Stories of Customers, Colleague and Documents - A Great Evening

As many of us are contemplating what the downturn in the economy is going to do to us next, it was good to get together to exchange stories, especially humorous ones. Actually we bounced back and forth between funny episodes and the brass-tacks of how best to deal with the current job market (link to photos). As with any good meeting of people, especially Tech writers, we broke the ice by networking. We were a collection of veterans, such as, Mike Altman, Svi Ben-Elya, and Barbara Sher. Our own Shira Stepansky made it, too with Jonathan Matt who came all the way from Kibbutz Malkia near the Lebanese border. We also welcomed Rebecca Elhassid (and her husband Dror), a newcomer to the country and Elephant, although she is no newcomer to Technical Writing. Other attendees were Mike Lee, Tom Balazs, Maya Regev, and Sharon Ainspan.

To start the evening, Svi told us the story of how Elephant was started. Joining in with comments from the side was Mike Lee, one of the founding members. Elephant was started during the last recession. People were looking for a way to commiserate (sound familiar?). Elephant was a way for people to meet and network, and, if nothing else, talk and learn about Tech writing, even if they weren’t actively doing it.

The survey, Svi explained, started out as a way for people to know what to charge. Charging too much or too little would just not get you the job. Barbara Sher said she uses the survey all the time in her business as a bench mark for salaries in her company. Later on, Svi added, came the website that all of us know so well.

Barbara Sher then told us how she started her company as an answer to the locker-room antics of her male colleagues. What started as a continuation of her programming career, blossomed into a healthy business providing Technical Writing know-how to the High Tech community. Barbara, who admitted she would rather write than manage writers, told her own stories about those humorous moments. We all agreed that products connected to the human body seem to be the ones that get us in those tricky and funny situations.

Mike Altman also told us about some of his adventures. Many of you may have read about Mike’s first day on the job on the Elephant site, but hearing it in person is entirely different! And what about the time he was given a carton of “post its” from which he had write a manual?

Eventually we got back to the serious business: how to make it through this recession. Unfortunately some of us at the meeting were unemployed or underemployed. Where do we go from here? Do we change the way we charge for projects? We kicked around the advantages of by the page or hour versus the project pricing. Barbara mentioned that she is calling people now instead of waiting for them to call her about updating manuals. I guess it is time for all of us to dust off our good manners and CVs and be ready. We should help each other, too, by taking part in the survey coming up in January. I think we parted feeling a bit more optimistic about the situation. Isn’t that what the evening was all about?