My Career on Wall Street
FREELANCE TECHNICAL WRITER
When I moved to New York City, I worked briefly with the US government. In one assignment, I was sent to Puerto Rico for six weeks where I traveled the island doing interviews in Spanish!
I studied at New York University and received a Certificate in Applications Programming because I wanted to be a programmer. I was working in the archives at the Ford Foundation when the IT Department trained the Archives staff on the use of the mainframe computer to run queries for researchers. Because of my training at NYU, I was the only one who understood the training and could run the queries.
When the archivist asked me to train the rest of the staff, I wrote a 100-page manual that allowed the staff to become proficient in running queries. The Human Resources Department requested a copy of my manual and I was recruited by the IT Department to write other manuals. I was later hired by Donovan Data Systems where I worked with a team of technical writers. The group was headed by a technical writer who taught me how to interview Subject Matter Experts to document fields that were foreign to me. That prepared me for my career as a freelance Technical Writer on Wall Street -- a role that I have had for the last 25+ years. Some of those assignments are discussed below.
Note: At each firm, in addition to doing the work that was assigned, I identified critical needs the firm did not know it had and provided the solutions. In that way, I also served as a Business Analyst.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS / SOLUTIONS PROVIDER
When I worked at Bear Stearns in Brooklyn, I was asked to create documentation and online help for a group in Manhattan. It was the first time anyone on our team had been given such a high-profile task that cost over $4 million. Since the software we were using was not appropriate, I had to find another documentation tool. After visiting the NY Tech Expo, I chose Framemaker. Fortunately, a vendor gave me a copy of the $700 package and I taught myself how to use it.
The software I was asked to document was extremely complicated and I should have had about a month to work with it. However, I had to rely on a description of the software since I wasn't given access to the system until one week before the documentation was due! Senior management later selected the documentation as the best of the department for the year.
I based the online help on Framemaker's online help to make it easy for the Manhattan group which was already using Framemaker. The Framemaker Help Desk said that, to their knowledge, I was the only person who had used their online help system as a basis for creating one.
When I was working at Dow Jones, I was not given any assignments for the first two weeks! When I asked one of the developers to tell me about his work, he described the work of the whole department. I diagrammed that departmental workflow in a one-page chart that showed the input, processing, and output of information for the department. When I took the chart to a meeting, a VP confiscated it and showed it to the president who said the chart was what he needed to show the department's funders!
At Goldman Sachs, I was asked to work with a new employee who was creating a messaging system. She had never worked with a Technical Writer and wasn't sure how one could help her. Since I didn't know anything about messaging, I got several books to learn the concepts and terminology. The documentation was well received and she was asked to give a Power Point presentation which I created for her. She said later that I bring an "X Factor" to the work! The manager of my department told me that all the developers on the team enjoyed working with me because they could count on the technical accuracy of my work.
When I interviewed at Merrill Lynch in Jersey City, N.J., the manager called my agent during the interview and said, "I want her!" When I started work the next Monday, he could see how quickly I was working and asked for a printout of the documentation at the end of the day. By the Wednesday morning staff meeting, everyone was shocked to see that the manager had the manual he had requested!
I later heard him say on the phone to his manager, "But I'm the one who found her!" Apparently, the word had quickly gotten around that there was a fast writer on board and he was having to struggle to hold onto me! A senior manager later told me that my documentation of the software was so clear that even if she had never seen the software, she would have complete confidence she would know how to use it.
2002 - 2003
Standard and Poor's
My first assignment at Standard and Poor's was to produce a 300-page manual that I knew end users would dread working with. So, I also created a Quick Reference. When I submitted both, the manager of my department quickly adopted the Quick Reference format for all departmental documentation. When I worked with the head of the Mobile Department, I created documentation that matched the cool tools the departments was rolling out. The manager said, "Your documentation rocks!"
Golden Source Corporation
2004 -- 2005
The initial assignment I was given at the Golden Source Corporation was so challenging that I wasn't sure I could do it. However, it became very simple when I realized the Business Analyst had made a mistake. I later discovered that the manager had given me the assignment because no other writers had been able to do it! We laughed about my "Baptism by Fire"! One of the writers later told me that since I joined the staff, the writing team had been treated with more respect than at any time in the 10 years he had worked there.
Informa Global Markets
Before joining Informa Global Market, I noticed when I checked their website that people could not see what they sold unless they requested a subscription which took three business days to complete! So, a few months after I joined, I created a Quick Reference of the IGM products. The head of the IT Department loved it and attached a text link and a graphic link to the Quick Reference on the home page of the new website he was rolling out. That certainly must have helped sales! See the photos on my Websites page. The head of the IT Department said I was the best consultant he had ever hired!
2007 -- 2010
When I was asked to work with a teams of developers in the US and Britain to document changes in the software, I organized conference calls with each team and created an online chart showing the proposed description of each change in the software. To the surprise of team members, none of them agreed on how the changes should be described! So, if I had relied on just one or even two members of any team, all the other team members would have said my documentation was inaccurate! The conference calls and chart allowed team members to come to a consensus about how each change should be described.
2010 -- 2011
Bank of America
At the Bank of America, my manager gave me a "back of a napkin" diagram that people always laugh at when I show it in interviews because it looks so indecipherable! They are equally awed when I show them the diagram I produced which I color-coded for clarity. The colors made it easy to see there are three similar systems. The color coding also made it easy to know which system was being discussed in the following diagrams. My manager said the diagrams were very well received.
2014 -- 2015
Chelsea Lighting, Inc.
I reported to the head of Human Resources who asked me to update Power Point presentations. When the founder and CEO of the firm saw my work, he asked me to document the lighting course he gives the staff each year and for which he is famous in New York City. We collaborated to create a 250-age manual which served as his legacy to the staff as he retired the next year. It allows new staff members to get up-to-speed before the course and to review course material later at any time. It also serves as a "train the trainer" guide. The CEO was thrilled with the manual!
I noticed that while Chelsea Lighting had a wonderful internet, it also needed an intranet -- a portal. So, I created one and the Chelsea President loved it! I worked with the managers to tailor the site to the firm's needs. It allows their sales people to use their phones to get important information in the field for clients. A link to the Training Manual was added to the home page of the site to make it readily available. See my Websites page for photos. When the head of HR asked me to give a presentation to the staff on my contributions, I created a Power Point presentation that was later linked to the intranet as a reference.
2017 -- 2018
When I worked at the United Nations HQ in Manhattan in the Department of Communications, I was responsible for applying a consistent template to the documentation of several teams in Geneva. The manager of my department and a Canadian co-worker each cited my work for its attention to detail and thoroughness.
When I was asked on very short notice to devise a media campaign to reach universities around the world (a task outside my area of expertise), I recruited the help of two staff members. One was a Doctor of Communications who teaches communication at a New York college and who had already created a survey of universities worldwide. The other was a specialist in creating presentations for universities. In two weeks, I was able to submit a proposal approved by senior management to the head of my department -- one which she was able to forward to Geneva!