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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Young People in the Office

I've had a crazy busy week. Not only did I pick up some extra freelancing work for the Sun-News, my work is going through a branding change which means that my coworkers and I, in Media Services (handling all branding and marketing), have been going crazy making signs, writing press releases, taking photos, ordering materials, building forms, etc.

It's kind of fun going through all this. Since this is my first "big girl" job, all of my experiences are new and fun. It's neat seeing what a name change will do to a company of our size, and how much stuff there is to do all the time to make the change fluid. In the middle of that, I got to cover a rare radar delivery to the range, which was really interesting and fun to see!

It's hard being so young in such an experienced environment. I work with some of the leading professionals in their fields (radar, telemetry, engineering, programming, etc.) and almost all of them either have their PhD or are working on it. They are highly respected and incredibly smart. In addition, I'm not only one of the youngest people there, I'm also one of the only females in my company that isn't in HR or an Administrative Assistant.

ALSO, I'm young-looking. Really. So young-looking, in fact, that when a HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE-LEVEL tour group came to our facility for a tour and my boss's boss asked me to cover the event for our newsletter or a press release, and I started taking pictures, one of the teachers told me I had to ask permission. She thought I was a high schooler! Not only that, she thought I was a young, 15-16 year old high schooler! I had to tell her, "No, I work here!"

And I got a blank stare. "Here?"

"Uh... I'm a technical writer. I'm 24. I have a college degree."

Then we both laughed because there was nothing else to say. She thought I was 15-16. This does, in some ways, make it difficult to be professional. I'm young and sweet, so I seem even younger than I really am. Don't get me wrong: there are times when I really put my foot down (ESPECIALLY when it comes to deadlines... I can't stand other people making ME miss my deadlines. I will do what it takes to get my work done in time) and I always surprise my coworkers with what my boss calls my "passion and dedication". In fact, he often tells his boss that he will "sic" me on people to get information because as a journalist, I will do whatever it takes to get the story: including standing by someone's desk for 20 minutes until they are done with their task and have a second to talk to me. Or I'll call 25 times and email 15 before visiting 10 times and leaving messages with their admins. I am tenacious!

It's incredible being so young in this environment because I know it won't get harder than this. My first assignment was talking to an engineer about a program he was working on and I literally understood NOT ONE THING about the program because it was all acronyms and highly technical documents... this was not entry level stuff here. This engineer has his PhD and is a nationally-recognized expert in his field. Every word he said sounded like he was speaking another language. I know that wherever I go from here, I will be prepared to handle any type of person and be able to handle myself in any interview. While I still sometimes have to ask stupid questions (well, stupid to them!), I know that you can't pay for this kind of experience!

While it's hard to be taken seriously sometimes (especially when some, not all, but some engineers are octogenarians and think that women are really only good for making coffee and are not 'technically qualified' to edit their precious documents even though I HAVE MORE SENIORITY THAN MY MALE COWORKER), I'm learning more and more with each passing day. And I'm proud of myself for growing as an employee, as a writer, as a technical writer, as a person.

And that's worth the 30 minute drive any day!

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