RE: Non-TW supervisor

Subject: RE: Non-TW supervisor
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: arroxaneullman -at- aol -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 11:21:47 -0400

arroxaneullman -at- aol -dot- com asked:

> Fellow Whirlers,
> As an informal poll, I'm curious how many employees (as opposed to
> contractors and self-employed) have/had supervisors with no tech comm
> background? How do you feel about this? What advantages and
> disadvantages does this have? How do you inform and 'train'
> supervisors
> without confusing or overwhelming them? What if that supervisor also
> lacks a management background?

When I first became a teknukl riter, in the mid-eighties,
when Philips was trying to be in the personal computer biz
and the documentation system biz, I had slid over from
tech support. The pubs dept. boss was manager/editor
and former school-teacher. I could not have got a better
start in the field. Most excellent woman; mind like a
steel trap, broad sense of humor, hawk-eyed editor,
always managed to stay on top of what was going on
without intruding...

Next gig was for a company making satellite microwave
uplink systems, and my supervisor was the veep of
marketing and sales (small company at the time). I
spent that year bouncing back and forth between not
having enough info and not being able to find him,
and having him breathing down my neck. On the other
hand, he bought me a new Mac (new for 1990) without
blinking, so I got to learn a bit about the cuddly
side of computing. :-)

Then I had seven years of not having a job title
that would fit on a business card, most of which was
not official tech-writing, and had a succession of

I started the current gig reporting to the Veep of
Engineering (small company at the time), moved
under the testing manager (who had just become
a manager, who was "Mom" but managed not to
micromanage, and was a welcome editor), moved under
a Product/Project Manager, who was a mostly hands-off
manager (just wanted to know how milestones were
coming), but was great for ensuring that I got what
I needed when I needed, moved back under the testing
manager - who had since become an even better manager
while not losing the "Mom" vibe - and still have a
close dotted-line relationship with her, while
ostensibly managed by the remote head-office corporate
TechPubs manager (since we got borg'd). I don't
recall ever meeting the Techpubs manager, though
we've had a couple of phone conversations and exchange
e-mails every week or two, which is how she has any
idea at all what I'm up to. She keeps threatening to
become an editor - which would be great - but she
never quite has enough time for it.

So, I started with somebody who had done some
techwriting before becoming "managing editor",
went through a boatload of people who were
content to let me do my thing without much
intrusion (well except that one guy), but were
generally helpful when I needed something,
and landed under somebody who has had a techwriting
career, but who is physically remote and totally hands-off
... except to be helpful when I need something. :-)

I ain't makin' big bucks at this, but I enjoy what
I do and have generally worked with/for some fine
people. May it continue (though bigger bucks
would not be unwelcome).


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