Subject: Certification
From: "Lurker writer" <lurker_writer -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 07:23:15 -0500

anon said:

<<Why is this unreasonable?>>

Again, as has been said by others, it's only unreasonable because the certification will not impress those you are trying to impress. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following abridged reasons from a book in progress:

--The general belief in development/engineering that "anyone can do technical writing." Yes, it's still a rampant misconception because when Cisco goes to $1.50 a share, the people left doing the documentation will be the engineers. And for many companies, the stock doesn't have to drop at all...they will use programmers and engineers to write documentation. Despite it all, it's a widget-driven world.

--Part of the reason for this misconception is the stupid metrics we use to somehow justify our existence to upper management. "Errors per page" and "pages per error" and "number of index entries per 100 pages of text" and other such nonsense have no impact on the business model or strategy. This is technical writing by numbers and like the paint by numbers sets that were popular when I was a kid, ANYBODY can do it!

--Orthopedic surgeons, cardiac surgeons, and other highly skilled medical professionals are certified/licensed NOT because they want more respect from their peers, as is the tiresome whine so oft repeated in technical communications, but because many states require them by law to be certified or licensed. Hospitals recognize the value--in prestige and compensation--of having a board certified thoracic surgeon on their staff. Do you think an engineering company would ever recognize the value (prestige and compensation) of having a "certified technical writer" on staff? Give me a break.

--No valuation model exists for what we do. We collect useless metrics that don't contribute quantitative information to the organization's business model, which tends to paint the tech pubs organization as an overhead expense, which in turn helps foster the misperceptions and attitudes of engineering/development organizations toward the technical communications profession.

Quit with the certification thing already. It's not the answer unless you need to justify your existence or validate yourself to yourself. Instead, figure out a valuation model for your tech pubs department, complete with quantitative information collected from value-add metrics (most often, customer-related) and become an evangelist when you can show that what it is you do contributes to the organization's financial well-being and growth.

Only then can we hope to get the respect, recognition, and compensation we often complain about.

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