Re: Just can't help myself

Subject: Re: Just can't help myself
From: Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2005 14:50:43 -0400


> But the more you specialize a vocation, the more risk you run of not
> being able to compete or diversify to meet other needs. If all tech
> writers were mandated to fit Format XYZ, i.e. "You must know this kind
> of data flow process", "You must be proficient in FrameMaker 7.0 and
> RoboHelp 6.0", it can cause many talented and professional writers to
> lose out. Now, granted, it's on them to improve their skills and stay
> abreast of business trends. Perhaps this is where certification may
> play the role some think it needs to play.

Not exactly. First, tools are irrelevent. If you become entrenched in
a tool, you're going to have trouble down the road whether you job hop
or stay on a job solid for years on end. Tools come and go over time.
I think you're also looking at too granular a level. If you know one
data flow cold, you should be able to pick up any data flow. If you
can't, then it's evidence that your experience is founded in rote
mechanics and not in understanding of data flow.

> Personally, I LIKE vast variety. I like the idea of being able to try
> new things and work my magic in different realms of business. Perhaps
> this is because I'm young, and have not really known any other kind of
> professional lifestyle beyond contracting and working with different
> clients over the years. I don't know. The thought of being locked into
> a single position for the bulk of my life doesn't appeal to me.

Well, there's a misunderstanding there. I never said "lock yourself
into one position". I've had many different positions, roles,
titles... but they've all been technical communication roles in the
software market. It's fine to like variety. I do too. But, more to my
point... Variety can hurt your professional development, and it can
help it. It comes down to what you focus on in your work, and how you
can leverage it. I've chosen to specialize in the software industry. I
know software, I like software, and I thus have no desire to go over
to mechanical engineering or hardware or another industry (well,
except for maybe ReQuest... cool audio components!).

> It's my way of saying that arbitrary standards will not fit what is a
> very diverse and "hard-to-pin-down" profession. For the record, I
> agree with you that someone should show hard statistics in terms of
> hiring, salary, and retention (For a start) to prove that
> certifications lead to better jobs for TW's. What else might you
> suggest?

I'm not advocating certification as a means of better jobs. The jobs
are what you choose to take and what you choose to do with them once
you take them. Certification in my mind means more standards and best
practices for how we go about our work, which may lead to being
favored as a candidate, but isn't a guarantee.

> > I disagree. Writing is the very minor, mechanical portion of what we
> > do. The best way to be a better tech writer is to become
> > industry-savvy (that is, the industry in which you're working as a
> > writer), more business-savvy (learn what the movers and the shakers
> > are really looking for in your contribution and leveraging that to
> > also better the user community you support), and be as
> > analytically-minded as possible when solving problems with words.
>
> Now that I absolutely disagree with. Not the idea that we need to be
> industry-savvy, but the idea that writing is the minor, mechanical
> part of the job. If writing doesn't count, then what are we, really?
> What is our purpose?

Our purpose is to write, of course. But writing is a minor part of
what I do. In an average week, I think I spend about 10% of my time
writing.

> I already am learning and doing tons more than I ever expected to as
> it is, and I love it, but it all stems from my ability to write. If I
> suddenly found myself unable to do that one day, I'd be unable to
> work.

Well, that's another topic altogether. But, I can honestly say that if
I was asked to stop writing for the rest of my life right now, I could
probably still find good-paying work that I enjoy doing, and probably
rather quickly at that.

Nearly every skill that goes into writing can be applied to another
role. That is, if you don't focus on minutia or tools as your sole
expertise. ;-)

> > I wouldn't see that ever happening. Certification does not equal
> > ineptitude, and to suggest that really deteriorates your position on
> > the subject.
>
> It doesn't, but that doesn't mean the inept can't get them either.
> Certification does not automatically equal *aptitude* any more than it
> equals *ineptitude*.

Correct, thus the reason for my comment regarding your comparrison.

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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Just can't help myself: From: John Posada
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Bill Swallow
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Martin Bosworth
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Bill Swallow
Re: Just can't help myself: From: Martin Bosworth

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