Modifying Expectations

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Introduction

If you haven’t read my previous posts – Hi! I’m Virginia and I’m a documentation Intern for LibreHealth EHR. I got this internship through Outreachy, an amazing organization which provides 3-month paid internships to people from underrepresented minorities all around the world. You can read about how I got this amazing opportunity here, and the struggles I’ve faced though my adaptation period here. My last blog post was about what I’ve learned so far during my internship, and this week I’m going to discuss a somewhat related topic and that is expectations.

In my opinion, this is applicable to every project you work on with other people, or even on your own if the project is too complex or has too many variables. That doesn’t mean you should set high expectations for yourself, but prepare for the possibility that you will not accomplish all your goals in an orderly manner. Things can happen, for instance, other people might get stuck with their work and your work is dependent on theirs. For this, it is important to keep a flexible mindset and switch to other tasks so you’re not idle or feel like you’re wasting your time.

The timeline

At the beginning of my internship, I worked together with my wonderful mentors Toni and Harley to create a list of goals that we wanted to accomplish throughout these three months. The initial timeline we submitted to Outreachy was this:

“Improve existing documentation and create missing documentation in English, Spanish and possibly German if time allows.
Continue working with the LibreHealth EHR documentation to include the individual tutorials and the EHR activities such as Adding a new Patient, Working with the Calendar and Flowboard, The Patient Portal Registration Process, Using the EHR Prescription module, and Creating a Patient Encounter from beginning to end. Create the Administrator User Manual in English, Spanish and possibly German if time allows.”

I remember being particularly worried about the German part of it, because I am still not fluent in German. When I applied, I translated only one short guide to German and it took me about a week to finish it. Also, I needed to bug my German friends to help me proofread and correct them.

With regards to the rest of the tasks, I didn’t really know what to expect since I wasn’t aware of how many of these docs already existed and how many I would have to create from scratch.

Thankfully, my mentor Toni was extremely reassuring so I didn’t get too anxious or overwhelmed about not being able to complete all the tasks. And I have to say, so far I’m very happy with the results, all things considered.

Accomplishments

I have mainly been working on the Administrator docs, since I had already translated the User guide and other user-oriented docs during my application. I have written and translated new docs, and improved and translated existing docs. So far, I have only been working in English and Spanish, so I am still worried about the German translations, but I am still happy with my progress.

I am also working on fixing the translations of the labels in the app, which was a big problem in my opinion and it will finally be fixed. I am very happy about this.

I feel satisfied that I am meeting the goals we set at the beginning of the internship, and a lot of that has to do precisely with being flexible: I have encountered some technical issues that have forced me to leave some projects hanging and refocus on another task.

Challenges

The reason why we have had to refocus on different tasks and maybe not reaching all the goals we had set at the beginning is that some of the Admin docs are taking longer than expected. The main reason is that the stable demo app was taken down right before starting the internship, and when a non-stable version of it was put back up, a portion of the functionality that I have to document was broken, and therefore I cannot go through the workflow until one of the devs fixes it.

I have learned to live with this, since it is completely out of my control, and employ my time in other tasks. This sadly means that a big part of my work is unfinished, but at least the next intern will have something to work upon.

I feel that all in all I would do the same if I started over. I have a problem sitting still and being idle, so reevaluating expectations and goals is something I routinely do in my everyday life.

New goals

This sometimes leads to great things. For example, while waiting for something to be fixed I was looking for something to do, and I came across the contribution guidelines for the project. These guidelines were published some time ago and need improvement. They also contain a link to a Style Guide that does not exist, which is something I think documentation interns would greatly benefit from. I discussed it with my mentor and she agreed, so one of our new, unexpected goals is to at least outline the style guide, and hopefully write it and publish it.


One of my main goals for the second half of the internship, besides the style guide, is to finish the Admin docs and at least outline the Admin User Guide.

Conclusion

It’s unrealistic to believe that a timeline can be followed to a T, but that does not mean you shouldn’t set specific goals for yourself. The timeline has served as a roadmap, and although the progress hasn’t been exactly what I expected, it has still been great.

In my case, the reasons for modifying expectations have been varied: having to learn workflows and pick up new skills or improve existing ones, technical difficulties, external circumstances. Regardless of why sometimes we have to change our expectations, the most important thing is to be flexible and adapt to changes as quickly as possible in order to stay productive.

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