My Background 
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My Background
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The Documentation Process
 Updated: 9/26/2009
I love working with words.  My career has been varied, but an underlying theme has always been getting concepts into words that communicate effectively. And it's not just words that count, but how they're presented.  Scrunching a lot of text into a tiny font or not differentiating between levels or sections of information can mean that even beautiful words don't get read and information can be lost.
I know how daunting that blank page can be.  I know that a project to "write something up" can be very difficult when you want to be focusing on something else — like your real job!  How do you get started?  How do you structure your information?  How do you ensure it is readable by those intended to use it?  How do you know it accomplishes what you set out to achieve by doing it?
Those are questions I've faced, and answered, each day of my working life.
While large organizations may be able to afford a staff of writers to handle writing, documentation, or website development and maintenance chores, smaller companies or groups don't often have this luxury, especially in today's economic climate.
Now you don't need to hire a writer to get writing expertise, or a staff to develop and maintain your website.  You can use my expertise as you need it.  Just pay for what you need, as you need it.
The positions I've held indicate a variety of responsibilities that provide a hint of what I can do.  I look forward to hearing from you about what I can do for you.


The Basics



I have been writing professionally for many years. I have also managed documentation projects involving one or many writers. In the process of handling both types of positions, I have acquired a lot of experience in how to do both.

Writing requires organization, attention to detail, a clear and structured approach to tasks, and step-by-step follow through on a plan. It requires a great deal of listening to discover information. Let's face it, no writer springs full-blown into a knowledge of all aspects of the subject. This information generally comes from somewhere else. This means an ability to absorb information from many sources, to listen, and to work well with others is essential to discovering not only what to write but how to write it.

Writing also requires an understanding of who will use the final product, whether that's a manual or instruction sheet, a marketing slick or a website. If you don't know who you're talking to, how can you tailor the message effectively?

Managing requires another set of skills. Making sure projects are thoroughly planned so surprises (usually unwelcome!) don't drive up costs or stretch out time is essential. This means understanding what questions to ask up front so the plan can be properly put together. It means working with many people to discover need and timeline.

Of course, you can't ask the right questions unless you understand the options and the process of putting your project together. That's where experience comes in. Having been through the process many times means I understand the possible pitfalls and have learned to manage in ways that (mostly) avoid them.

Managing also involves listening — to program managers, users, information providers (SMEs, or "subject matter experts"), writers, and anyone else who has input and an opinion. And it means valuing all viewpoints while moving toward the goal.

In the end, a successful project, for me, is one that meets the goals while leaving all parties feeling respected and valued. I believe I have achieved this goal more often than not in my career, and it's something I continually strive to do.


Printable Resume



A short version of the information in this section is in my resume, which I've provided here in PDF format.

(If you need Adobe's Acrobat Reader, it is available at www.adobe.com.)

Just click on the image at the left. A new browser window will open.




Positions I Have Held


12/03 to present — Lockheed Aeronautics
Courseware Developer (contractor)

Develop training courseware for manufacturing and systems processes for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and other Lockheed Aeronautics program initiatives. Advise the best way to accomplish training goals. Develop and work plans and tracking tools to meet training requirements. Deliver training as requested.

5/03 to present
Independent Contractor

Providing writing, documentation design, and website development services to individuals and companies.


4/02 to 4/03 — Evercom Systems, Inc.
Technical Communicator (contractor)

Designed, developed, wrote, and managed a variety of documentation projects, from technical and installation documentation to marketing materials and process documents. Worked with applications development department to produce user, technical design, and installation documents. Worked within sales and marketing group to redesign user manuals and training documentation, and created product slicks, brochures, sales presentations, and advertising copy. Edited marketing and technical materials. Managed main company website redesign project. Developed website content and managed site with HTML coding and content management software.


8/00 to 9/01 — Kudos Information, Inc.
Technical Writer and Documentation Project Manager

Worked with team of writers and illustrator to document and edit, to Nokia’s standards, descriptions and installation of wireless network hardware components. Also worked as sole author with Nortel in Germany to update the Meridian Internet Telephony Gateway (ITG) Trunk/ISDN Signalling Link (ISL) user installation document.


9/98 to 8/00 — Various
Office manager/technical writer for a start-up company, librarian of small bookstore, newsletter editor, website maintainer, statewide committee chair, manager of a house reconstruction project.


1/92 to 8/98 — RadioShack
Manager of RadioShack Publications

Responsible for production of owner’s manuals for a broad range of consumer electronics products (400+ each year). Developed, implemented, and monitored documentation procedures. Designed document formats. Developed editing standards and edited documents. Provided online documentation information to internal departments. Managed seven technical writers, two technical editor/supervisors, contractors, and administrative staff. Remotely managed the work of 12 additional writers in overseas locations. Managed system administration duties.


5/86 to 12/91 — RadioShack Merchandising
Manager of Computer Product Information

Tracked and disseminated information between departments, and from headquarters to field personnel. Wrote technical and marketing-oriented articles. Participated in development of new product information plans. Assisted in developing and publishing new marketing plans. Coordinated training on new products. Managed internal inventory. Managed three people.


1/84 to 4/86 — RadioShack Customer Service
Instructor and Software/Training Coordinator

Received and sought out information from other company departments and coordinated the storage and dissemination of that information. Responsible for a program that trained employees from all over the U.S. on computer hardware and software. Did instruction. Managed four people.


previous — Positions held included customer service representative, air traffic controller, grounds maintenance supervisor, assistant office manager.





Significant Achievements

  • Handled user, technical, marketing, and process documentation. Developed processes, procedures, formats, and schedules. Created new company website. Developed navigation scheme and wrote content. Managed interface design. Maintained updated information. Results: More professional materials available to company sales force and more institutional memory available in documents, not just individuals. Created more professional company presence on the web, enhancing company image and opening doors for sales.


  • Developed processes for producing owner’s manuals for company's products (450+ documents per year). Assigned and balanced individual responsibilities and workloads. Set up tracking systems to enable positive workflow. Improved accountability and cooperation. Results: Department morale improved, manuals no longer caused shipment delays, and expenses were maintained within budget.


  • Established guidelines for workflow and points of responsibility. Empowered writers to develop solutions and provided feedback. Initiated multiple-writer projects to foster cooperative effort and atmosphere. Results: Team became a well-functioning unit where procedures were clear and adhered to. Team members enjoyed their work and were recognized by other departments as experts. Turnover rate decreased.


  • Convinced management to shift typesetting process from overseas to in-house process. Evaluated and chose appropriate software, set up training locally and overseas, planned template creation, and established procedures for document preparation and file reuse. Results: Reduced overall time and costs required to produce user manuals. Manuals were recognized for superior and consistent quality.


  • Redesigned owner's manuals for consumer electronics products. Determined scope, assigned team, defined success factors, monitored and guided progress, and coordinated testing of final products. Results: Page counts reduced, thereby reducing production costs. Excellence of manuals acknowledged by users and industry publications.


  • Collected, organized, and then disseminated information on company products and services. Developed guidelines for collection and storing, and formats for publishing. Acted as writer, editor, and publisher. Results: Saved company money by having needed information available in a timely fashion.


  • Edited and wrote press releases for several companies. Coordinated with information providers to distill relevant and interesting facts into a written piece that allowed information to be easily reformulated for use in any size article or broadcast. Results: In a timely manner, got accurate and interesting information into the hands of those who could publish it to advertise the event or information.


  • Handled UNIX system administration maintenance duties while working with company's IT department to transition the department to Windows NT-based system. Developed needs analyses for base system, database, training, and transition, and then collaborated with developers during development. Results: Successful transition with no personnel downtime, and department could be fully supported by company IT division.


  • Developed training curriculum for customer service representatives for a nationwide consumer electronics and computer retailer. Managed all aspects of the training: selected instructors and assisted them in developing class materials; handled scheduling; coordinated attendees' activities; and instructed classes. Results: Received praise from students and management both for instruction and for overall usefulness and smooth handling of training sessions.


  • Chaired broadcasting committee made up of entities in the north Texas area. Arranged programming and managed creative advertising efforts under committee guidelines. Chaired meetings and coordinated communications among members. Managed budget that exceeded $100,000/year. Results: Expanded broadcast outlets without increasing costs, and found innovative ways to reach a new audience.

Professional Tools and Training


Tools

PC/Windows 3.1 to XP, FrameMaker, MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), MS Publisher, Adobe Acrobat, Dreamweaver, vi editor, filePro relational database, Interactive and SCO Unix

Misc: HTML, Protocols such as FTP and TELNET, troff


Education and Training

  • Senior Member of Society for Technical Communication (STC), Lone Star Chapter

  • Judge for 2002 STC competition

  • MS Project 2000 Intermediate training, Executrain, 2001

  • Diversity Training for Management, Tandy Corp. HR Department, 1997

  • Interviewing/Hiring Processes and Legalities, Tandy Corp. HR Department, 1992, 1997

  • Associate in Arts, Tarrant County College, 1986

  • University of Michigan, 8/67 to 12/68

Traits and Talents

  • Effective manager of people and projects
  • Excellent documentation planner, designer, writer, and editor
  • Versatile and quickly learn new software and environments
  • Patient and results-oriented instructor
  • Work well with management, employees, vendors, and customers
  • Solution oriented — grasp big picture as well as necessary details
  • Professional demeanor



© copyright 2003-6 Sher Orpen. All rights reserved.

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