In case you haven’t noticed my blog’s tag line, it reads: “Encouraging and equipping those who love to write. Rescuing those who don’t.” Today’s post is dedicated to those who may not love to write but their job requires them to do so. I realize that most of my readers are professional writers, but we all know non-professional writers who wish someone else could do their writing for them!
I chose to interview a friend and client of mine, Ignatius (Iggy) Nelson, who fits this description perfectly. Iggy has worked his way up the corporate ladder and has recently discovered how integral writing is to his everyday job. So much so, that if he hadn’t taken matters into his own hands and received training in the area of writing, he probably would not be where he is today. Let’s hear from Iggy and how he overcame his writing challenges:
1. Tell us a little about your background and how you got into your present industry and job?
I began my career with the City of Palo Alto as a water treatment specialist in 1986. I was in charge of taking water samples and filling out paperwork for processing the samples. In order to advance, I took a lot of classes on water treatment and operating various equipment. My big break came in 2000 when I was selected as a Water Services Manager for another Bay Area city. I was selected for my present job after completing an all-day assessment and am now a Water Superintendent.
2. When you first got started, how much and what kind of writing were you
required to do on a regular basis?
In the beginning there wasn’t much writing at all. Most of my time was spent out in the field. I basically had forms and paperwork to fill out but no real writing.
3. How much and what kind of writing are you required to do now on a regular
Currently I am responsible for 9 employees and oversee a budget of $5 million. I am continually writing memos and reports as well as other forms of internal communications. I’m also responsible for writing extensive reports and memos to the city council. When I first took on this position, the most stressful part about my job was the writing.
4. Would you have been able to move into the management positions you’ve held if you weren’t willing to write or weren’t successful at writing?
I may have been able to get into management, but it would’ve been a struggle to do well in my positions without being able to write. In my field it’s a big transition going from operations, where you’re doing field work to sitting at a computer all day e-mailing information, preparing performance reviews, and writing reports.
5. Did you ever think starting out that your job one day would require so much
It really never occurred to me that I would need writing skills if I wanted to advance into management. The writing was certainly more than I expected. Little did I know that my current job, because of the higher salary, would require even more writing. Looking back I should have been concerned about learning to write and not have procrastinated at doing so. I had no idea that someday writing would be a big part of my work.
6. What have you done to help yourself in the area of professional writing?
In 2002 I decided to take a basic writing class at a community college. The first time I took the class I flunked it! But I kept going and didn’t quit. Last year I took a class from the University of Phoenix called Effective Written Communications. Recently I took another class entitled Business Communications.
7. In general, what do you see with your peers and those supervising you when it comes to business writing skills? Do you think most people have prepared themselves for the amount of writing they have to do?
Most of my peers are not at all prepared for business writing. My level of management does not require a college degree or any formal educational training. My supervisors typically have engineering degrees, and they can write pretty well. But most of those in my line of work have not prepared for the future when it comes to business writing.
8. How could you convince someone starting out in a non-writing field that
they will need to be prepared for gaining business communication skills?
I would simply share my story and tell how learning to write has helped me throughout my career. For someone like myself that spent most of his years working out in the field, writing was not a big deal. I never gave it much thought that someday I would need business writing skills. I am convinced that you must have good writing skills to advance in life. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take those writing classes earlier, before I got promoted into management.
Thank you, Iggy, for sharing your story with us. I know there are many other stories out there just like yours. If any of you have a similar “Iggy” story to share, please do so. I think sometimes as writers we take for granted that this is something we can do and don’t really put much thought into it.
But more and more, writing is a major part of nearly any job, especially as that job advances into a managerial capacity. To stay competitive, employees need to know how to write. Often, companies won’t do much to help these employees, so they are forced to do what Iggy did and take it upon themselves to get the necessary training.
I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and ideas that may help others in this area.