with justrandi, you're secure in your smart. That's awesome

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  28. I married an engineer and he wears his old holey shirts from college, too. I've had to make them quietly disappear over the years.

    And if you need a creative outlet, have you considered doing National Novel Writing Month in November? Go to NaNoWriMo.org to learn about it.

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  29. I don't get it. I didn't know you had to be THAT smart to drive a train!
    Oh wait. THAT was a really DUMB joke. Shoot.
    I think THIS makes ME the dumb one.
    There, you should feel really good about your smarts now.
    And you go ahead and feel hot in your tshirt and jeans too. I wear pajamas most of every day. sigh.

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  30. This post was totally the text version of a Dilbert comment. And why not? There's plenty to laugh at when engineers make communities. :)

    And isn't it the greatest feeling when someone who expects you to not be smart is blown away by your understanding and insight? I love that.

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  31. oops, I meant "comic" not "comment." This is why I don't write operations manuals.

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  32. Engineer Whisperers... the new name for Product Managers!

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  33. My boss tells me what to do (obviously). I really just want to say, I have a higher education than you do, so shut up. I will do it all my way. Leave me alone. I can multitask better than you can because I'm a woman and you're a man.

    I can't wait until I don't have a direct boss like that. Only 3 years left.

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  34. I'm marketing people, and I think you are brilliant and awesome.

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  35. That made me laugh because my dad is an engineer. And you are so right. They always think they're smarter than everyone. Because they really are.

    Like when he used to help me with my math homework in high school (and I'm good at math) and he would leave and I would have no idea what the hell he just talked about.

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  36. I used to write manuals for software and I hate programmers. Especially when you're testing and everything explodes, and the programmer says, I'll answer one question a day. Arrrghhh.

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  37. I would have stuck my tongue out at marketing guy just for an added effect! :)

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  38. I know the feeling... I work with all men who wonder why I don't put effort into my wardrobe... hmmm, could it just be because I'm lazy and have a moral opposement to flirting with married men??? Really?

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  39. I married an Enginerd. As far as translating to "normalese," he's pretty good. He would never condescend to a tech writer. Perhaps because he married one and knows better. I actually started out studying electrical engineering before switching to technical writing. For some reason, most people don't understand the jump. Makes perfect sense to me, though.

    But I know exactly what you mean. I took one of my husband's shirts to D.I. a few years ago because it was looking pretty faded and worn. Guess who got in trouble for getting rid of "the" favorite shirt? Yup. I even went back down there to try to get it back. (If you've ever seen the room where they sort stuff at D.I., you'll see why I took one look and gave up. Absolutely huge.)

    Lesson learned: never, ever try to do husband a favor by cleaning out his side of the closet. Ever. Apparently, his shirts are not only like old friends, they are like his children.

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  40. I'm impressed with your translation skills. I have engineer qualities, but desire a marketing sense of style. Does that compute? I enjoy your blog - you're hysterical.

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  41. Thank you for letting me be a fly on the wall. My husband works in the Army Corps of Engineers as an active duty soldier. I accept your commiserations. :)

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  42. PS I just saw your picture on the sidebar. You're so pretty! I LOVE the 'do!

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  43. You capture the engineers perfectly!

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  44. Hahaha! My husband is an Engineer and he totally has shirts that he wore in high school.
    Kudos to your translation abilities! I need someone like you to come and live with me. :)

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  45. Your lack of creative life force was still enough to make me laugh out loud, long and hard (LOLLAH.) Yeah, I'm married to an engineer. (But he doesn't wear shirts with holes in them. Usually. Any more.)

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  46. Anyone who can do the quality of writing you do is entitled to wear anything they want, as long as it covers their nakedness! BTW, did you ever fix that hole in your pants?

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  47. Loved the small talk. Respect is sure hard to come by, especially be engineers. Totally agree that what would make me the most satisfied is getting my paycheck for doing absolutely nothing.

    Great post, and WOW, look at all the comments......POPULAR

    Have a great day!

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  48. I'm an engineer, and the marketing people at my company are WAY more fashionable than I am. I am very jealous of them when they breeze into the cafeteria in their fancy clothes, as I sit there in my somewhat less appealing khakis and buttondown, then I think, my degree is worth more, and I'll always make more, and I'm okay with that, because at the end of the day, one day, I'll be there boss. And I chuckle to myself. And I understand how things work. And I'm a girl. Awesome. Keep on doing what you do lady.

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  49. Geez louise, who knew there were so many engineers? Is anyone NOT married to an engineer?

    ;>

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  50. Nope. Apparently, we're all married to them. I even married into a family of engineers, from my FIL all the way down to the baby brother, and all kinds of engineering: chemical, mechanical, software (2 of those), electrical, and civil.

    Family dinner conversation is a blast, let me tell ya.

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  51. Don't they know that you are brilliant & quasi-famous? I mean, PLEASE!!

    I worked for years as a project manager and tech writer with programmers creating 'service management' software. It was mind-numbing work and I never got over how EVERYTIME I did ANYTHING they responded with pleasant surprise. I have to admit, however, it was nice being the most fabulous one in the room by sheer default. Work It!

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  52. Wow...you've PINNED the engineers...

    My fiance is an engineer. When we were cleaning out our closets, he tossed 42 brand new t-shirts into the "Goodwill" bin so he could make room for the 10 t-shirts he wore in a cycle during undergrad.

    "10" is being nice. It's more like four...and it's more like hole-y.

    What gives? hahaha

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  53. You really need to let them read your blog. Then they'd like, totally respect you and stuff.

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  54. Ok, this so not about your post.

    YOU, yes, YOU had to get me hooked on My Super Hopeless Romance. (by the way I do love your blog) Seriously, its like I need a fix, and I can't leave her a comment, HOW FRUSTRATING.

    Marketing Guy is a "Legend In His Own Mind".

    I bet he is one of those "its all about me" guys. Am I judging?

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  55. You should just wear a T-shirt with your blog address scrolling across your chest so they can see how smart you really are.

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  56. My husband speaks "Engineer" to me. I might have to hire you to translate. Although, it does make for interesting fights when we don't really understand each other. Oh, wait, that might have something to do with him being a male and me a female. Do you know anyone who can translate for that, too?

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  57. Oh, I SO have to comment on your blog! I just discovered today thanks to mormon mommy blogs. I was a technical writer for a civil engineering firm for 3 miserable years! I totaly empathize where you are coming from. Thanks for dredging up such painful memories and making me laugh about them :) I'll definitely be coming back for more. Now, if I could just regain my creative juices that they sucked from my brain...

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  58. If you could get a check for lying around in your favorite shirt... that would be the ultimate wouldn't it!!!!

    Ah I love an honest person.

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  59. I sympathize. I've been designing installation instruction sheets for blinds and shades. I grit my teeth and remind myself I'm making money. Sigh.

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  60. I understand what you're going through. I took engineering classes for ..um.. four years and then decided to change to Literature, Writing, and Film.. and I have married a engineer.. I'm happy that I can understand half of what he is talking about, but I don't care nearly as much as I used to. I really think engineers need more English classes. They need better communication skills. Or more charity so that they can learn not to look down on people and make things seem so mysterious. (It would really drive me bats when my dad and brothers would talk about computer stuff and never explain anything to me when I asked questions when I was growing up.)

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