RE: What does a technical communicator have to know?

Subject: RE: What does a technical communicator have to know?
From: "Jones, Donna" <DJones -at- zebra -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2004 10:51:57 -0600

I would like to add to Lisa's list. From my experience (including seeing how
I have grown over the years), the following traits are present in mature
technical writers and are what set them apart from people who still have a
lot to learn.

* Time management skills--The ability to juggle several projects at once and
meet deadlines, yet still have the high level of quality for all work

* Positive but realistic outlook--"Sure, I can provide that in the timeframe
that you want it, but the scope will have to change."

* Proactiveness--The ability to anticipate what you could/should do or what
could/should happen and react to it before it becomes a big issue. For
example, "No one has mentioned what will happen to Feature ABC when Feature
XYZ is implemented. How will this affect the documentation/customer
satisfaction/technical support/the company as a whole?"

* Approachability--Can your coworkers come to you for advice knowing that
they will not get brushed off or belittled? Snapping, "I told you that
already," does not make you approachable.

* Team spirit--Can you work as part of a team without spending most of your
time A) trying to make yourself look good at the expense of the other
players/the company or B) trying to prove that everyone else is "wrong"
without actually considering that they might be "right"?

* Objectivity about your own work--Is this piece I created truly "good," or
can I improve it? Just because I think it's okay and it's the way I've
always done it, does that mean others will think it's usable?

* Ability to TAKE constructive feedback--including incorporating editorial
changes that you might not necessarily agree with or doing things in a way
that isn't your preferred method.

* Ability to follow established departmental or company procedures--not
bypassing the parts of the process that are not your favorite or that
involve people who you don't like much

* Ability to admit that you made a mistake and take the blame when something
is your fault rather than trying to foist it off on someone else

* Continual thirst for ways to improve your work and for ways to make the
writing/publishing process easier or less complicated. You don't waste your
time trying to prove why the old way of doing things is always the "right"
way but look for what you can learn from the "new-fangled" ideas presented
by others, including your coworkers.

* Mellowness, which comes from knowing the following:
- what your job is
- that you're good at doing your job (but you're not cocky about it)
- that you can always learn from others without them thinking less of you
- that you're always out to be/do your best (without breaking your arm
to pat yourself on the back)

Unfortunately, some people mistakenly think that their job titles or number
of years of experience excuse them from exhibiting these traits. If
anything, the higher up you are on the corporate ladder or the longer you've
been around, the more these traits should show in you. Seniority does not
automatically make you "mature."

Just my "humble" opinion. :-)

Donna L. Jones
Technical Writer II
Zebra Technologies Corp.
Vernon Hills, IL

-----Original Message-----
From: Lisa Wright [mailto:liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net]
Sent: Friday, March 12, 2004 12:26 AM
Subject: RE: What does a technical communicator have to know?

Off the top of my head:

* Ability to think logically
* Creativity
* Attention to detail
* Hard worker
* Ability to maintain professional objectivity (don't have a nervous
breakdown if I change something you write)
* Ability to provide constructive feedback
* Ability to write well
* Interest in subject industry
* Ability to interview, relate to, and communicate with technical experts
* Advanced tool skills
* Sense of humor


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