RE: Outlook for the future

Subject: RE: Outlook for the future
From: JB Foster <jb -dot- foster -at- shaw -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 02:51:50 -0700

I don't know if working for the MacService industry is any better ...
according to one of my nephews, these jobs are often chock-full of
unmanageable stress. The service industry tends to expect both efficiency,
and speed, in exchange for a minimum wage. I know that in Canada,
adolescents have become the preferred hiring choice; because they can be
legally paid $4.50 an hour - and will often tolerate appalling treatment
from inadequately trained supervisors. That's why people quickly walk away
from those jobs ... for the amount of pay - it's just not attractive unless
it's in a unionized environment. Like everything in life, the grass always
looks greener over the septic tank! ;-)

As for the future of technical writing: My personal belief is that companies
have, over the last 10 years, started to look away from simple TW roles.
Instead, focusing on bringing aboard those who have broader skills -
including a better understanding of the technical aspects of what's being
documented. A case in point: Is my previous career in the Instrumentation
field, where I observed a similar trend away from specialization. At one
time, companies would hire - on the spot - anyone who had skills at either
PID-tuning, or PLC programming. Doing one, or the other, would be all that
was expected of you - since these were very tedious, and complicated, tasks
to carry out at that time. Of course, this was before laptops became
powerful enough, and software programs more user-friendly. Now those two
skills are practically worthless, unless you can 'as well' troubleshoot and
repair, write programs, produce reports, walk along the ceiling, etc.

I.M.H.O. same thing has happened with technical writing! Gone are the days
when mortals feared programs like WordStar, and would gladly pay others to
produce from it. Also, programs such as 'MS Word' have made nearly all
aspects of technical writing appear somewhat trivial. So, there is no
expectation on the part of employers, to pay any extra to write ... writing
is something an employer expects one to do, in order to carry out an
assigned task (like being able to work effectively in Excel or MS Project).
I doubt I would currently be working as a TW, if it weren't for my
background in electronics, instrumentation, and troubleshooting methods.
Those skills, along with my willingness to work part-time, were important
considerations for my present employer. This makes sense, in view of the
fact that many companies nowadays see 'living documents' as too costly, and
unproductive, an undertaking in the present market conditions - especially
while documentation continues to be seen, as ineffective, or even 'unwanted'
by the end-users.

As a result of the rapid changes in workplace technology, I believe there
will be a greater emphasis, or demand, for those technical writers who can
adapt to those changes; who can understand the technical aspects of the
product they write about; who are flexible within their employed role; are
very-well educated; . and of course creative and hard working. I also
believe that there will always be room in the TW field, as long as you have
several skills, and are able to be both creative and knowledgeable. Also
deciding what skills are required, and being able to effectively promote
those skills (along with yourself) - will continue to be extremely important
in order to stay employed in today's marketplace. At least that's how I read
the engineering/manufacturing side of TW ... and regardless of the changes,
it's far more satisfactory than flipping burgers! ;-)


Bill Swallow wrote:

> Yes, $9/hr plus benefits. Not a bad deal. I'd take that over the $20k
> tech writing job any day. Less stress, and they'd get what they pay for.
> I'll mop a floor, stock a shelf, or work a cash register for ~$20k/yr,
> sure. Will I do what I'm doing now for $20k/yr? Nope.


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RE: Outlook for the future: From: Bill Swallow

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