Re: New Hires

Subject: Re: New Hires
From: edunn -at- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: Ron Rhodes <RRhodes -at- fourthchannel -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 11:25:41 -0500

Sorry but I couldn't leave this one alone. While some of what was said by Ron
Rhodes is valuable, particularly the part about confidence, I take exception to
a couple of statements. I skipped a number of posts in the thread, but on the
basis that we are talking about new hires:

"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."

A good working knowledge is more than adequate for Microsoft Office. Indeed a
good working knowledge in as many products as you can get your hands on improves
your marketability. I would argue that powerpoint, access, and excel are less
than important. Powerpoint can be picked up by anyone in an afternoon and unless
you are doing database or spreadsheet design access and excel aren't necessarily
needed. Mastery of these programs is needed by only a few.
Also, while many use word, many do not. I've been Techwriting 5 years and have
used Word less than a dozen times for nothing more than memos.

"These technical skills should include authoring tools like RoboHelp,
Authorware, Photoshop and other similar products"

These are not technical skills. These are more software use skills. As with the
previous point, a working knowledge with the maximum of software packages and
tools is a great benefit. But beware placing any tool as more important than
another. The important thing is to be able to learn a new tool as required.

"a good knowledge of creating HTML pages from scratch (that means right from
WordPad) -- and, now, XML is the hot thing"

What?!? While some may need to know HTML creation, I have to question the need
for "from scratch" knowledge. Also, understanding XML may help, but if you're
just going to be filling in information and not creating DTD's or implementing
the XML instance only a cursory understanding is required. Heck, unless you are
in charge of the web page only a cursory understanding of anything related to
HTML is needed.

"having good mastery of theory is important"

Absolutely. If we are talking about language and communication.

"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 "

Rubbish. This assumes the writer is going to be in the software industry (a
common assumption on this list unfortunately) and that they will be documenting
at the language and network level. There are other industries out there you
know! Even then, if the writer is going to document software for a user manual
no programming or networking knowledge is absolutely required. That depends
entirely on the software in question.

"I hope I haven't turned your four-year undergrad program into a six-year
masters degree."

You've turned it into an eight year doctorate with 10 years job experience I'm
afraid. You will also have a writer that was focused on one industry only and
limiting the possible career choices.

Limit the requirements to confidence, familiarity with computer tools, an
enquiring mind, and a command of language and communication. Any courses given
to technical writers should stress these points.

Eric L. Dunn

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