Re: Nuts.

Subject: Re: Nuts.
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 08:13:03 -0700 (PDT)

I had to change the subject line. It was threatening
to become the War And Peace of email tags.

I'd like to say there are been times I think I was
nuts to become a technical writer. I think there is a
very strong tendency today, among most companies, to
regard technical writers as glorified secretaries
and/or second class citizens. And yes, someone who
would willingly work for companies that regard them so
must be kind of nuts.

However, the reason I think I must be nuts to be here
was not of my doing. The situation has changed. It
used to be, working as a technical writer was not
nuts. Originally the job was well regarded, because it
was seen as a kind of esoteric art. People whose minds
could bridge between highly technical geekspeak and
normal language were few, and the ability to make one
kind of technology understandable to people in another
discipline was (and actually still is) kind of rare.
Technical writing was vital - for a while.

Ah, but that was in the old days, you see. (One of the
extremely few good things about being the age I am is,
it gives me license to lapse into 'pontificating old
curmudgeon' mode.)

Technical writing has become commoditized. As the
economy has changed, many companies have outsourced
and offshored technical writing as a way of saving
money. Now, a lot of business people and even
technical managers tend to consider technical writing
a commodity that you buy as needed, by the project.
It's something you get done because the customers
expect documentation. When technical writing is
included in the project on such a basis, it is
impossible for managers to think of the writers as
equal team members.

The economic basis for technical writing has changed.
Originally, the job description was found in only a
few large companies and/or quasi-government entities
like NASA. The organizations that had need for
technical writers were old-style organizations that
were fairly paternalistic, that followed the old
thinking about employee retention and longevity. Now,
there are tens of thousands of companies that need or
may need tech writers, the vast majority of them are
small and their ethos is speed and quick profit above
all else (think video game companies and specialty
software shops). Even among the old corporations, the
old corporate ethos has gone totally out the window.

So why have I stuck as a technical writer for so long?
For one thing, like the dinosaur I am I've become
overspecialized. I've been a tech writer so long, no
potential employer is going to think of me as anything
else. They see on my resume my last 8 years have been
spent as a tech writer, they're never even going to
consider me for a system analyst or a configuration
manager or a customer engineer.

Also, even if I did go back to school and get
retrained for software engineering or something else,
who's going to hire me for the first time in a
different field? There's no such thing as an
intermediate position for someone fresh out of school,
and no such thing as an entry level position for
someone who's more than twice the age of most recent
graduates. I'm well past the age where rebranching is
possible. I may be able to find something where my
tech writing experience can be warped to fit a
different job description, like requirements analysis,
but I think getting into an entirely different line of
work is a dead issue at this point.

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Re: Nuts. Was: How about Keeping the List Civil? Was: Employmentquestion: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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