- Sometimes all your work can be erased by a business decision
- Companies will never pay technical writers as well as programmers
- Take pride in your work, even if it never quite comes out the way you want it to
- On your last day, shake everyone’s hand and smile
The final push
As my year contract at PHPS edged towards its conclusion, I felt as if I was working at an entirely different company than the one I had started with. The contractors I had begun my job with were long gone. The manager I had started with, and the one that followed him, were gone as well. The company had worked its way through a merger just a few months after I arrived, had then attempted a second merger which fell through, and finally was bought wholesale by a much larger company. As my stay concluded, and I delivered my final manuals, I found out that the entire reporting system that I had spent the year documenting was to be replaced with the new company’s system. Within three months, nothing I worked on would be in use.
This didn’t stop me from making my pitch for a full-time job. I had successfully met all of my deliverables and I was perfectly capable of documenting whatever took its place. My final manager strung me along until the last week. He had me research the going pay rates to justify my salary request ($40,000 a year), give him my resume and write up some additional documentation of their payment processes. I did everything he asked, but I don’t think I ever really expected him to give me a job. He didn’t. He said that they couldn’t afford me.
I was angry. I was angry because I had made it clear over a month earlier that if they couldn’t afford me, I wanted to know quickly so I could look at other options. He had told me it wasn’t an issue as long as I could prove my salary request was well within industry standards, which I had done. I didn’t confront him though. I shook his hand and thanked him for trying. There were still a lot of people I liked at the company, and I didn’t want to burn my bridges.
Lunching and number crunching
It wasn’t until my going-away lunch with my friend Rick, one of the programmers, that I found out how doomed my salary request was. I told him that I had asked for $40,000. He shook his head. “I’m a programmer and I only make $35,000.” It was sad but true. The high-dollar contractors had been replaced by a guy happy to make $35,000 a year, at least $20,000 less than the least experienced contract programmer had made. As a parting gift, I told him that Lynn, the ex-lead programmer, was now making six-figures and working from home. Rick left PHPS within two months to become a well-paid contractor. I’d like to say the company learned a lesson, but by then they were looking to get rid of the SpeedWare programmers anyway.
My final day at PHPS was quiet and pleasant. I had completed all of my assignments, and spent most of the day saying goodbye to people and cleaning out my cubicle. I had hoped to stay, but in the end I was happy to be leaving. I had met my goals and I had learned a lot. I had proven to myself that I could make a living as a technical writer. Also, I was still employed by my contract agency, even though they had yet to find me another job. I was about to experience beach time…
Rules of Consulting by Chad Myers: Don’t expect the customer to be rational. If the customer didn’t have problems, they wouldn’t have needed to hire you.
- What is the most involved project you’ve ever completed?
- Have you ever been shocked to find out how little a co-worker makes?
- What was your most interesting final day at a company?