When Uncertainty Raises Its Ugly Head, Stretch

By Tony Bove | STC Member

Tony Bove - When Uncertainty Raises Its Ugly Head, StretchMy name is Tony Bove. After more than 20 years as an independent contractor, I am now employed as a technical writer for Stanley Black & Decker. July 28th was my three-year anniversary with the company, and I can honestly say that this position is the highlight of my entire career. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed being self-employed, and I had some great short-term gigs—but permanent positions in this field are rare here in Ottawa. It seemed that only the very large companies had the resources for a technical publications department, and they proved very difficult to join until now.

It’s been an interesting experience so far here at Stanley. I was hired by the Healthcare Business Unit in Canada dedicated to the InnerSpace product line, which manufactures hospital carts and cabinets. I spent the first six months fine-tuning my Adobe InDesign skills, becoming familiar with the publishing standards, improving them wherever I could, and drowning in product specifications. My sandbox was TechPubs: datasheets, user guides, installation instructions, specifications guides—anything a customer or user might need after the sale had been made (so, no marketing material). This is actually the kind of stuff I LOVE to work on (I know; I’m weird).

As soon as I hit my stride, it was announced that InnerSpace was to be transferred from Healthcare to the Global Tools and Storage (GTS) business unit. UGH! Uncertainty. I didn’t know if the new group already had technical writers, if they even wanted a technical writer, or if my position would be eliminated or moved to the United States, where GTS was headquartered. So, I offered my services to two other brands in GTS (Vidmar and Lista), and they accepted my offer enthusiastically. Another six months later, it was confirmed that my position would remain intact, and my job would be transferred from Healthcare to GTS. Relocation was never discussed; I would be the sole Canadian employee of GTS, and I would be the sole technical writer officially responsible for supporting all three brands. Phew!

I no longer reported to the manager who hired me, who was located in Ottawa; my new supervisor was located in New Britain, CT. So, for the first time in my career, I became a remote resource. Fast forward another six months, and the office where I was situated was running short on desk space, so they gave me a laptop and told me to work from home. I celebrated by getting a Rottweiler puppy since I would be home to housebreak and train her (her name is Belle, by the way).

At some point, I heard unsubstantiated gossip that some brands in GTS may be sold off. UGH! Here we go again. Uncertainty. I made my services available to a couple of brands in the hand tools business group, and they accepted my offer. I added the Proto brand to my ever-expanding portfolio, and I did a project or two for DeWalt, but they didn’t really take off. The gossip of a pending sale ended up being just that—gossip—but I was learning more about the business, building my network, and improving my skills every step of the way.

Then, just a few months ago, there was yet another reorganization, and my boss was transitioned to a new role. UGH! Here we go with more uncertainty. I was eventually informed that my position was to be transferred to the Global Technical Graphics and Documentation group. I never even knew that such a group existed. This was a group with 20 employees, plus a dedicated manager. Seriously? In my mind, I went from being a lone wolf to just another cog in a machine. My mind raced. Do they even need another technical writer? Will I be the only remote resource, and will that put me at risk? What if the new boss doesn’t like the work I’ve been doing? Will I have to adapt all my templates, processes, and standards to suit the new group?

I’m happy to say that my concerns were completely without merit. My stakeholders are happy with my work, so there will be no sweeping changes, just a few minor administrative changes.

What I have learned from my time here at Stanley Black & Decker is this—when uncertainty raises its ugly head, stretch. InnerSpace is in flux? Ok, I’ll offer my services to the other two cabinet makers in GTS. Storage is being reorganized? Ok, maybe there are hand tool products that could use my help. I’m being moved from GTS to GTDG? Send the new boss some samples of my past work, and invite coaching. Actively chase opportunities for growth. It makes me feel like a better informed, more qualified and capable employee, and it makes me feel (a little) more secure. There will probably be more UGH moments along the way, but I’ll just keep stretching. It’s worked for me so far.

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