Working with Difficult Subject-Matter Experts
On one technical-writing project, I had to deal with a difficult subject-matter expert (SME) who was not aware of the organization’s technical-writing standards and kept giving me suggestions that conflicted with those standards. Despite my making him aware of the standards and suggesting that he consider them when reviewing my work, his feedback continued to conflict with our standards. So, when I received his email messages, I immediately replied, countering his comments to prove my expertise in the domain. Without even realizing it, I had become defensive. In fact, on a few occasions, I even failed to recognize that some of his feedback was actually reasonable and actionable. Eventually, my behavior on the project resulted in an escalation.
When I later reflected on this experience, I realized that I should not have reacted emotionally to the SME’s comments. I should have analyzed his comments with a cool head and responded accordingly. The entire incident made me realize that becoming defensive and overreacting always debilitates logic. In contrast, my responses were more mindful when I was better equipped with reason and logic.
Lesson learned: Never overreact, always respond.
Improving a Bad User Experience
On one project, I was not at all convinced that the user experience was good enough. There was a lot of scope for improvement, and I wanted to suggest certain ideas to my team. But, as an intern, I was hesitant to convey my ideas to my team members, who had decades of experience. I was afraid they’d brush off my suggestions or that my senior colleagues might not take them well.
However, after a discussion with the lead technical writer, who insisted that I must write up and present my ideas to the team, I went ahead and communicated my points. To my surprise, the team welcomed my ideas for UX improvements. Once the implementation was complete, the team recognized the value of my suggestions in improving the entire user experience. This incident taught me that irrespective of one’s position in an organization’s hierarchy, one must voice one’s opinions when things don’t seem right. You never know what changes you can create!
Lesson learned: No matter your level in an organization, you should never hesitate to make a difference. Make your mark.