Technical writing, QA, and training?

Subject: Technical writing, QA, and training?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:56:50 -0500

Mark Eichelbergeris reports" <<The Technical Writing staff (myself and 2
other individuals) in my organization ... 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>>

On the whole, this sounds like an excellent place to be: the "department" is
an important one, and you get easy access to your audience via the trainers.

<<This manager now reported to the Director of Training... 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 [leave]... 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.>>

Apart from the soured relationship, it sounds good so far. Among other
things, there's no better way to find out how well you understand the
material (and how well you can explain it to the users) than trying to train
your clients. Of course, that can be a lot of extra work, and if the
relationships are bad...

<<Both the Technical Writers and the Manager of Training have strongly
resisted this.>>

The thing you've left unsaid is ***why*** you resist this. As someone who
loves keeping a finger in every pie, it sounds like an ideal situation
(minus the sour relationships), but obviously you're not happy with it--it's
just not clear why. The answer to that question might give us more to work
with in providing advice.

<<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?>>

Yes, yes, and no. I don't do a lot of classroom training, but every now and
then I'm called on to do so (most recently, to teach online editing to our
writers). I do _a lot_ of informal training in ongoing relationships with my
authors, and it's a great relationship builder. Because training's not a
major part of my job, I don't have much trouble balancing the two roles.

<<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).>>

Since it's not clear to me what you dislike about the training group, it's
hard to see what the advantage of being part of QA would offer other than a
new manager. Besides, if you've got a good relationship with them, why
jeopardize it by moving in with them? <g>

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"How are SF writers like technical writers? Well, we both write about the
things we imagine will happen in the future!"--Sue Gallagher


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