Having a plan and getting others inspired by that plan is the best way to accomplish big things, according to Dave Holmes, a technical writer for Google Australia.
Holmes recently spoke with a combined audience of students from CPIT’s Graduate Diploma of Information Design (GDID) and industry professionals from the Technical Communicators Association of NZ (TCANZ). Describing a recent redesign of the Google Maps developers’ website, Holmes offered a simple but effective rule for project management: Plan the work, and work the plan. He used Google’s policy of ‘20% time’ – where employees are allowed to spend up to 20% of their work week on their own interests – to develop a project for redesigning the site. The real challenge, Holmes noted, was getting buy-in from the people he needed to get the project off the ground.
Holmes then shared his secret for getting that buy-in – technical writers need to talk to people. ‘Make your idea part of other people’s projects’, Holmes advised, ‘so everyone you need is as motivated and excited by it as you are.’ He offered advice on how to work with graphic designers, by inspiring them rather than prescribing specific ideas. With developers and engineers, it helps to be a ‘capital T, little w’ technical writer, who has some basic knowledge of HTML. And with managers, you show that your project has results with customers.
‘We were extremely pleased to have Dave come and present to our students again this year’, said Cindy Staudt, GDID Programme Leader. ‘His talk last April helped them see that the work can be interesting and exciting – that technical writers get to do “cool things”. It was also a great opportunity to invite our industry partners along. Everyone’s curious about how things are done in a major organization like Google.’
Just as he was able to inspire his Google colleagues, Holmes inspired students and professionals alike by reminding them that technical writing has a lot of variety, which increases every day with demand for online videos, instructional content, and infographics. ‘You provide content that helps people improve themselves’, Holmes said.