Re: English Majors and Ex-Military

Subject: Re: English Majors and Ex-Military
From: Bonnie Erskine <Bonnie -dot- Erskine -at- PREMERA -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 11:44:19 -0700

Thank you surfer924... thank you...

I usually lurk on the list, but I must admit this topic raised my eyebrows
as well as my irritation...

Okay, I've been on both sides of this fence. I spent 10 years working for a
beltway bandit on predominantly military (Navy and Marine Corps)
contracts... and my employer hired a considerable number of ex-military.
Yes, I did run into a few officious prima donnas who believed tech writers
were actually glorified secretaries. These were the exceptions, not the
norm. (Hey, our project lead (a former Commander) ran the Xerox when
deadlines got tight. <g>)

As for being "inflexible, patronizing, prone to quantity rather than
quality, overly fond of passive voice and bureaucatese, and unwilling to
learn and use new technology"... wow... I don't know who you worked for, or
with, but you can't get any further from what I experienced. I found the
military very receptive to the training and software we delivered. I spent
time on bases, in ports, and on ships and inflexibility (in either the
former or current military) wasn't an issue AT ALL. Some of the best
training (as in train-the-trainer) I received came from Navy officers. They
also lacked the apathy I've seen in commercial organizations. ("We're late
delivering? Oh well... so we'll just do a few feature cuts... the customers
won't care.")

Poor passive voice... one of the 10 deadly sins... <g>

Seriously... reflecting on 14 years as a contractor, the best were the
military contracts with ex-military on the team... and I ran into very few
"evil contractor" prejudices in DoD (something I do encounter on
civil/commercial contracts).

<<Being both retired military (20 years in Army Intelligence) and having a
Bachelor's Degree in Communications ("What?" "English." "Oh, an English
major.") I was up against a double-edged sword in the hiring process.
Unfortunately few people of management age have served in the armed forces
and grew up watching M*A*S*H* instead. I was blessed after several
unsuccessful interviews to make it past the myopic HR department and
interview with a hiring manager who was an ex-Air Force officer and who
recognized that the skill set possessed by a retired senior NCO would be a
major asset when it came to the job of managing documentation from specs to
published manuals for three product lines. >>

I experienced this prejudice as well. People see the military/government
experience as a handicap and assume I don't know what hard work is (and
become more than a little condescending)... until I deliver early and pick
up the slack left by my "8-to-4" co-workers. The folks I work for/with now
are former military and appreciate my background... so life is good. <g>

This prejudice reared its ugly head when I interviewed at "the borg" about a
year ago. The HR person informed me I "didn't possess a personality
conducive to <the borg's> culture" and mentioned the military background.
Well, a fortnight later a consulting firm sent me to interview with the
program manager who hired me on the spot... so much for culture... <g>

<<Most of the managers I've run across who have no military experience don't
know how to lead, are more concerned with tool knowledge and degrees or
certificates than writing ability and technical competence, and would rather
embrace the latest management fad than try something that has been proven
and works.

In my current position, the only ones who seem to make it to meetings on
time and consistently meet deadlines are the ones who are ex-military.>>

Thank you! You took the words out of my mouth!

As for the comment made about writing samples... yeah, standard government
docs sit in the top of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
At one time government standards dictated the style (flashbacks to AR 25-9
and DoD-7935.A) and no... they weren't pretty. Most of my writing ended up
locked in a vault... difficult to produce samples when working in a
classified environment.

Just my 2 cents...


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