The New Happy Hour: A Books@Work Participant Shares Her Story

The New Happy Hour: A Books@Work Participant Shares Her Story

We are thrilled to feature an interview with the enthusiastic and thoughtful Alison Cochrane for today’s blog post. Alison is a technical writer at Nordson Corporation and a recent Books@Work participant.

Alison, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an Amherstonian (that’s what we call ourselves in our small northeast Ohio town), mom to twin girls, and I put food on the table by working as a technical writer for a global engineering business. Family get-togethers for any and all reasons, my boyfriend, sarcasm and laughter, wine, and sports (both watching and playing) are just a few of my favorite things. Although my dream job has always been a fourth-grade teacher, I received a BA from Heidelberg in Public Relations with a Spanish minor, and following graduation, I immediately went to Baldwin-Wallace for an MBA.

Give us a sense of your job at Nordson. What sort of work do you do day-to-day?

Alison Cochrane_participant

Image: Alison Cochrane

It’s both challenging and rewarding to write technical documents for engineered products and systems when a) I’m not an engineer, and b) I don’t have a very technical background. It’s eye-opening to talk with engineers who design complex products, learn the most intimate details of how it works, and strive to put descriptions and instructions into simpler words. My tasks vary day-to-day, but they generally consist of a combination of the following: developing new and editing existing documentation, working with engineering to best understand a product, collaborating with marketing to understand customer needs, compiling system manuals for application engineering, communicating with our print supplier, and creating illustrations using engineering and design programs.

What sort of things did you talk about? Were there any conversations that really stuck with you?

We are a relatively lean organization, so we’re incredibly immersed in our daily tasks. Having a dedicated hour to not talk about work, our problems or the weather was so refreshing. It was also great to have the professors in our group and interesting to see how each professor had a different take on their role. Some professors had tons of notes and talking points, while others sort of let the conversation flow naturally and chimed in or redirected when necessary. A lot of people interjected stories about their own lives that related to topics we discussed in the book, which I found to be the most valuable part of the program.

Do you think Books@Work has value for participants who aren’t necessarily avid readers?

Absolutely! The last full book I read (outside of Books@Work) was at least two years ago, so I wouldn’t label myself an “avid reader” by any means. It was so interesting for me to hear others talk about what they read and to learn that we didn’t HAVE to have the same opinions about the text, and that there was potential for VARIOUS interpretations. WHOA! (I know this is likely common sense for avid readers, but as a struggler in the book department, this was a revelation.)

Do you think Books@Work would benefit companies in other industries outside the manufacturing world?

Why wouldn’t it? Regardless the field of work, providing an opportunity for employees to collaborate on something other than their daily tasks is a great way to build trust and build effective teams. Could it be that Books@Work is the new happy hour?!

Image: Max Beckmann, Party in Paris, 1931-1947, [Fair Use] via

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Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan is a Development Communications Associate at the Cleveland Orchestra and a part-time member of the Books@Work team. She continues to write posts for our blog.