Re: Losing my profession?

Subject: Re: Losing my profession?
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 06:50:32 -0700

Anonymous wrote:

> I have gone through one of those out-of-the-blue
> downsizings. It was completely unexpected... The lesson I learned is that
> being technical is not necessarily a guarantee of job security. Even on a
> high level, the technical writer is often seen as the least-valuable member
> of a development team and, hence, expendable.

About five to seven years ago it became abundantly clear that *nobody* in the
job market - and not just the computer industry either - has a "guarantee of job
security." Business cycles, such as the one we're in right now, affects
different components of the job market differently - for example, many writers
here are too young to remember what it was like the last time there was a real
recession and people who produce or sell capital equipment or things like houses
and cars couldn't find any work at all.

As far as tech writers being perceived as the least important member of a
development team, that's been the case for years in many engineering companies,
and you simply learn to live with it. However in a number of other engineering
companies, writers are seen as important, equally important as, say,
developers. It all depends on the company.

> As a writer trying to make a living, however, I think that I have lost my
> profession.

No, I think you've lost your perspective. As market conditions cause some
industries to shrink or grow, the demand for professionals who serve those
industries shrink and grow. Tech writers aren't the only ones affected by
periodic economic downturns - think about the highly skilled (and highly paid)
engineers who specialized in developing products for the DOD, until suddenly
there were severe cutbacks in Defense-related budgets. Those engineers were
certainly no less professional, in their own ways, but suddenly there wasn't as
much demand for their services. I've watched the same sort of thing happen to
lawyers, architects, mental health workers, Y2K specialists, etc.

> After the end of ten years, I never want to see another cube farm again,
> never want to listen to someone drone on about how this new system is
> revolutionary, and especially never want to hear again that I am a cost the
> company can live without.

If you think people in the computer industry are the only ones in cube farms,
think again. Most newer buildings are built with cube farms in mind, because
they allow the space to be reconfigured to meet other needs. And if you think
computer industry cube farms are bad, you should see what the ones in the
insurance industry are like! Or take a look at a telemarketing workplace for
sheer awful working environments. Or the sales offices of equipment

As for encountering the same "this product is revolutionary!" patter, the same
could be said of the car industry. Face it - to most people, a car is a form of
transportation, but to some a car is an extension of their personality, so each
little change is touted as 'revolutionary.' After a while, you can sit back and
privately evaluate the evangelist-du-jour's choice of clothing, grooming,
presentation, etc. while he/she raves on about the latest product changes. It
becomes the same kind of exercise you use to evaluate politicians - you listen
with half an ear because there's a chance they'll say something important or

As for being a cost the company can live without, there can be more than one
explanation for that. If you attitude on the job is like the attitude that has
come across in your post, I can see one plausible reason for your being
terminated. If you don't like what you're doing to the point where that
attitude leaks through into your work and your interaction with others, you're
going to be dubbed someone who's not easy to work with, and hence expendable.

You've had good advice from others on this topic. Yes, you're facing burnout and
you need to do something about that. You're going to see through this glass
darkly until you do. Find something else to do for a while, but keep this
particular avenue open - you may rediscover what you so like about technical

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems


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Losing my profession?: From: Hart, Geoff

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