by Carol Lawless, Chapter Treasurer
Hello, my name is Carol and I work for an insurance company. It all seemed innocent enough -- an article here, a communication there, a little editing on the side. Then I turned to user documentation and training material. That wasn't enough. I started the downward slide into the hard stuff -- writing for developers in Information Technology (IT), and it has left me hooked.
A Variety of Roles
Okay, so maybe writing for an insurance company isn't quite an addiction. But the depth and breadth of job possibilities in a diverse company appeals to any writer who likes variety. At Sun Life, technical writers span many departments and locations. In total, we have a community of over 40 whose job duties include technical writing to some degree. Lone writers, or small teams have tasks that include policies and procedures, Web writing and editing both for the Internet and intranet, installation procedures, call centre documentation and help desk solutions. As you can imagine the breadth of information spans business knowledge about insurance, mutual funds, investments, health and pension benefits. Expect to never be bored!
Larger teams write more traditional software documentation. One team of eight produces training material, user guides and help files for our sales force. Since the software they document is largely developed in-house, they also have the opportunity to influence screen design and usability. Working closely with the training department, development teams and the sales force's technology hotline has given writers an insight into their audience that most other writers would envy.
We also have a team of writers that produces system documentation for the developers, business analysts and other IT staff. This documentation is very technical in nature and emphasizes the two-fold meaning behind "technical" and "writer". We've relied on staff with expertise on one side or the other (fondly referred to as the light-side and the dark-side) to work together cooperatively. Each has learned from the other's strengths and we've formed a team who not only translate techno-geek into concise documentation and diagrams that our business partners understand, but also read the code to write screen specifications for undocumented legacy systems. We can't jump high buildings in a single bound, but we're working on it!
With so many far-flung teams, we have long relied on a Community of Practice (CoP) to keep in touch with each other. We come together monthly (as projects and deadlines permit) for networking, training and support. Last year we presented a business case to management that allowed us to bring local industry experts into the building for a series of training sessions. That experience helped us to create some common bonds and understand one another's viewpoints as well as nudging us along the technical communication path.
A Common Front
This year Sun Life and Clarica have joined forces. Our CoP members have supported each other through the changes and challenges. We are now in the process of redefining our CoP to become a force to be reckoned with. One member suggested our mission should be to "instill good communication practices and take over the world." Hmmm -- I wonder if there's a 12-step program for that?
Acronyms at Sunlife
How insurance savvy are you? Do these acronyms mean anything to you?
To find out what these acronyms stand for, go to the answer page.
In this issue:
Contents | President's Message | October History | New Perspective