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This a great post. Here are my two-pennies, for what they are worth.
Before I talk about the gadgets and whiz-bangs. Let me say that knowing how
to write well is invaluable. And having the confidence to defend your
writing decisions is even more valuable. All tech-writers get bosses who
are not tech-writers themselves and they try to force their uneducated
viewpoints on a very polished - highly skilled writer. Good confidence and
persuasion skills are things I sometimes lack, and I always wish I had more
Also, be sure that your students have a good working knowledge of all the
products in Microsoft Office. Complete mastery of MS Word is an absolute
must! But knowing PowerPoint, Access, and Excel are equally critical.
More technical savvy is a plus for any young skipper. In fact, for many of
us who have been in the biz for a while, these technically savvy "young-uns"
are actually a little intimidating. These technical skills should include
authoring tools like RoboHelp, Authorware, Photoshop and other similar
Also a good knowledge of creating HTML pages from scratch (that means right
from WordPad) -- and, now, XML is the hot thing. Also, having good mastery
of theory is important, too. It's one thing to know Authorware, a powerful
CBT (computer-based training) authoring tool. But it's quite another to
know what make CBT "good" or "bad."
But technical skills should also extend to the programming and networking
arena, too. At least on the cursory level, if not more. Knowing a little
about object-oriented programming is very helpful, C++, Java, etc. Also,
knowing a little about local area networks is helpful, too. Microsoft NT
especially, but Novell still has a few strongholds in some major companies
(and I hear is making a comeback -- but is only rumor).
I hope I haven't turned your four-year undergrad program into a six-year
Sorry for rambling. Hoping this message finds you well. May God bless you
and keep you.
Lead Technical Writer, fourthchannel, inc.