Working for a subcontractor

Subject: Working for a subcontractor
From: "Lisa Lander" <nana_maria7 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 11:20:39 +0300

Hi all,

I'd like to hear other people's opinions about working for a subcontractor. I have just a couple of months' experience and it's already driving me mad! Are there any other people out there who perhaps feel the same way...?In my experience it is much better for the technical writer to work in a company. That is, if you have a choice...

Of course, subcontracting is really efficient way for the client companies who want to hire a technical writer to cut expenses...but for the TW the situation isn't that rosy. It might be just a question of personality, but I think that no self-respecting individual should go through some of the stuff I have experienced already during these few months...

The situation is -in my experience again - significantly worse if there are already technical writers in the company which hires you. Then you get to do all the work noone else wants to. Sometimes it feels like they've been waiting for a crazy person like you who will do anything without any questions. (Well, I sincerely hope it isn't so...No self-respecting individual should fall for this trap).

Also, often the company that hires you somewhere else, doesn't care too much about your development, and it's hard to even take a day off for a one-day course (they won't pay you for that day, either). And the company that needed a TW...?Well, I guess they've already showed their lack of interest in investing in the quality of technical documentation of their products. I think they showed it at that point when they desired to hire a writer for a project (this is true especially in bigger companies. Actually some small ones might be better to work in as a hired writer).

Currently I'm working for a global company that has just very few writers left - they outsourced almost all of their writing. And the writers who are left here act like kings and queens towards the ones that come to work to the company as hired writers (even though you as an outsourced writer would have more technical writing experience...).(And this is not just my personal opinion. I have discussed this with other TWs here and they feel the same.) Well, that's how human mind psyche works, I guess...First of all you want to -maybe subconsciously- try to put the weaker one down - and you're happy that you're in a position to do it. Secondly, you might be scared for your own job's sake. I've had experiences that the in-house TWs have specifically told me wrong information just to strengthen their own positions (by showing how important they are for the company?). I know this sounds pretty horrible, but it's important to take up these problems and talk about them. You just have to decide whether you want to take all this when you're considering to become a hired writer?

Also, if you're working as a hired writer and constantly move from one company to another, you really cannot commit to any specific company. I find this extremely disturbing (rather found, since I'll start a new job in a couple of weeks?as a TW within a company. I decided I don't want to take all this nonsense that a hired writer in many cases has to face anymore...), but I guess it depends on the person. You also can't (in many cases) take part in any company happenings since they cost - and remember that the company that hired you did not want to invest in any new personnel. And why would your agency, either, pay for your party?? The personnel doesn't introduce you to any new people, and in may cases you're like air - it has happened to me once that when a new person was being introduced to everyone else at the department, not to us hired writers. The person who was showing the new person around even said "oh, these are just working through a subcontracting agency at us", and walked past our rooms?Didn't feel too good.

And it's not just the parties that you're left out on. In some cases (I'm talking about a global company here) you can't even get access to their technical files!!How crazy is that?I'm sure things are better in some other companies but these sorts of policies are driving me mad. Although also the job the subcontractors do here ain't that challenging, mainly just adding a couple of words here, a couple there. The TWs of this company also want you to act as their subordinates and tell you what to do and provide you with information (information is power?).

I think that if you really want to pursue your career in technical writing, it's much better to work within a company, not as a hired writer. Having a long career in one company can be more helpful for your career development that constantly switching jobs...In many ways.
I feel so happy that soon I'll be able to work for a company that really values technical documentation and shows it by employing writers. And I'm happy that in this company I'll get access to all the technical files I need in my job...And that I'll get to feel belonging somewhere, again. Being part of the company. Acknowledged, I guess. That I can get training if needed. Boy, aren't I happy!

Well, these were just some thoughts that sprung to my mind when I was reading through the list. I hope noone else has already written the same stuff as I have now, I haven't read all the mails through yet?.


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