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

Subject: Re: tool nonsense (gearing up to be a tech writer)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 05 May 2001 15:25:21 -0700

Glen Warner wrote:

> Here (Seattle, WA), there were no classes in FrameMaker until recently


>As for RoboHelp, the folks at DesignDocs ( offer
>one -- for $600 or so. Out of my range right now.
> Sure, you could use the Dummies books ... but what do you put on your
> resume? And, no matter *what* you put on your resume, if the
> interviewer asks you where you learned FrameMaker and you say "From
> 'FrameMaker for Dummies!'", the next question will probably be "Have
> you ever used it on the job before?", shortly after which you'll hear
> "We'll call you."

I can't help thinking this is a bit of a defeatist attitude.

You don't need classes or books to teach yourself a new piece of
software. Read the manual and do a dummy project or two, and you should
learn enough to get buy.

As for the cost, wouldn't that be a legitimate expense for a tech-writer
in the United States? It would be in Canada. And, even if it isn't, a
few hundred dollars is a reasonable investment in your career. If the
money helps you to get a job, then you've made the money back in a few
days - even if you haven't found a legitimate dodge like buying an old
copy and then upgrading it (which usually means that you can buy the
software for less than half price).

Nor do you need to detail where you learned the skill. Simply list it
among your skills on your resume. If someone asks where you learned,
explain that you taught yourself, and show your dummy project. That will
be proof enough of your skill - always assuming, of course, that you
took the trouble to learn the tool with reasonable thoroughness. You can
pitch, it too, to show that you have enough motivation and
self-discipline to pick up a professional skill on your own.

When I was making the transition from contract university instructor to
tech-writer, I couldn't very easily afford FrameMaker. But I went
without a few things, bought it, and played about with it for a couple
of months because many of the interesting jobs in my area seemed to
require FrameMaker.

That turned out to be one of the best career decisions I ever made. A
few months after I scraped together my pennies for FrameMaker, I landed
a six month contract with a major company on the strength of it. After
that, I've never had to worry about finding work.

The point is, a small sacrifice can be made possible with a little
ingenuity, and can be well worth the effort. If it's important to you,
you'll make the sacrifice.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"Maybe there were two sides to that affair of Cain,
And Judas was a tolerable chap."
-G. K. Chesterton


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