Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers

Subject: Somewhat OT: Tech Writers vs. other writers
From: "ASUE Tekwrytr" <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 17 May 2003 23:05:36 -0400

The consensus of responses seems to be that experience is far more valuable than additional education or graduate degrees (when compared directly). That is an extremely interesting view, and I want to thank you for your responses. However, I hear the opposite argument with equal fervor from academics and graduate students. Despite a number of arguments provided in favor of experience by list members, the arguments are not convincing; most are based on experience in the high-demand market of the past, rather than current economic realities, and extrapolate based on conditions that no longer exist.

In many fields, including technical writing, experience in the field does not necessarily equip someone to be a manager in that field. In fact, a major problem in industry is the promotion of the most capable workers to become marginally competent managers, thereby removing the best, most productive workers from the loop in the name of "career advancement." Good workers are not necessarily good managers, and good managers do not need to be good workers--they only need to understand enough of what workers do to direct and facilitate that work.

While producing technical documentation is an impressively complex task, it is also highly specific; the task completion skills learned in one job at one company do not necessarily translate equally to other writing jobs at other companies, while managerial skills are fundamentally the same from job to job. A competent manager in one company, or one industry, can transfer to another company or industry fairly easily, with minimal adjustment, and perform competently from the start.

Finally, this is 2003, and the halcyon days of yore when tech writers were considered a cherished commodity may be gone forever. Many existing managers became managers through promotion through the ranks in a booming economy. Those same managers may lack the skills to continure managing competently in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and may soon be replaced by better educated, more aggessive managers who lack the years of industry experience of the current managers, but more than compensate for that lack with business acumen and technical expertise in management. If anyone thinks that 10 years on the job gives all the knowledge and experience necessary to be a competent, competitive manager in the field, he or she may be engaging more in wishful thinking than in reality orientation. (I actually worked for a company where one of the managers loudly and belligerently proclaimed at an executive meeting that he had learned everything he needed to know about management in the United States Navy--"do it or else!" One of the great pleasures of my life was firing him a few days later.)

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond.

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