What A Difference A Year Makes :)

One year ago yesterday was my last day at Apple. I worked as the “Lead Editor” in the Developer Publications (DevPubs) group for a grand total of 495 days. The time I spent at Apple was—without a doubt—the worst experience in my career.

Flash back to April 2, 2013. I confided in a friend (and former author of mine) about how I needed to get out of there before the job killed me. DevPubs was soul-crushing. Only a few of the writers actually cared about the work, let alone the audience they were writing for (Mac and iOS developers). He mentioned that Ken Case at The Omni Group had posted a Tweet saying they were looking for a writer to join their team in Seattle. I had known Ken and a couple of the engineers at Omni for a few years, but only peripherally, so I decided to give this a shot.

I went back to my office, grabbed my iPhone, went outside and sat on the stoop, and sent Ken the following email:

Hi Ken,

I’m wondering if this position is still open. If so, I would like to apply and can send over my résumé later today.

Chuck

A little over an hour later, Ken replied:

Chuck,

Yes, it’s still open. We look forward to receiving your application!

Ken

I went home that night, updated my résumé, and submitted it through the normal channels.

A week or so later, I was invited up to Seattle to interview for the Documentation Wrangler position. To prep for the interview, I read all of Omni’s documentation. PDFs were available online, so I snagged and read through them, making notes here and there about what I liked or would do differently given the chance. I read through their support articles and went into the forums to see not just the comments from customers, but how Omni’s incredibly dedicated and thoughtful Support Humans responded. I was impressed.

I had two rounds of interviews that morning. Most of my career has been as an editor—magazines, books, online magazines, Apple’s developer docs—and while I have written a few books and articles on the side, this was the first writing job I had ever applied for. I was nervous as hell.

I thought the interviews went well, and they asked a lot of tough questions, including “Why do you want to be a writer? Why now?”, which I feared would come up at some point. I mean, hell, I’m pushing 50. I’d ask that, too. But the best part about the interview the back and forth I had with their sole Documentation Wrangler, David. The man had ideas. Ideas that sung to me. Things we both wanted to do. It was like the Power Twins meeting after they were separated at birth. Except, well, I’m older. Much older. Probably crankier. Definitely.

Now, mind you, about 18 months earlier I had been through interviews at Apple. There was a lot of talk about what they wanted to do, or things I would like to do. There was a lot of nodding and “Yes, we need that here” type of comments. It was encouraging. I felt I belonged there. A lot of my friends and former authors thought I belonged there, too.

The rug kept getting pulled out from under me at Apple, and the writer’s attitudes were appalling. I actually had one writer say to me that all an editor did was check punctuation and look for typos. Maybe that’s what he expected, but I tore his subpar work apart. He complained to his writing manager. I got my ass handed to me for being harsh and critical. Sorry, but in my opinion as a professional editor, this person wasn’t qualified to be a technical reviewer of some of the books I edited for O’Reilly and Pearson, let alone as a documentation writer for material that was going to be used by a worldwide audience of developers.

After 495 days of stuff like that (okay, more like 435, if you account for April and May last year), I’d had enough. The final straw came during a lunch meeting with my manager. As always, he fumbled through the lunchtime conversation; never able to get to the point. And, as he had during a few previous lunch meetings, he said “We still don’t know what to do with you.” I was pissed. I remember walking out of that lunch thinking, “Well, I sure as hell do.”

I discovered the job at The Omni Group less than a week later and applied after talking with Colleen about it. We had moved from Boston to Sunnyvale for my job at Apple, far away from all of her family and friends. A New Englander through and through, I feared that she wouldn’t be interested in a move to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Colleen, who is also a writer, told me to apply for the job at Omni. She had only been up to Seattle once before to visit her brother Daniel (who now lives in Boston), so this whole area was a strange new frontier for her, but after a year-and-a-half in Silicon Valley, she was as ready as me to get out of there.

My time so far at The Omni Group has been nothing less than amazing. I feel very fortunate and honored to work alongside such dedicated people who care about every last detail of their work. People as picky as me. I like that. And the stuff we talked about wanting to do during my interviews? Yeah, so far we’ve done all of that, and we’re already making plans for ways to improve our documentation in the future. I love this place!

Thank you, Omni, for restoring my faith in a humane workplace where people can get along and accomplish anything. And as I approach my one-year Omniversary, I can’t help but think, “What a difference a year makes.”