Reminiscing of Production Days

Printer/Copy Room on Flickr (user: camknows)

The fanciest way to describe what I did at my first job was work in a production environment. My InDesign instructor, who is a real production manager at ICBC,  emphasized how good it looks on a resume to say you worked in “production” if your job had some aspect of it. At my first workplace, we killed so many trees but we were surrounded by cool and fast printers and copiers, a clattering paper-folding machine, punching and binding machines, and an impressive shelf array of paper types, sizes, and other finishing necessities. Even if I was bored to tears by the content of the reports, it was satisfying to put a particularly crisp one together with a glossy photo cover.

The company didn’t prefer to make it sound so nice and marketable for the staff’s future. My job title was somewhat ridiculous: “Word Processor”, not to be confused with being a copy of Microsoft Word. At the time, I wished I was an admin assistant. I wished I was a “Document Editor” but given how little say I had on the content, it was a stretch (on the assumption I couldn’t possibly contribute to an engineering report). You could work up the ranks as a “word processor” but its ultimate categorization in the administrative sphere was “data entry”. I guess “Data Entry Clerk” was the worst title and I was saved from that.

Recently, I got to work on a few big communications-type projects and it brought back, thankfully, only the better memories of my first job.

  • My background is put directly to use when I edit text scientific writing: I was in science long enough to appreciate scientific aesthetics, capitalization of proteins (often, no!), diseases (depends); and I’m so sensitive to how jarring and ignorant errors look but acknowledge the balance required for “marketing”.
  • I enjoy working on my own CV, and other people’s, apparently. I am so delighted to have described myself or someone else entirely factually and chronologically accurately.
  • I can be compulsive when it comes to credentials and institution/departments naming; I think it comes from being affiliated at some point in my life to two contrarily named biochem departments: at Dalhousie I was in the “Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology” (BMB?) while my short stint at Simon Fraser was with the “Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry” with the widely-used acronym MBB. Don’t get them wrong!
  • Working with an amateurish, but strictly adhered-to style guide at the first job, I’m happy to have one that I also care much more about the contents.
  • That first job did teach me a lot about MS Word that I’m a capable troubleshooter, like the time there was a phantom/magical page break and I resolved it under Paragraph, Orphan/Keep With Next settings; with the constant deadlines of a consulting engineering firm, I can wend my way around Word really quickly, despite using it on a Mac these days.
  • That job conveyed to me some best practices of documentation to give some “industry tips” that are fun to use where no one would expect them.
  • I’ve always been particular about naming things (most notoriously discussing with a friend how best to name our vast MP3 and photo collections) and I saw it in practical use when reports had a gazillion sections and numerous appendices. My InDesign instructor also emphasized more than one about a naming convention being his lifeline on more than one occasion.

So, it’s been long enough ago that I can look back on the “production job” with a hazy, non-bitter glow. It was a stepping stone to the future and the better parts include teaching me principles of the trade that makes me feel “trained”.

On this day..