The Chameleon

Panorama haifa

Image via Wikipedia

After getting my first tech writing job at Tall Tree Systems, I didn’t have to look for other jobs.  They came to me.  Do you remember those days?

As I said in my previous post, I was quite content at Tandem.  They sent me on some interesting business trips, encouraged me to continue picking up new skills by letting me study during company time, and provided facilities for exercise (swimming and an exercise gym) on company grounds.

But, crazy as this must sound to some of you, my husband and I wanted to move back to Israel.  Although I was born and brought up in the USA, I had always wanted to spend time living in another country and was particularly drawn to Israel.

After grad school, I went over there, studied intensive Hebrew, and got a job.  When I met and married an Israeli, I assumed that might lead me to spend more or most of my adult life living over there.  That was okay with me.  I was happy at the time and didn’t think longterm.

However, after several years of living there, the economic pressures brought us to California. We thought that we would just live here for a couple of years, earn enough money to buy a nice apartment over there, and move back.  But the years kept passing, our kids were growing, and we were getting more entrenched in Silicon Valley.

Still, we were torn with nostalgia for the life in Israel and kept looking for opportunities to go back.

An Israeli woman friend that I had worked with at Tymnet was working for a startup, NetManage.  The CEO was Israeli, Zvi Alon.  The company had a large division in Haifa, Israel.

“Come work with me,” she suggested, “It might take some time, but I think we can arrange for you to work in Israel.”

Right away, she assigned me to write documentation for engineering projects that were being done in Haifa. I met some of the key engineers when they came for business trips to Silicon Valley and they also sent me to Haifa for a couple of business trips.

There were other benefits to coming to NetManage that I hadn’t anticipated.


I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie that permeated the company in those early years.  I think there were about 100 employees when I joined in 1994.  It wasn’t as small as Tall Tree—but small enough that the Zvi Alon participated in my entry interview.  The different functional groups (engineering, tech support, sales, etc.) didn’t feel like separate enclaves.  We all were part of the same team. All of us were cheering for the NetManage chameleon–our logo and mascot. We had company-catered lunches every Friday, where new employees were introduced and Zvi gave us pep talks about how well the company was doing.

Human Interface Experts

Back then, Google didn’t exist.  Microsoft Windows offered limited only limited networking capability.  NetManage had developed a TCP/IP stack for Windows that could be used as a basis for networking applications.  They gussied up and enhanced features of pre-existing command line UNIX applications, providing user-friendly interfaces for email,  search tools and more.

Instead of writing for programmers, I was writing for end-users.

In my previous jobs, it had been sufficient that the software would run correctly and reliably.  Now, there was a new dimension.  The company put a high value on having the software be as easy to use as possible.

We technical writers began serving an additional function.  Instead of just explaining how the software worked, we became involved in improving the interface.  That made the work a lot more interesting.

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