RE: "not technical enough" (Here we go again)

Subject: RE: "not technical enough" (Here we go again)
From: Jeff Hanvey <jewahe -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: rebecca rachmany <rebecca -at- COMMERCEMIND -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2000 09:31:03 -0700 (PDT)

rebecca rachmany <rebecca -at- COMMERCEMIND -dot- com> wrote:
> 4. You will have better research skills. (I hate to
> admit it, but it
> is true that the exact
> sciences graduates simply have better
> reasoning, organizational
> and research skills
> than the social sciences and liberal arts
> majors. It has to do
> with training, not intelligence.)

Well, here we go again on the old debate about which
is better, a lit degree or a technical degree. Here's
what I have to say:

1. In the long run, the degree means very little. Most
people shift interests throughout their lives. I mean,
how many times have we heard people on this list
relate how they weren't happy as programmers but love
to write? Or that the lit major wasn't happy writing
so s/he became a programmer? Whatever the case, people

2. We tend to pigeonhole a person based on his/her
degree, when in fact that degree usually represents
one aspect of the person - not the full range of
his/her aptitudes or interests. Why can't a lit person
be good at computers? at math? at business? or

Quite frankly, it is stereotyping to say that all lit
people are technological idiots, that all programmers
are socially inept, that accountants are boring, or
that mathematicians are culturally ignorant. People
develop interests far beyond their jobs and can often
train themselves in widely varying subjects.

<personal testimony moment>
I really take offense at the suggestion that natural
science people have better researching and
organizational skills. I learned both how to research
and how to organize by writing papers, simply because
I had to track down information, interview people, and
explore alternate avenues. Researching skills is not
so much a matter of finding information, but knowing
where to find it and how to apply it.

Moreover, while I was double majoring in math and
English, I found that there is similar logic behind
writing a paper and solving an equation: both are
geared toward a solid conclusion proven with facts.
The fact that literature "facts" are usually
intangible doesn't change that basic logic.
</personal testimony moment>

3. A person generally starts a degree when s/he is
young and hasn't really had a chance to explore the
whole range of his/her interests. As a result, it is
easy for a professor's marketing to convince an
impressionable kid to major in something s/he is good
at but doesn't really like or love. Or maybe s/he is
practical and majors in something s/he can make money
doing. Or maybe s/he just really loves something but
finds it has no real future, so they do something else
as a fall-back. Or maybe that person simply stumbles
upon something s/he's good at.

4. Technical writing is an incredibly varied field
with a lot of niches. The key to happiness and
longevity is finding your niche, developing solid
skills in it, and keeping up with advances, research
and trends therein - whether it is documenting
software, developing training manuals, or writing
policies and procedures.

5. We have long held the belief that skills are not
learned, but a gift of inheritance or a blessing of
some divine entity. As a result, we have this division
in our heads: writers and non-writers, engineers and
non-engineers, geeks and non-geeks.

This attitude is extremely evident in the technical
fields, in which the insiders act as if they know and
understand everything, while those who don't are cow
dung to be avoided at all costs. I guess it's a power

The fact is that making something mysterious and
threatening makes others less receptive, perpetuates
stereotypes, and generally has a negative effect on
the entire situation. Taking the mystery away usually
takes away the threat - and heightens reception and
understanding. I doubt we'll ever be there...

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what degree
you have or what your interests are: do your job, do
it well, and worry about the rest on your lunch break.

Jeff Hanvey

"There is fiction in the space between / The lines on your page of memories
Write it down but it doesn't mean / You're not just telling stories"
-Tracy Chapman, Telling Stories

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