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Chuck Martin observed that "...In many companies, a programmer is hired and
does not have to earn any respect at all; he or she is typically already at
that exalted status. Coming in the door, most technical writers are not
presumed to have that equal status or skill level..." To which I would say
rightly so, in many cases. The fact that his technical writing program was
part of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington is a
brilliant exception to the norm.
When a company interviews a computer programmer with a computer science
degree, the company can rightly make a few assumptions about the person's
background. Not so with technical writers. Having just gone through the
process of hiring a technical writer I can safely say that a technical
writing degree is a poor predictor of a candidate's background. I
interviewed candidates with technical writing degrees who possessed no
technical training or aptitude whatsoever.
The lack of respect issue is one that I have battled my entire career, often
because of engineers' bad experiences with technical writers in the past. I
have simply come to accept the fact that I will have to prove myself each
time I begin working with a new group of people. Generally this entails
demonstrating an ability to accurately comprehend the source material and
produce meaningful documents with a minimum of hand holding.