Re: Educational areas to pursue

Subject: Re: Educational areas to pursue
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 09:52:27 -0800

Andrew Plato wrote:

Personally, I have a hard time understanding why anybody would turn down an
opportunity to try new things.
That's exactly why I started tech-writing, and why I've spent much of time contracting. It seems to me that tech-writing is ideal for people who want to have variety and to try new things. With contracting, the variety becomes even greater.

The only reason I can see, is that they simply
don't want to learn new things. They don't want to be honestly better at their
job. They want to take the path of least resistance.
I usually scoff at arguments based on biological determinism, but I half seriously suggest an evolutionary argument:

Trying something new is dangerous in evolutionary terms. However, adaptibility is responsible for the evolutionary success of humans. Because of this conflict, the majority of people will be conservative, and only a minority will innovate. That way, the species is likely to survive dangerous innovations, but can still take advantage of innovations.

On good days, I think that innovators are about twenty percent of the population. On bad days, I think that they are about one percent.

It bookends my motivations for my argument. It also opens the door to the other
side of the argument. If a writer rejects technical training, what are they
embracing? Usually one-off work of marginal value.
I've never accepted this dichotomy. I do a fair bit of marketing, including brochure design. However, I maintain that it is impossible to market effectively unless you have a good understanding of the product you're promoting. In high-tech, this background knowledge is even more important. Techies are suspicious of marketing to start with, and want to feel that they're being persuaded by logical arguments. Without in-depth knowledge, a marketer simply can't meet the demands of this audience.

In fact, I can't think of any aspect of high-tech business that isn't improved by product knowledge. True story: at one company with which I was associated, a big meeting was being held with a potential partner. The representatives of the potential partner flew across the continent for the meeting, and a deal would have substantially helped the company I was with. However, any chance of a deal was torpedoed in the first thirty seconds when my company's business development manager said that the potential partner's product demo was too hard to use. A little probing revealed that he didn't know how to uncompress a file. At that point, I could see the faces stiffening on the other side of the table, and I seriously debated sliding under the board room table and disappearing.. Unsurprisingly, the meeting ended early, and produced no useful results.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"Granite years, all the lights and nights and bitter tears,
Granite years, when you don't care where you're going,
Say that I was foolish, say that I was blind,
Never say that I got left behind."
- OysterBand, "Granite Years"


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Re: Educational areas to pursue: From: Andrew Plato

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