RE: New Hires

Subject: RE: New Hires
From: Kevin McLauchlan <KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 16:47:08 -0500

Debbie Packer agreed with Mark Baker, writing:

> Mark Baker wrote:
> > In any case, if a technical writing candidate asks for tool
> > training it is a sure sign they don't have what it takes to
> > be a technical writer. If you can't figure out how to work
> > a software package by yourself, how will you ever learn
> > about the new products you will be documenting? There won't be
> > any manuals or training available until you write them!
> This is the best thing I've heard yet! If someone doesn't have
> the ability to learn a software package on their own, I don't
> think they have any business attempting to document other
> software packages.

Oh crap. My monumental inadequacies are exposed and
I might as well resign before I'm fired.
There I was, a little over a year ago, meeting FrameMaker,
after having used lesser tools for years. Even WITH the
manual and the online [un]Help, I didn't manage to make
myself a Frame expert in a week-and-a-half. There. It's

I'm SO ashamed! I abase myself before you all, as I admit
that I ran unashamedly (little did I know...) to the
FrameUser forum and pleaded for assistance and explanation
on more than one occasion. My remorse is profound, yet
insufficient as I reveal that I would have shamelessly
sought a training course if I hadn't been too pressed for
time in the new job. IMPOSTER! DABBLER! Oh, I whip
myself. I call to the dry-cleaners for the speedy return
of my hair shirt. I poke push-pins under my fingernails...
Moan!..... expiation eludes me...

Well, I might as well go ALL the way and admit that
TO THIS DATE (oh! the shame! oh, the ingnominy of it all)
I'm still not a FrameMaker master. Imagine if I hadn't
had the books! I'd likely NEVER have managed to
reverse-engineer the binaries... not without a class or
two. My manifest inadequacy is a remorseless weight,
grinding my worthless imposture into the dust.

At this point, it would be redundant to reveal that I
STILL haven't figured out how to produce a polished,
pleasing, perspective illustration in Visio. Sigh!
This [exquisitely deserved] self-flagellation has left
me emotionally drained. There's nowhere to turn. I
must do the honorable thing and fall on my sword.

But wait! Perhaps I don't need to give back my last
year-and-a-half's salary. My employer has somehow
convinced himself (as have our customers) that I have
learned enough about our hardware and software to
tell other people how to set it up, use it, develop
apps around it. How can this be? In fact, he just
recently hinted he'd pay for me to take an advanced
Frame course.

Could it be that a person can bring value to the job
without the ability to instantly master tools
unassisted? Could it be that there's merit in the
concept of NOT re-inventing the wheel?... of quickly,
efficiently learning from people who have been there
first and who have plucked the arrows from their
backsides, and who specialize in filtering, gleaning,
and then imparting concise real-world knowledge of
arcane apps?

Nah. That's just the meds talking. Where's that sword?

Hmph. Bit my tongue. Shouldn'a had it stuffed
so far into my cheek. Y'all are gonna withdraw all
those job offers, now, arent'cha? If it weren't for
those darned meds, I wouldn'a pressed the "Send" button.

Um, yes I think a good and capable technical writer
can still benefit from a well-timed, well-designed
and well-presented training course on any new-to-him
(or her) tool. I even know some competent TWs who
have benefited from advanced training in the tools
they've used for years. Not everybody learns tools
from-scratch (in the midst of performing the daily
chores of their employment) better and more
efficiently than they can be taught by professionals.

Caveat: I've taken dozens of courses and seminars
in my working life, and I'd estimate that no more
than two of them were ever really timely. Either
I learned about something that didn't come on-line
until a year after I forgot everything, or (more
usually) I attended a beginner course that bored
me to tears, four months after I'd begun using a
tool -- only so I could qualify for the intermediate
or advanced course... in which I then learned lots
of things I'd never use...

Still, I've had some good ones and benefited
enormously from them. I daresay I'm not unique in
that. And my lovely and talented employer continues
to pay me to be a Tech Writer.



kmclauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com

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