RE: On degrees and the like...

Subject: RE: On degrees and the like...
From: "Brierley, Sean" <Sean -at- Quodata -dot- Com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 13:52:21 -0500


Eric, yes. <g>

Here are some of my, perhaps unfocused, thoughts on this matter:

I targeted technical writing while in my last two years at university.
Specifically, I intended to head into medical writing but never got there. I
ended up writing for computer software and hardware, instead. My BA is in
English, with a minor in biology. While finishing my last two years of
school, I applied for, and won, a technical writing internship (that paid!).
In addition to being able to think, I came away from college with two year's
on-the-job experience, including MS Word, FrameMaker 3, DOS, Mac, UNIX, and
several Aldus and Adobe graphics tools . . . plus . . ..

What do I think of tool-training versus academia versus STC? Well, I much
prefer my authors have a handle on thinking as a first priority. After the
university has taught my author to think--something I generally believe our
secondary schools cannot do--I am more than willing to send my authors to
FrameMaker or Word classes. Methinks it is easier to teach someone, who can
think, how to use a tool than it is to teach someone who cannot think . . .
anything. Thus, to a large degree, a university diploma means a lot to me,
especially for a candidate trying to get a foot in the door.

University training also rounds out a candidate. Many who come to me with a
university education have some programming, philosophy, polysci,
foreign-language, math, engineering, and programming classes, that are handy
for a variety of reasons. Business, marketing, and other classes also bring
valuable concepts and awareness to the table, also. Tool training is easier
to do, more specific, and more short-term than the university-based
education. It seems much easier for the rounded university-taught author to
focus on the tools and experience-specific knowledge than it is for the
tools-only author to gain the well rounded overview and outlook.

I see the STC as a mixed bag. It seems, on this list, that the STC takes
some hits. I perceive the STC publications I receive to be too academic, not
based in the reality of shipping an imperfect--YES, imperfect--product. I am
an STC member. I have never been to a national conference, something that I
probably ought to do, to be fair and open-minded. When I first became a
writer, I attended as many regional meetings as I could. Now I am as
inactive as possible. My experience is with STC authors who pontificate
about redesigning the wheel, changing style guides every time they upgrade
their software, more than they get books written and published. Indeed, I
ran into one officer in an STC chapter, who had years and years of
experience, completely did not understand what a PostScript font was, or
about printing to an offset press, or use of color . . .. Perhaps my
emphasis on such workplace-based knowledge is off-base but it is,
nonetheless, me and my perception. With my current perceptions of the STC, I
would place no weight on an STC certification, viewing it, at best, as a
money-making endeavour for the issuing agency.

Having said those things, there are aspects of the STC that I do appreciate.
I want an STC that considers the workplace and tools, as much as it
considers the academic stuff. I eagerly look for studies on readability,
sure, why a four-inch text column? I want my readers to get more out of my
work. I look for ways to increase productivity. I look for information on
the "coming thing" in technical communication. Job listings are great, for
both the job seeker and employer (although, in my area, I tend to get more
truck drivers and the like than technical authors applying for open writing

So, what do I see. Like Eric, I don't know the answer. There is the
university degree, on-the-job and tool-based training, and the STC. Did I
fall into anything? No, from the classes I chose in university, to my
internship, I stepped very deliberately. When looking for a new author, I
consider educational background and industry experience before specific
tools experience. Others might prefer a different approach . . .. Now, let's
see what I can do about that STC conference in Orlando <vbg>.

sean -at- quodata -dot- com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eric Ray [SMTP:ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com]
> On degrees and the like...

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