Re: technical skills vs. writing skills (again)
However, I don't see it as definitive proof of anything
No, by itself it's not definitive - certainly not in a statistical sense - and I wouldn't try to claim that it was. However, I mentioned it because, in my experience, it is illustrative.
That is why the debate rages on and on and on -- because there is no one right position for all cases.
I'm not too sure about that. In this economic climate, employers are being very cautious about how they spend money. Product development seems to be slowing, and established companies are reluctant to start new development unless the return is fairly quick. Business development managers tell me that sales cycles are slower, and that partnerships take longer to establish.
More to the point, employers want the best value they can get before they agree to a pay cheque. If you're in management, for example, they want not only as many years of experience as possible, but a track record with successful companies. By the same logic, they want tech writers who can be up and running. Failing that, they want one whose approach they can trust.
My admission that I didn't know, and would need to learn in order to help them apparently fell into the second category. The subject matter was obscure enough that the only people who would be likely to have expertise would be developers within the company or one of its rivals. So, admitting the lack of expertise and recognizing the need for it was probably the best answer that the company could hope for.
Whether or not the idea that you don't need subject expertise to write is true (and I, fairly obviously, think that it's false), the idea is hard to sell to ultra-cautious employers in this economic climate. In better times, when there's more jobs than writers, the idea may be accepted. But, when employers can pick and choose, I suspect that most of them are going to choose expertise first, a willingness to learn second, and a focus on writing a very distant third. More than ever, employers want to know what value you can bring to them - and the value they can most easily understand is expertise. Writing expertise isn't well respected by non-writers, and, while I'm sure that we all deplore this attitude (I sure do), that doesn't mean that we don't have to deal with it.
Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177
"Some say the Devil's just an angel in the dark,
Some say the Devil's just a good man feeling bad,
Some say the Devil's just the lads out for a lark,
Some say the Devil plays the only music glad and good."
-Jez Lowe, "Tear-Drop Two-Step"
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