Search for an Assistant Editor
It became apparent to me about two years ago that TMP had grown to the point that it was no longer a one-man operation – I was working longer and longer hours, despite cutting back more and more on some of my favorite parts of the website.
Unfortunately, it was also evident that TMP was not profitable enough for me to hire a second employee – at least, not in the conventional sense of a full-time employee based here with me in New York.
Since I have many family members in the Philippines, I initially had some hopes of recruiting some of them to work for me. Unfortunately, there wasn't a good skills match, and I had difficulty explaining the opportunity to them.
Based on further research, I decided to try hiring someone from tech-savvy Thailand, and ran notices on select websites there. Through the experience, I gained a great interest in Thai culture... but my hiring efforts were unsuccessful. (Most of the people who responded to my jobs were expatriate Americans who wanted to be paid at U.S. rates!)
A Candidate is Found
As the months passed, my thoughts on hiring qualifications changed. My first goal was to hire someone to take the Hobby News load off my shoulders, and my original thinking was to hire someone with a degree in English or Journalism – and my research indicated I could hire them at a rate I could afford. Eventually, however, it dawned on me that it was more important to find the right person than it was to find the right skill set, as skills can always be taught. I also realized that most of the work involved formatting the stories – inserting the right codes, a quirky mix of art and science – rather than what would be traditionally be considered editing.
I had almost given up hope of hiring someone, when I decided one day to give it one more try – and stumbled upon Julia Anopa's website listing. I corresponded with her initially by email, and finally I did a job interview with her through videochat (a totally new experience for a Luddite like me – she had to teach me how to set it up!). She impressed me as being intelligent, resourceful, ambitious, tech-savvy, funny, and dedicated – and she had the sort of unorthodox, independent spirit that would fit in well with the TMP community. So I negotiated a deal to bring her on-board as Assistant Editor (technically, she's a subcontractor, not an employee).
While the details of Julia's compensation package are private, I want to emphasize that while I'm paying her less than an American-based worker, she is well paid by local standards – Julia is not being "exploited" in any sense.
Julia turned out to be based in the Philippines, though in a different area than my family members. She had internet access through her iPad (a cellphone-type connection, I believe) and through local internet cafes, but that wasn't good enough for remote working. So she had to upgrade to internet access via cable, and it took weeks for the local agents to process the request and get everything installed.
I also discovered that the website security system needed a minor upgrade to allow someone else to fully access the admin pages... and while I was updating the code, I caused a few bugs (but enough said about that!).
The Training Process
Finally, the training could begin! Thanks to Skype, we could videochat from my home office to her home office. Julia had worked the night shift at her previous job, and volunteered to match my schedule as much as possible while being trained. Therefore, her typical training session began at 8PM in the Philippines, and lasted anywhere from midnight to 3AM, depending on how long she wanted to go! (She also has tasks she can work on independently during the daytime.)
Julia first had to learn the basic HTML and custom TMP formatting tags. I would explain the concepts using Skype – both in video, and via texting – and then she could practice them within the admin environment on TMP to get hands-on experience. I found this to be a novel experience, as though I've worked with many different team members in jobs over the years, the videochat interface is new to me – I can't remember ever being face-to-face with a co-worker for so much of the working day. (And I can no longer show up for work in my underwear!)
Though she's tech-savvy, Julia had no previous coding experience, but picked up the basic knowledge quickly. What surprised me is that I expected her to pick up the formatting more easily than the English-editing, as though she's quite fluent in spoken English and possesses a large vocabulary, she has little formal training in English, and like many of those her age, not as much experience with writing (versus texting!). However, she has shown an amazing aptitude for spotting "bad English," as well as an enthusiasm for learning the rules of English grammar and style.
Training rapidly progressed to the point where Julia was assigning priorities to incoming news stories and doing the initial edits, then asking me to look over her work. Meanwhile, I kept finding new things I'd forgotten to tell her about (i.e., how to format Euro currencies, when to code a company link, how to fix it when the server breaks a link ). So then she would make another edit, and I would inspect it again, and when it was right, she could hit the Submit for Approval button.
We're about two weeks into the training process now. Julia's 'mousing arm' has gone sore, so her quest this weekend is to improve the ergonomics of her office. She has many fewer questions now, so I can work on other tasks until she needs me. She's often confident enough in her own work that she'll submit a story for approval without asking me to look it over first, and I'm running out of things to teach her. She also doesn't work until 3AM any more!
I've promised Julia that once she masters Hobby News – which, frankly, can be rather boring (the editing, that is!) – I'll let her also do some 'fun' tasks. She is quite excited about becoming a miniature gamer. (Her previous experience, besides Warcraft, has been limited to poker – she doesn't even have much of a boardgaming background.) Fortunately, several publishers have already offered her rulesets, and I have some armies I can ship to her. Julia also dreams of being a TMP correspondent to wargaming shows around the world (is that in the budget?). As she dives into the hobby, she will be reporting her adventures as articles here on TMP.