RE: All Tech Writers (was real tech writers? Out-of-Work Tech W riters

Subject: RE: All Tech Writers (was real tech writers? Out-of-Work Tech W riters
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2002 18:03:13 -0400

Tom et al,

Every six months or so, I see a similar thread and find that it's time to
say something to the "woe is us" tech commers out can gain
respect for the profession only by doing more than is expected...and here's
a case in point that should give some folks some hope.

Three weeks ago, we demo'd a beta version of a new web application for the
senior management of our company. I had the good fortune to work with a
great team of developers, QA folk and a business analyst who saw each member
as making strong contributions to the product design and development. The
lead developer took the time to tell senior management of my contributions
to the design of the product, and the lead QA analyst took the time to
actually demo the help system. At which point the senior VP for R&D turned
to me and said "if we all got hit by a bus, you could document and demo the
entire suite of products couldn't you?" Being the lone writer for eight
products, with an internal reputation for find defects that could blow an
entire project to pieces, I told him I probably could, and my boss agreed.
Last week this senior vp asked for an hour of my time to learn how I do my
job, and what I needed to do it better. Imagine being asked by a high mucky
muck how you go about developing a help system! Surprising... best yet it
was my opportunity to explain to him my REAL role here, acting as a liaison
between business, QA and development, researching and recommending better
ways to provide user support (not just documentation, not just manuals, but
user support: EPSS, tutorials, on-line help, marketing stuff, the works).
He was thoroughly impressed, and promised to go to bat for a rather
significant software expenditure in the next budget cycle.

The point...he never would have reached this conclusion--a happy
circumstance for me--if I hadn't aggressively pursued opportunities to add
value to all aspects of the development team. Over 2 1/2 years I have
patiently and repeatedly explained that there are new and better ways to
support the product than just a manual. Then I deliver those new and better
ways on time and on budget. I do not obsess over fonts, templates, when to
use "when", "after", "ensure", "insure" and whether to hyphenate and
capitalize "email". Instead, I obsess over ways to help my users do their
jobs better. I go do it, and then, if necessary, ask forgiveness rather
than permission.

My advice if you're worried about the future of the profession, stop
sweating the small stuff--templates and font choices are small stuff--and
start figuring out ways to be an integral part of the product development.
Learn the new strategies for e-learning, interactive media, and other
technology trends and figure out ways to usefully apply them to the product
and user base you deal with. Learn to play nice in the same sandbox with
your developers, QA folks, business analysts, trainers, project managers,
and most importantly your users.

We are no more or less special than any other staffer involved in getting a
product out the door. And nothing beats being part of a team responsible
for getting that product into the hands of people who look forward to using

OK, I'm done for now, you'll probably hear from me again in six months...

Connie P. Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
A Fidelity Investments Company
704-330-2069 (w)
704-330-2350 (f)
704-957-8450 (c)
connie -dot- giordano -at- fmr -dot- com <mailto:connie -dot- giordano -at- fmr -dot- com>

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to
do it." - Pablo Picasso

-----Original Message-----
From: tom -dot- green -at- iwon -dot- com [mailto:tom -dot- green -at- iwon -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, June 24, 2002 5:13 PM
Subject: All Tech Writers (was real tech writers? Out-of-Work Tech


I don't think I caught the email that necessitated your reply but I do agree
with what you said. I have seen the Tech Writing profession treated like
nothing more than a need for a warm body to do the boring stuff and the
powers that be do not care about their background or career goals. For
example, where I work, they are training two clerks to be Technical Writers
and I worked my tail off to get a College Degree to do this. They can't even
agree on what to call us...we go by two or three names.

So, I do understand your reply Ed and I agree that there should be more
importance attached to the Technical Writing profession. Afterall, it is a
profession and not a skill or trade don't you agree? Unfortunately, the more
the economy allows the profession to be flooded with out-of-work writers,
the lower the pay and the lower the prestige.

I for one, am becoming very worried about the future of this profession.

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