RE: Technical Writing, QA, and Training

Subject: RE: Technical Writing, QA, and Training
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:56:20 -0500

Mark (and fellow Techwhirlers)

Let me begin by saying that I strongly believe that documentation is part of
product development, and that is the best place for writers to sit in the
org chart.

That said, let me also comment on the issue at hand.

A few years ago I was with a pretty small startup and had the opportunity to
do writing (which I love) as well as stand-up product training for customers
and internal people (which I also love). It was one of the most eye-opening
experiences of my life, and I would not trade it for anything. I had the
opportunity to write all the docs for a new product release, and then turn
around and teach it. The response I got in the classroom - the analogies
people got and didn't get, the questions they had, the "hard parts" they
didn't get easily - all helped me to tremendously improve the documentation.
I was able to use the analogies people actually got (as opposed to the ones
I *thought* they would get), I was better able to identify they areas of the
product that they found most difficult to assimilate, and to use the
questions they asked to explain them, and generally use the more complete
understanding of who my audience was to better angle the books toward them.

Of course, if they are going to do this to you, Mark, you need to ensure
that they hire an additional tech writer or two so that they can pick up the
slack generated by the time "lost" in teaching.

I guess this is yet another example of attitude being an important
characteristic. If you look at this as an opportunity to get a better
understanding of your audience, as a chance to spend some real time with
them talking about the products you document, you will learn how to
communicate better with them. If you look on it as a chore, you will not be
effective as a teacher, and will miss the opportunity to (perhaps, no
judgment intended) improve your documentation.

My 2¢,


John Garison
Documentation Manager
150 Baker Avenue Extension
Concord, MA 01742

Voice: 978-402-2907
Fax: 978-318-9376

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark -dot- Eichelberger -at- Aftech -dot- Fiserv -dot- com
[mailto:Mark -dot- Eichelberger -at- Aftech -dot- Fiserv -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2001 2:30 PM
Subject: Technical Writing, QA, and Training

Folks, I am in the middle of a political battle here at my organization and
I would like to get some information from others in the field.

The Technical Writing staff (myself and 2 other individuals) in my
organization (a developer of financial software with approximately 110
employees) had its roots in the Customer Support department and was
developed by the manager of this department. When a position as Manager of
Training became available, this manager took that position and brought the
Technical Writing department with her. In addition to managing the TW
staff, she now managed a staff of trainers offering inhouse training to
internal and external clients This manager now reported to the Director of
Training and Installation. This move took place around 2 years ago and
since this time, the relationship between this manager and the Director of
Training and Installation has deteriorated to the point that the manager has
decided to take a position at another organization.

One of the many factors in the souring of the relationship was the Director
of Training and Installation's desire for the Technical Writers to
periodically take on additional roles of trainers if the need arose. Since
2 out of the 3 Tech Writers in the department have training backgrounds, the
Director felt they were a resource that could be used by the training staff.
Both the Technical Writers and the Manager of Training have strongly
resisted this. Of course, now that Manager of Training has resigned, the
technical writers fear that the Director will hire a manager more in line
with his philosophy and the result is that we will be forced to take on
training assignments.

While the obvious first reaction we are experiencing is to begin to look for
alternate "career opportunities", I have some questions for the list
members. Do any Technical Writers on the list have experience in both
training and technical writing and are they called upon to perform both
roles? If so, have you developed any strategies to make it work? Has it
been very difficult to handle the responsibilities of both roles?

One last point...During the course of documenting products, we often work
with our Product Development and Quality Assurance department in the
development of functional specifications and testing of software. This
relationship has developed over the past 2 years and we would really like to
see the Technical Writing staff become part of this department (and split
off from Training). How many Technical Writers on the list currently have
an organizational structure where Technical Writing is a part of Quality

Thanks in advance!
Mark Eichelberger
Technical Writer
Mark -dot- Eichelberger -at- Aftech -dot- Fiserv -dot- com
610 993 8000 x534


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