Okay. Would you please state your job title, where you currently work and how long it’s been since you graduated from college?
My job title is logistics specialist. I work at Metrica Inc. It’s a government contractor. It has been, let’s see, I graduated December, 2016 so, yeah, roughly two years.
Okay. And you’ve worked in this current field for the entire time?
Yeah. I’ve worked here a year and six months now. So most of the time yup.
Okay. And can you provide a very brief description of what your primary job functions are?
Essentially, there’s a lot of them, but the primary ones is essentially managing subcontractors on the ground in other countries from the treasury. Essentially, the treasury has projects ongoing a bunch developing countries and we have subcontractors out there just assisting in a support role for interpreters, or anything. If they a cell phones, if they need something printed officially, if they need really anything we help them out on the ground there in the third world country.
Okay. Great. Can you provide an estimate for a weekly average of what percentage of your job requires you to do any kind of writing? Zero from 25%, 25 to 50, 50 to 75% or 75 to 100.
It’s about 50% writing.
Okay. What forms or kinds of writing or documents are you most frequently required to complete?
Well yeah first and foremost definitely email writing and just being concise. Because if you’re constantly having back and forth between treasury, subcontractor, us. Definitely email writing, but also reports and assessments, and memos is also a partial portion, which none are very lengthy, but they just need to be concise. You get away with a lot of just using templates keeping it, so you’re not recreating the wheel every time.
Sure. And for those kinds of documents, who would be your primary audiences and what would the primary purposes be?
For memos it would be for actually sending and advancing money. That would be going up through our financial guy here, and then to a project manager and then off to headquarters. In terms of the email writing, it would be some going directly to our subcontractor in another country, some directly to the treasury. And then some internally, obviously just amongst, just for creating policies.
Okay. And so when you’re writing to a fellow subcontractors, or even to the treasury, can you give us a clue into the kinds of goals that you’re forming in the writing, what purposes you might be writing about?
What, what was that? Sorry, restate that question.
Sure. Just when you’re writing to either subcontractors or the treasury, typically what’s the purpose of those correspondences?
Essentially we have a task system that comes out of the treasury to us within the treasury there’s probably five teams. Each of them use this system called Tims, and that’ll create essentially a task order that we have to … that has a end and do date, where we have to make sure that everything, all the deliverables in that task order’s completed by the due date. So whatever’s in that task order, may it be, we need an interpreter from x to y, we need a new laptop, we need office equipment because we’re moving offices, we need … everything in that, well eventually, it comes to me. Then I create it in a way that the email can be clear and concise to our subcontractors who are multi-lingual in other countries and essentially and bullet points are your friends. And I pushed it onto them and then they get working on it.
Great. Great. And then with as much level of detail as you’re comfortable sharing, could you maybe walk us through the process for one particular recent project or type of project from the time that the assignment is given to you through your preparation and then any steps you take until it’s complete?
Okay. Do you mean general products or you want to go through a certain tasks?
Any specific project you’ve done recently that involved a writing component is fine.
Let’s see here. The most intensive project that I’ve had to deal with would be, so we had a advisor in Mongolia. He was working on a project that was actually creating a citizens’ budget for this country of Mongolia for their Ministry of Finance to essentially pass out and trying to … I couldn’t even give you the background on what exactly they wanted to do with it. But he needed our support to essentially make the publication, for the publication, look for people on the ground that had experience writing Mongolian. So yeah, so he had a bunch of different stuff that we had to do, and it also entailed keeping up on their budget because that’s another thing that we manage.
Now in terms of actually having to write, let’s see. I mean, again, a lot of it’s just through email. I’m not really writing full on reports. But I would say a good thing to mention is also the creation of SOP, just standard operating procedures. I’ve had to do that for just something as simple as our mailing policy, or because we’re always sending stuff. We’re sending laptops. So it’s just like, here you go, you log onto DHL, here’s our account information, here’s everything you need to know. This is how you should code it. This is how you should … what account to charge.
SOPs have been a part of my writing, which I mean it all just has to be clear. It can’t be wordy. It needs to be easy to follow, easy, bulleted, easily numbered and concise, and that’s really all I can in much detail explain those.
Sure. You say you do a lot of email writing. Aside from the concision and clarity, are these typically formal emails or do you consider them to be informal?
Oh no. Yeah, they’re all formal because they’re going to the treasuries so everything has to be very formal.
Yeah. Are there any particular decisions you have to make when you write formal emails, considering who your audience is? Do you do any kind of drafting process, or what?
Yeah, so there is a drafting process. If it’s something that’s very important that it’s going all the way up to their operations manager in the treasury. It’s a constant, I’ll draft it, send it to my senior log spec, senior log spec give me some feedback. Then I’ll send it to the project manager and he’ll have some feedback and then we’ll send it out. Just to make sure you know more eyes on it the better it’ll be. Just in terms of editing and what the message we actually want to get out is.
I have, for my own personal procedure, I have templates for certain things. So say I have a template for interpreters in a certain country. Everything that I need to say to the subcontractor is already there. It’s just I need to input the different dates, or any other additional information which I have space for, and that’s already in my template. Does that answer your question?
Yes, very much yeah. Thank you. Coming out out of college and moving into this position, or into this field in general, how did you know how to do that kind of writing? How did you know how to write successful emails or standard operating procedures that type of sort of thing?
Well, I mean I did go through business writing in college, but it wasn’t that intensive. I believe it was only … yeah, I believe it was only one class towards the end of my actual major. And they went through creating a report, formal email writing. But yeah a lot of it creating SOPs it’s just learning and just learning the terminology inside your office because every organization has different terminology. Say even if I do some other work on a different contract the terminology is different there too. I think that’s the most important thing, which I don’t know if you can really show that to students or put them in a real life situation.
But yeah, just the terminology and the way an SOP is created. Obviously there’s, for my circumstances they was already SOPs to base this off of. I just needed to update it with the changes that have happened over this year, or last year. So a lot of it is really on job training for for SOPs at least. Email writing it’s a constant work. You just get better at it as you go.
Great. Can you think of a time, maybe early in your career where you felt maybe unprepared as a writer at that new job?
I would say when I first started here I was … you want to stick away from the big long paragraphs. I think that’s a lot of feedback is, at least amongst the organizations we work with, is people hate when you just send up a big long email. That’s just a big long paragraph because people just don’t have time to go through and look at it all and try to actually capture all the information that’s in it. It’s obviously as I’ve already said the more concise your the better.
When I was unprepared. Yeah. I mean the SOPs in general, and just being able to write formally that that took some practice. And that’s all that I learned here really. I wouldn’t say I was super prepared for the actual formal writing, and things that you need to do on a day to day. That’s just a lot of on the job training.
Great. When you have those moments where you kind of feel like you need to learn on the job, are there specific steps that you took to overcome those kind of challenges? Looking at other templates or past documents or collaborating with other writers or, or anything like that?
Yeah, so I mean I’ll bounce things off obviously my senior log spec, just the way that he writes things, and just because he’s worked on other contracts that are similar. That’s a great thing. I was able to have a resource there. But there’s a lot of things just that you can access. Udemy I’ve gone and done a few videos and courses, which is good. They’ll … they try to incentivize you to do all that.
Are there specific Udemy courses that you’ve taken that you really like?
I couldn’t tell you the exact name of them because there’s like a million. But yeah I go on there or Excel of course as well just to do just learning more things just basic quick tips that would make you quicker. And yeah, I mean typically if … it’s not just my organization, they’ll just have … if they want you to hit a certain amount of certifications, or do certain amount of trainings per, every six months and you have goals that you set, try to hit all those that really helps.
Great. And I think you mentioned somebody in that position before, but can you talk a little bit about who specifically oversees your writing, and what their job title or role in the company is?
Okay. Yes. Senior logistics specialists, and then also my just project manager. He’s The PMP, so he oversees the entire contract with the Treasury. But a lot of it I don’t have to go to them to draft every single email obviously. I think I’ve excelled because of my email writing in this role. Where I’ve seen some people struggle is that we have a lot of people who speak multiple languages. And when English isn’t your first language, then obviously it’s just going to be way harder to write a concise email in English. I think that is where I’ve definitely been able to write my own emails and not always have to draft them if they’re going to the treasury because it just takes forever.
Sure. And in those moments for maybe more formal documents, when you do go to a supervisor for feedback, how do you think that they judge success or quality of your work?
Well, when it’s a really solid email, they’ll literally send a good job on this. Yeah, if it’s solid, there’s nothing wrong. It’s very clear the message that we’re trying to send. And everything is contractually legal, and they’re using the exact terminology that they want, then yeah, they’ll send a job.
Okay, great. And this can depend from email to maybe a longer project, but on average, how long do you say you typically have to complete a particular writing project?
It depends on the writing project. If it’s an SOP they’ll give me multiple days to complete that. If it’s an important email it needs to be out by … within an hour. And then other emails it’s just a constant feedback and those are quick within 20 minutes.
Sure. Great. You mentioned taking a business writing class in college, and maybe this applies to some other courses you took, but what kinds of writing do you remember being asked to create when you were a student?
It was basic memo reports which they based a lot of it on your heading being correct and other formal things that I don’t … that you typical don’t need to worry about. It’s more, I would just say getting the right words and verbiage, and just being able to write formally. We also worked on our resume in that class, which was a bigger portion of it than the actual email or thing. But yeah, it wasn’t too intensive. It was pretty much the basics. They’d have us memos, reports, however those are defined.
Sure. Do you feel like you were that those modes of writing that you learned in your education prepared you or did you feel unprepared when you entered the workplace?
Let’s see. Well, yeah that was just one class there. I did take other writing courses, like creative courses, which obviously helps a ton. I think that just being able to write, being able to write is something that typically people don’t try that hard on these days, and is incredibly important [inaudible 00:17:07] like I am right now. Yeah you need to be able to write. It’s definitely … you need to be able to get your points across.
Is there anything in particular that you feel like you got out of those creative courses?
Being more descriptive. I mean just having a way better vocabulary to use in your emails, to be descriptive, and not just sending the classic boring three letter adjectives, or just … I would say descriptive would be the thing.
Okay. Sure. Is anything in particular that you think would have been useful for you to learn or do when you were a student that would’ve better prepared you?
Yeah, it’s tough. I mean like writing courses are incredibly important and especially if you’re in a business role or any sort of role like I’m in. I would say definitely more emphasis on formal writing, formal writing style. Especially people, my generation, tend to direct incredibly casual because that’s 90% of our day to day via text message. So yeah the formal writing would be a good emphasis. And also email writing, just being able to write concise email.
Okay, great. Can you say a little bit about what is at that stake in the writing that you do? You know, negative consequences, for poor writing or even benefits for really successful writing.Oh yeah. There’s a incredible consequences for poor writing. Just not even just having the habit of editing, which a lot of people miss on just don’t go through it enough or just didn’t really edit ever. Being able to go through your emails and actually knowing your processes for editing, and just things that you miss was big. Sorry, what was the question again?
Just basically what’s at stake with your writing, so if something fails in writing what are the consequences, or if something’s really successful, what do you guys gain?
Yeah, I mean obviously the good feedback. You need to be able to be polite and also be descriptive and tell them exactly the point. But also you need to do it in a way that you’re talking to a client you’re not talking to, well, depending on who I’m sending it to. If I’m talking to the treasury, you’re talking to your clients. So getting that positive feedback or just being clear through email then the more positive feedback you’ll get from your actual organization and your clients.
Great. And is there a danger that maybe too inform an email or inaccurate documents could damage the relationship between your company and treasury or elsewhere?
Oh yes. It happens every day. If something’s not seen it definitely damages the relationship and it just doesn’t look good on us. Just looks like we aren’t we aren’t having that attention to detail that is so incredibly necessary.
Sure. And what would you say the most difficult thing is then about the kind of writing you do in your field?
Let’s see the most difficult. I guess just keeping the structure. I guess one of the most important things and one most difficult is just keeping the structure of your email corresponding with the actual timeframe of what’s the action you’re trying to get out of? I don’t know how to put that, but just essentially creating a structure in a way that it makes sense reading it paragraph from paragraph, like a essentially just creating a good schedule email. Not going from subject to subject and creating that actual schedule on your email. I don’t know if that-
Sure, yeah. The cohesion. Yeah that …
Has anybody helped you with your writing since you left college either formally?
Other than the classes, and courses I’ve taken on Udemy … let’s see. And my sister of course. But no. I mean no. I haven’t outreached to really anywhere other than people inside my organization to bounce things off of them. No I haven’t. Not exactly. No.
Do you consider a collaboration with your colleagues to be important to your writing process?
Oh yeah, definitely yeah it’s crucial.
Just a couple more questions. One, how do you believe that you’ve evolved or improved as a writer over the span of your career?
I would just say, how have I evolved? I would just say keeping my structure and my bullets all concise. I don’t know exactly how I’ve evolved because I’m not … Nothing I’m doing is incredibly creative. It’s all more sticking to having that same exact formula that the treasury will expect coming their way. So yeah nothing too creative. It’s just keeping it all the same. So it’s all in the same language so to speak.
Yeah. Are there things that you feel maybe more confident in your writing now than maybe on day one?
Yeah. Oh yeah, definitely. Just doing it every day. You’re going to spend more time with terminology saying, do you agree, or do you concur, or do you … just the actual terminology getting better. Is that agreeable? Is that … that’s definitely a the thing is just creating that vocabulary.
Sure. Great. Two more questions. First, to what extent do you think that writing is valued in your particular organization and in your field as a whole?
It is highly valued in mine. The actual project manager that started last here was here for senior logistics specialist position, which they oversee everything and all the reports, and constantly edit templates, constantly editing all the documents that we put out to the treasury and he’s now the project managers. So I think that was something that he really excelled in, just being clear. And he’s now at the top. So he’s a prime example of that. Obviously, that’s not the only thing. There’s a financial side to our contract as well and what you need to know, but I believe it’s highly, highly valued.
Do you feel that that’s consistent across your field in general? That that’s not special necessarily to just your company?
No. Yeah, I mean definitely across. You’d be surprised how many people mess up just the simple tasks of emails. And what kind of loss that creates in value that leaves. But yeah, it’s definitely across the board a pivotal thing to have.
Great. Thank you. And final question, how do you define successful writing as a student versus how you define it now in the workplace, and overall would you say that you consider yourself a successful workplace writer?
Yeah, I would say where I excelled in being a writer as a student, and now I think in my career now is playing close to detail in editing. People always think about writing, but they don’t think about the editing portion. The document isn’t done once you’re done writing it. I think going back [inaudible 00:26:06] scrubbing is where people make them from bad to good in terms of that.
Yeah. For student versus … I believe it would be all the same. I mean, if you’re a good writer as a student, you should be good in this role. I believe that attention to editing is key.
Great. And you, you consider yourself to be successful as a writer at this stage in your career?
Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Great. All right. That’s it. Thank you.