Re: Not Technical Enough

Subject: Re: Not Technical Enough
From: Eric Ray <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2000 10:37:55 -0600


[Megabytes of blather about technical backgrounds, degrees,
inferiority complexes, and perceived inadequacies snipped.]

You know, this discussion (every time it comes up) grows rather
tiresome ... all the more so because it's so pointless.

If you can and will learn, understand the technical stuff,
get along, and write well, you're set. If not, your days
as a technical writer are numbered--or destined to be
underappreciated and underpaid.

Let me assure you (the global, general, generic, whoever might be
reading this "you") that, if you're really as good as you think you
are (or, better, have a John Posada-like attitude), you can write
your own ticket in this market. For that to happen, though, you need
to:
* "get it" technically
* get along with people
* write well
You must have all three, but it doesn't matter if you have three
degrees or one (although it's hard to get a foot in the door without
at least one).

If that describes you, but you find that you're in one of those
"they think I'm a lame-o mere writer" environments, either change
the environment (sometimes possible) or leave (certainly possible
in this market).

It's a fact that greater technical skills will give you more leverage,
but anything you know or can learn will help. It doesn't matter
how you learn it or where it comes from. (For a more extended
take on my impressions of the virtues of being a _technical_
writer, see: http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/techiewriter.html )

At any rate, if you've got the stuff, it's possible to work as a technical
writer in environments where:
technical writers are full members of their teams
technical writers get stock options
technical writers get paid fairly, even compared to programmers
technical writers get bonuses
technical writers get respect
technical writers get training
technical writers get the tools they need to work effectively
technical writers have degrees in everything from English lit to
classics to German to electrical engineering to chemistry
to computer science to I don't know what.
Yes, there are probably some technical writers in this environment who
can't hack it--but I haven't met them yet, and I can't see that
the degree(s) they earned will have any bearing on their ability.
And, yes, I'm speaking from experience, because this is the environment
in which I work.

Anyone who claims that a degree is _the_ or even _a_significant_
predictor of writing ability, technical skill, or technical writing
success is either writing based on very idiosyncratic or limited
experience, or trying to push an agenda that has little bearing
on reality or rational thought.

Eric




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