RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)

Subject: RE: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 09:15:50 -0600

re: Almost every job ad asked for FrameMaker knowledge.

A long thread, but I think I haven't seen it mentioned that likely no one
would be surprised or object if a job announcement for a secretary required
knowledge of WORD.

It seems what professional technical writers face so often is the "super
secretary" expectation--it's pretty sad but it happens. We sometimes
encourage it, as often even on this list there are complaints about the
quality or timeliness of rough drafts we're provided.

Maybe it would help to treat the "tools" requirements in job announcements
as really (secretly?) just a desire by the employer to find someone who can
"hit the ground running." Perhaps as professionals we can bring our tools
with us to the job and just have the knowledge to convert the employer's
stuff to our format ... at least for a while. I have to admit to possible
naivete in not being able to understand huge projects, and often question
whether this isn't something left over from the days of mainframe word
processing like Wang, AGFA, etc., but it still seems to me that these days
speed is of the essence and any shop that gets itself tied up in
too-complicated tools is in the wrong place. I support html (and online
viewing and not paper), which can be created with many, many tools, and
which tool hardly matters. Whatever ... we're looking for the opportunity
to help create efficient writing teams as much as just participating on
them, correct? Tools are indeed important, but for the right reasons that we
should promote proactively while resisting the wrong reasons. Random
thoughts, I suppose.

As professional tech writers I suggest we continue strongly with the notion
we are on the team to help design the final product. Can there be a job
service (Raycomm?) where that's the expectation rather than super secretary?
Also, isn't this whole discussion a bit of an indictment of tech writing
schools? I mean, every job everywhere is close to one--why haven't the
schools "educated" the local employers and why aren't the students ready to
be more than super secretaries (if that's the problem)? Do the schools ever
work with the engineering or computing departments to "design" products in
conjunction with tech writers as classroom or laboratory simulations? Who
do all those researchers use? And, I should think that something like STC
might put more effort into "customer education" and even improving the
schools than toward certification--that is, into promoting the profession by
better characterizing it as something more than super secretary. We're a
really disorganized group, and much at others' mercy, I perceive. (Perhaps
Rodney Dangerfield will pay to speak.) More random thoughts. Maybe I'm
uninformed, out of touch or just don't get it. Help welcomed.


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