Re: Why are companies now requiring techical writer candidates to be SMEs?

Subject: Re: Why are companies now requiring techical writer candidates to be SMEs?
From: Martha J Davidson <editrix -at- nemasys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 16:17:20 -0700

I think "ignorance" has been misused in this discussion. I agree that being ignorant of tools and technologies has never served me as a technical writer.

On the other hand, having a new user's perspective as I learn a new technology has been immensely valuable. When I apply for jobs documenting a technology that I am only peripherally familiar with, this is what I sell. The more I pay attention to my own experience learning the software I document, the more I can clarify the parts I found confusing when I was starting out.

I choose to only document software, with a preference for software development tools. What I bring is familiarity with a number of aspects of this area of software, though I've seldom been hired to document a tool or development process that's exactly like one I've documented before. Instead, I start with an understanding of what software developers do and experience having done it myself many years ago.

Over the years, I've worked with many different tech writers. The ones who were the most successful also had a foundation in software development, even if they had never written code themselves. I find that I can often tell from reading a chapter written by a writer I don't know well whether that writer was familiar with the subject or not. I try to make my comprehension of the underlying technology show through everything I write and every question I ask of a developer. Otherwise, I'll just be parroting words I hear, with no real idea if I'm making sense or not.

To summarize, I agree that ignorance is never a good thing for a tech writer to sell in a job search, but the perspective of a neophyte (who strives to become a power user) can be a valuable skill, expecially for writers who retain that perspective even after becoming power users.


Martha Jane {Kolman | Davidson}
Dances With Words
editrix -at- nemasys -dot- com

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."
--Albert Einstein

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