Same mess, different tools – Liz Fraley on the Content Content Podcast

Summary: In her interview, Liz Fraley talks in detail about the history of structured authoring and how her opinions have changed over 17 years in the technical writing industry.

Last month I had the opportunity to talk with Ed Marsh of the Content Content podcast. I’ve known Ed for a couple of years but we’ve never really had time to sit down and talk. It’s funny how much you realize you don’t know when you really get the chance.

We did a series of podcasts several years ago: We interviewed long-term Arbortext users to capture the spirit of the many community members who work to help each other. I interviewed people at all different levels–developers, first time users, experienced integrators, stylesheet professionals, tool masters, and many others. And learned a lot.

Good interviewers expose great information

When Ed Marsh asked me to be on the other side of the interview for his Content Content podcast, I was honored to be included. It’s unusual for me to be the center of attention; it’s just not in my nature. I was the “other bride” at my wedding. I like to learn about what other people are doing. Our customers know that it’s never all about me. Until recently, whenever I presented, the “about me” slide was at the end because I always felt that it was more important to make sure you got what you came for before I advertising myself.

In any event, there’s no getting out of the spotlight when you’re the subject of the interview. Ed’s a good interviewer. He asked all the right questions for a good profile piece. In fact, it was interesting to me as well. We all forget what we know. We take it for granted. We forget that other people don’t know what we know even if we think, “hey, everyone knows this…”

What surprised me most was how much we’ve done here at Single-Sourcing Solutions, how we’re different, and how much knowledge is buried in our own heads.

I’ve been in the technical communications industry nearly two decades at this point. I’ve seen structured authoring develop and change. I’ve seen SGML and XML and DITA rise and DocBook decline. I’ve worked with military documentation and with high-tech software docs with a lot of pre-generated content. I’ve programmed stylesheets and used a lot of tools.

And over those two decades, my perspective and opinions about what to do have changed. A lot.

Where to find the interview

Listen to Episode 19 of the “Content Content Podcast” the podcast about “the people behind the content” for my interview with Ed Marsh.

I hope you enjoy it.

A brief sidebar

I refer to a lot of different topics during the interview. The links are here for your convenience:

Liz asks: Do you treat your career like a profession?

Summary: There’s only you to hold you accountable, to make sure you meet your business and revenue goals. You can apply the same skills business owners, consultants, and executives use to advance their business to advance your career. Do you treat your career like a profession or do you have simply a collection of jobs behind you?

I’ve been a consultant for a long time, but what really excites me is helping others build their careers and businesses. To that end, we started a project called the TC Dojo Conclave which is designed to bring serious professionals together to grow their business acumen and awareness.

Technical writing is unique in that almost all of us transition between employee and consultant at some point in our career.  At some point in our career we will employ the skills of a consultant, taking on more of an advisory role either in our own business or to the benefit of a larger organization.

In a company, someone else sets your milestones and evaluates your annual performance. Independents are on their own. There’s only you to hold you accountable, to make sure you meet your business and revenue goals.  Independents and consultants do all those things themselves in order to meet the revenue goals they have set for their businesses.

These are skills you should apply to your career as well. Do you have revenue goals you want to meet in your lifetime? Are you actively evaluating each step on your career path as a series of steps that will get you where you want to go? Continue reading “Liz asks: Do you treat your career like a profession?”