Recently, it occurred to me that I’m not nearly as much of a genius as I used to think I was. This is not done with a great deal of sadness, merely a pragmatic realization (one of my father’s favorite sayings is, “Humility is a true estimation of one’s worth”). So if it’s unlikely that I’m going to change the world with any ideas that sprout from my brain, I’d still like to work for someone who will. The good news is, there are a lot of world changers out there, and they can create work for the aspiring (but not necessarily world-changing) technical communicator.
As it happens, I’ve worked with or for at least three people like this, each in very different fields.
Cynthia, the community builder
My buddy Cynthia, for example, is an artistic wiz, having started in the Disney marketing department and eventually forming (along with her husband) her own creative agency, Scribblefish Media, which now turns around and provides creative and development services for Disney. I did some documentation for one of those projects when I was first getting established in Orlando. She also started a hub for entrepreneurs in the local area that provides a variety of resources and services small business owners realize they need to succeed and grow – one offering is the ability for Members to work from the shared office instead of at home alone.I helped with writing out some of the policies and procedures for the coworking spot, “ScribbleSpace.” In partnership with one of the “ScribbleSpace” members, Cyn created a website (and web app) to showcase developments in the growing area of Horizon West, which takes up much of southwest Orange County. And the ideas keep coming. Cynthia is interested in building and strengthening connections between people in her community.
Darlene, the idea generator
I’ve also written here occasionally about my friend Darlene the Science Cheerleader. Starting from a job at Discover Magazine (once part of Disney), she got interested in getting private, non-scientist citizens more involved with the scientific process. Her bio puts it this way:
A former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader, Darlene does not regret the years she gabbed through high school science classes. She earned a Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, studying science history, sociology, and science policy to learn more about people like herself: “hybrid actors,” citizens interested in but not formally trained in the sciences. Discovering it was remarkably difficult to find opportunities to participate in science in any meaningful way, she launched SciStarter, a citizen science hub connecting people to science they can do. SciStarter was named one of Philadelphia’s Top Ten Tech Start Ups. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children, who have made it a hobby to explore the rainforests of Costa Rica. She’s also a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society.
I was introduced to Darlene via a mutual Disney friend because we shared a mutual interest in science education. I started writing for her blog, then showed myself trustworthy and organized enough to help coordinate the first performance of actual “Science Cheerleaders” at the U.S. Science & Engineering Festival. Along the way, Darlene found put me to work on event management, database management, internal communications, and recruiting. Darlene is one of those world-changing folks who gets people involved in pursuing a shared idea–in her case, citizen science.
Jason, the technologist
One of the brightest people I’ve ever met is my friend Jason. He and another friend started Zero Point Frontiers Corp., a small systems engineering firm that takes on big-picture projects. They have supported projects regarding launch vehicle design and development, 3D printing, app development, and rocket engine redesign. Jason eventually wants ZPFC to work with space, energy, robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. The workplace for ZPFC is one of those cool repurposed urban spaces (a former cotton mill, as they’re in Huntsville, Alabama) that has been transformed into an open office with eclectically decorated desks and a waiting area with a comfy couch. The meeting rooms are named for Mars rovers. Jason hires people who are willing to take on duties in multiple areas and even new fields of study. His primary motto, I believe, is “Rethink everything!” I still remember him dragging me into a meeting room, where he’d fill the white board with heavy-duty concepts and equations and then ask, “You turn that into a white paper, right?” It was and is exciting to work with Jason as he’s always thinking up how to change how technologies are developed or can be made better. I worked for ZPFC for two years until a government-induced budget crunch forced a temporary constriction in the company’s size. He had me writing proposals, white papers, engineering documents, press releases, and other odd items. They’re much bigger now, and I’m doing work for them as needed, but the electric, creative, ambitious environment Jason established makes him one of my favorite employers.
I share these stories because I’m certain there are some of you among my readers who might be like me in that you want help make the world a better place but don’t necessarily have the ideas yourself. Cynthia, Darlene, and Jason are not the only world-changers out there. There are doubtlessly bright, ambitious people in your near circle whose brains are constantly busy creating good ideas and who are able to make money at it. If you’re looking to broaden your skills and experiences in tech writing, working with creative, ambitious small business owners is a great way to do it.