Re: (long) Technical Writing - What's the catch?

Subject: Re: (long) Technical Writing - What's the catch?
From: Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 12:22:24 -0500

> It's my feeling that since there is no well-traveled path from tech writing
> to the higher levels of most private and public organizations, we are mostly
> seen as outsiders and specialists who have no real connection to the
> mainstream and upper levels of most organizations. We are seen as a
> necessary evil in a lot of ways.

You may feel that way, which is fine. I don't feel that way, and I
personally think that feeling this way promotes the very situation
you're complaining about.

> We are partly to blame for this dead-end scenario, Rahul. Our professional
> organizations such as the STC do almost nothing to promote our skills and
> talents as valuable and relevant to other more visible jobs in management,
> sales, training and project management.

Don't pin it on an organization or a community or this or that. In the
end it all comes down to YOU and what YOU do in YOUR situation to make
it better for YOU and YOUr organization. No group is going to come to
your rescue, because no group collectively has all your best interests
in mind. If you sit around and wait, you'll end up decomposing on the

> In the US particularly, there is also an imbalance in gender (mostly women),
> types of educational backgrounds (heavy on liberal arts), racial (almost all
> European) and ethnicity ("other" nationalities are usually under-represented
> when compared to marketing and engineering units). In tech pubs management,
> women are very under-represented, and minorities are almost non-existent in
> these ranks.

Study? Citation? I was just at WritersUA and the male:female ratio was
fairly even.

> So, the rest of the company too often considers tech pubs to be a backwater
> or a throwback when it comes to profit, diversity, common interests, and
> social similarities.
> One wonders who will mentor and help tech writers to make their way up the
> ladder...

One can wonder all One wants. I'm not waiting for One to make up One's
mind. I'm moving ahead without One and if One doesn't want to keep up,
then One gets what One deserves.

> That said, I still dearly love and am proud of my work and occupation. I
> only wish that it was more egalitarian, more democratic, and more openly
> respected in the business world. We often are paid well enough, but the
> chance for sharing in the best jobs and pay is still tiny if not fictional.

To coin an old public service announcement: "You are what you eat from
your head down to your feet!"

If you are apathetic about your situation and take what you get,
you're not going to get anywhere or make any splash in the world. If
you are proactive, politically minded, and knowledgeable, you're going
to go far. Don't wait for your occupation to become what you want it
to be, because it never will. You need to make your immediate job what
you want it to be.

> What other private and public sector jobs do you think we could do well
> after strong service in technical communication?

Anything. You mean to tell me your skills are so pidgeonholed that if
all tech writing positions in the world were eliminated tomorrow you'd
be on the street?

> Technical communicators are cost centers, not revenue producers.

Not cost-savers or process improvers or quality enhancers or design
reviewers or...??? You have a very negative view of what you do, I
have to say. Nothing positive can come from that. If you want change,
guess what? It starts from within, not out there somewhere in a

> Maybe this lack of competitive, upward mobility for tech comm folks will
> gradually change for the better in the years to come. But I wonder what
> will drive that transformation and transcendence - if it happens at all...
> What do you think? Is this differential treatment you point out fair and
> deserved?

You are what you eat.
You get what you deserve.
You get out what you put in.

All those phrases apply. You can study the problem, analyze it,
dissect it, pontificate on it, or any number of things all you want.
These are all passive approaches to a solution. It's not until you
initiate the change - spark the match - that things begin to change.

I am so tired of hearing tech writers say "we're not appreciated" or
"they don't involve me enough" or "I have no mobility in my career" or
"I get no respect". This is all bullshoy. If you find yourself saying
or believing this, then there certainly is a problem, but it's
certainly not a result of your profession. Respect, appreciation,
involvement, mobility... these are all very personal things. If you
don't involve yourself, work to earn respect, do a good job and gain
appreciation, and be an agile worker, you're not going to see the
change you long for.


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Technical Writing - What's the catch?: From: Rahul Prabhakar
Re: (long) Technical Writing - What's the catch?: From: Phillip St. James

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