My first significant position was with a management consulting company, at the time called Consultants for Management Decisions, later Kenan Systems Corporation.
CMD had a contract with the United States Postal Service to assess the best deployment strategies for the next generation of mail sortation equipment that the USPS was considering. This involved modeling detailed mail sortation flows and staffing levels at every mail facility in the U.S. It turned out that I was the only person in the entire office of MBAs who could understand the vision of our USPS client, a visionary executive in their Technology Resource Department. I ended up becoming the queen of Powerpoint storyboarding and presentations.
Eventually CMD had changed its name to Kenan Systems (after the founder, Dr. Kenan Sahin), moved into the telecom billing space with a product called Arbor/BP. Arbor was based on UNIX/C/C++ with a SQL database as the backbone. This system was light years ahead of the mainframe-based billing systems in use at the time. The downside was its complexity, which impeded user acceptance. One day my boss came to me and said, “We need training.”
The first thing I realized was that I didn’t actually know how to operate the system, despite having documented every scrap of core business logic. For the first six months, I worked by the seat of my pants. It was a trial by fire. Client training was key to acceptance. If our clients couldn’t make the system work for themselves, they’d simply reject it. The only way to ensure client-side mastery was hands-on, in person, with lots of lab time. The project consultants and channel partners used my courses. I also helped to hire and train other trainers.
I moved to California and began doing contract technical writing through a company called Expert Support. Clients included Clarify (now Nortel), Excite@Home Networks, Liquid Engines, and VocalPoint Technologies. At Hewlett-Packard, I worked with their Strategic Planning and Modeling Group, which focused on manufacturing supply-chain and inventory optimizations for HP’s global consumer electronics market.
By 2006, I was bored. The economy had slowed to the point where most of the jobs I was getting were not really worth doing. I wanted engagement – but also a livelihood.
I began working with BRU Architects, a small residential design firm in San Francisco. The world of high-end residential design is a very rarefied one. It couldn’t be more different from the pragmatic and controlled approach used by larger corporations.
Then the Great Recession came along. Many smaller firms just shut down. I moved to Mark English Architects, one of the few high-end residential firms still afloat. MEA also had a separate business division offering energy consulting services to other architects.
I learned how to use Title 24 modeling software to create California energy compliance reports for other architects, blogging about everything I learned on our energy blog, called Green Compliance Plus. Every time a client had a question, I’d research it and write it up for the blog: case studies, general discussions, code issues, and more.
We started a second blog called The Architect’s Take, which featured interviews with other contemporary designers about why and how they did what they did. I was willing to embrace Modern architecture, if the designers were willing to defend their work and explain it. I asked questions of these designers like, “What do YOU consider to be good design?” and their answers often surprised me.
In 2012 I took a position as Senior Technical Writer at Zep Solar in San Rafael, CA. Zep had innovative new system for installing rooftop solar systems, with a snap-together frame profile that saved time and money. During that time, I created full-length mechanical installation manuals, with 3D CAD illustrations, along with scores of product sheets and other collateral. Eventually Tech Pubs grew to include new hires, who took things even farther. Zep was acquired by SolarCity Corporation in December of 2013. I continued as a Zep/SCTY employee until March of 2016.
So now, at this point, I’d like to bring together all my writing skills in new ventures… and that’s where my story ends, until tomorrow.