Re: What does it mean to be technical?

Subject: Re: What does it mean to be technical?
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- net -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 25 May 2003 09:55:49 +1000

> If I was interviewing two people and Person A was a good writer AND
possessed a
> strong base of technical and scientific training while Person B was only a
> writer (no tech skills). I'd always pick Person A.

Seems reasonable, *if* we assume that "all
other things being equal" is one of the terms
of the equation. But in real life, all other things
seldom *are* equal. I can think of mitigating
factors -- attitude, job history, enthusiasm, ability
to learn, adaptability, teamwork -- that could lead
me to make the opposite choice if I were hiring.

And then there are the specific job requirements.
What are we hiring someone to do? We don't
just "write" in a vacuum.

Are we hiring someone to write how-to guides? A
familiarity with the audience's skill base might be
more important than "technical training." For
example, as a vendor of accounting software
I would be more interested in a user-guide writer
who has accounting experience than in one with
in-depth knowledge of the programming language
my developers are working with.

Are we hiring someone to develop training
course materials? Then I will look for experience
in instructional methods, group dynamics,
and adult learning techniques. Technical knowledge
would be of little interest if the person has a
track record of coming up to speed quickly in a
new skill area (as most experienced instructional
writers do).

There are many other factors to be considered
besides technical, scientific, and writing skills when
choosing a writer -- especially when building a
successful team. You may decide that your team needs
a writer who is strong in graphic design. Perhaps you
already have strong technical expertise in your group,
but there are other skills related to technical publishing
that are under-represented.

These decisions seldom if ever come down to a choice
between two people who are equally suitable except
that one is a better writer and one is a better technical

And if you *do* hire the applicant who is weaker in
writing skills, how do you plan to address those
deficiencies? Require someone else in the group to spend
extra time revising and correcting the "technical expert's"
pages? How will that affect productivity?

Just some real-world things to think about ....

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia


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Re: What does it mean to be technical?: From: Andrew Plato

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