Mixed messages @ grad school; WAS Re: How often is your resume read on job boards?

Subject: Mixed messages @ grad school; WAS Re: How often is your resume read on job boards?
From: Amy Smith/Westford/IBM <amy_smith -at- us -dot- ibm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 11:40:56 -0400

I attended the same graduate program as Bonnie. However, I was already
employed as a technical writer, and had solid experience with telecom,
LANs, and Internet engineering.

In all fairness to Bonnie (with whom I have worked and agree with Keith C
that she is a fine editor and writer), the program underwent some faculty
changes and upheavals during our tenure there. The faculty, overall, is
very good, and is comprised of professors with only academic experience
and adjunct faculty who have been in the trenches (Hi, Marguerite!).
However, the program takes its tone from its leadership, and during most
of our tenure there, the program director was more oriented towards
writing and communication skills.

If memory serves, I remember being frustrated with the 'pure' academic
types. I found that their lack of 'trenches' experience made it difficult
to apply theory to practice. Again, in all fairness, the same professors
did welcome input from us grizzled war veterans in class. :-) The adjunct
faculty, on the other hand, were great at bringing their real-life
experience to the classroom.

Program participants were encouraged to take two (I think) electives
outside of the core program requirements, so I guess there was an
opportunity to take hard-core tech classes. (Incidentally, all tech
writing program participants were required to take a C or Pascal
programming class.) However, I couldn't tell you if we were ever
encouraged to be 'technical' in subject matter (as in "You need to know
(pick one) SQL; security; C++"). But since I already had technical
experience, any information in that vein (or lack thereof) might not have
been intercepted on my personal brain radar. ;-)

I don't mean to dis or defend the program - just sharing my experience.
Overall, I was satisfied with the program - I learned things I didn't
already know, and was able to share my experience with others. And it may
have changed since I graduated. It has a new director now, so perhaps
things are different.

In looking at other area tech writing/info design program, though, I don't
know if they encourage you to be technical in the things you write about,
either, so much as you are taught to be technical in the tools and skills
of your craft. For example, one area college has a program in UI and
information design, and has invested considerable $$$ in a usability lab
in which students bring in usability design and test projects from real
companies and actually do UI design/usability testing work (under the
auspices of top-notch professionals).

Here's a question - is it just important that tech writing students be
encouraged to be 'technical'? Or should a program - graduate or otherwise
- provide some opportunities for formal subject matter training?

To be technical or not to be technical - that is another question. IMNSHO,
being 'technical' has always worked for me. When I worked with a group of
Internet engineers, I would go with them when they installed routers at
various corporate locations. When I needed to document LANs, I was the
department LAN admin and helped support users. I even managed the
corporate IP address database (we didn't do dynamic addressing in those
days, so no comments on that, please). I not only assigned ALL corporate
IP addresses (the power! the glory! the work!), but I designed the user
interface for the database. I would never call myself a router technician,
but when Joe Engineer told me that he added six subnets to the WTC A
router, I automatically knew what changes I needed to make in the
documentation. The doc was always better, as a result, and I enjoyed good
working relationships with the engineers.

Guess I'm just a geek at heart. Currently, I document server security. My
dream is to have my own security forensics workstation. ;-) :-)

Now, back to work, me!

Amy Smith, Principal User Assistance Writer
IBM Software Group/Lotus Software
amy_smith -at- us -dot- ibm -dot- com

From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- editors-writers -dot- info>
> I'm a writer. I guess when my one-year anniversary rolls around
> 2002, I shall truly rue the day I borrowed $50,000 in order to go to
> graduate school in 1995 for my degree in technical writing. Nobody even
> hinted that one had to be a "techie" to make it in this field.
> I feel robbed.

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