3 Lessons I Learned by Failing My First Big Task at Work
Everything was going great for me at my new job.
Until I failed my first big task.
Well, I didn’t exactly fail. But unless Thanksgiving was moved to December 25th this year, something BIG went wrong with the holiday marketing calendar I created for business owners.
It might have been okay if I had realized this “small” slip-up before anyone else but, sadly, this wasn’t the case. I only noticed while I sat with the Content Director to show off my work from the past few weeks. Together, we opened the calendar and “Happy Thanksgiving” was staring us dead in the eye—on the 25th of December.
It was immediately clear that a mistake had been made when my content was moved to design. And apparently, I’d missed it. I replayed in my mind how this could have happened. Meanwhile, the director sitting beside me frantically took screenshots accentuated with red arrows to point out other errors. There were many.
We were both in a state of shock and disbelief. Before I knew what to do next, she was on the phone with my manager asking, “What the heck happened?”
Here are 3 lessons that I learned from this experience, so you don’t make the same mistake:
01. It’s easy to fumble the handoff
I learned very quickly that absolutely anything can happen when there are many moving parts, especially when you work in a company with thousands of employees around the world collaborating on hundreds of products at any given moment.
Writing your content is only the beginning of a long process. The next step—no less important—is to make sure that text is uploaded correctly and appears as intended when it goes live, whether it’s for a website, newsletter, video or ad campaign.
When something embarrassing like this happens, it’s crucial to figure out what went wrong, fix the mistakes and move on to the next task with confidence. It wasn’t my writing that needed improvement, but the process from moving it to the live site. Next time, I’ll make sure the handoff is much more smooth by explaining everything (in detail) to the design team. I’ll also be more involved with uploading the content, and I’ll request mockups along the way to check the progress. But most importantly, I’ll take more time to proofread my content and make sure it’s flawless.
02. Not everyone reads text
This experience showed me, loud and clear, that not everyone reads the text they’re working on. Designers and project managers may finish “their” part of their work and send it off to the next step without ever reading the content. On top of that, most of my colleagues are non-native English speakers, making my expertise as a writer and native speaker that much more crucial. While the text is the single most important thing in my mind as a writer, the truth is that not everyone notices the text or can understand what needs to be said.
The infamous Christmas error passed the eyeballs of dozens of people on the way to being posted on the live site. But no one caught it. The only way this can happen is if no one actually reads the text that is written there. While others were focused on getting the site’s design and functionality just right, the content was pushed aside and only considered as an afterthought.
The lesson? It was on me, as the content writer, to follow up on everything, and to be more vigilant and assertive about asking to review live content.
03. Make sure there is a final QA check
This one may seem obvious, but there are a variety of mistakes that can be found in a thorough QA check, and every tiny, new change to a website can bring new errors.
During rounds of QA for this task, I found spelling errors, misplaced text, broken links and images with conflicting messages. But even after all my checks, last-minute design decisions were made without my knowledge, which resulted in content being cut or placed under incorrect headers.
In the end, I never even saw the final product and these mistakes slipped far too easily through the cracks.
Learning the Process
My manager encourages me to take risks and never be afraid to fail. In fact, taking risks is a big part of the culture here. Our CMO, Omer Shai, always says, “Avoiding mistakes costs more than making them.” But I’m not sure this is what he had in mind.
This was a great learning experience for me and shows me the importance of process, and that my job is only starting when I write the text. There are simply too many things that can happen when uploading content from a document to a website with so many different components.
Typos can happen anytime and links can be added incorrectly. Text can break on the page in an unexpected place. Words get cut off at random or appear strange on different devices.
In this case, there was a simple problem with the uploading process. Luckily, this meant that I was able to quickly fix the mistakes on the live site. Plus, I took the opportunity to make the rest of my content even better.
I learned the hard way that it’s never fun to make a mistake and next time I’ll keep a closer eye on the uploading process. I’ll vigilantly track design progress and follow up with the designers and project manager to make sure everything is on the right track.
Still, mistakes can happen at any moment. So sometimes when you mess up, you just have to sit back, have a laugh and wish everyone a “Merry Thanksgiving.”
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Jeremy Hoover, Marketing Writer at Wix