RE: Technical Writing Certifications

Subject: RE: Technical Writing Certifications
From: "Tariel, Lauren R" <lt34 -at- saclink -dot- csus -dot- edu>
To: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 15:36:50 -0700

From: Dan Goldstein

>There's no such exam. The ability to communicate technical information
>to a variety of audiences is the only skill we have in common. On the
>other hand, none of us would be employed if that were the *only* skill
>we have.

>(Darn it, now I've gone and used the "C" word.)

Is the c-word, "Common"?

Anyway, the exam part of certification does mess things up a bit. If an organization could produce an exam for technical writers, it might be nice. I've interviewed at places that assemble their own little "exams," but usually those tests only filter for people who can find their way through specs documents and who write in a compatible style for the particular group. I imagine that a technical writing exam would require a few years of dedicated development and should include a variety of tests to encompass the different types of writing methodologies.

The tests that I can think of are performance tests, like "review these facts about a particular process, create a data flow, work flow, use case, functional specs, or any other design document to visually illustrate the process, discuss questions that you would ask the SMEs and state why, and then document the process." Developing a test would be a test in itself, but it could provide another tool for evaluating tech writers.

PMI has been around for many years and it emerged from a group of project managers that wanted to standardize project management. Project management is a little too dynamic to be effectively standardized but there are core principles shared by every project, like every project has a clear beginning and end, and there are aspects of project management that every project manager should understand. This is what PMI tries to communicate and test.

Granted, certification is not a guarantee that you have a quality candidate, just as a lack of certification does not provide a certainty that you have a less than qualified candidate, but certification is a measure that should be taken into consideration along with a resume, samples (for tech writers), and references. Certification can be a deciding factor when considered among a group of equally qualified candidates.

To say that certification is bad because people can spoof the system is an error that assumes that certification is the only factor considered when evaluating a candidate. It would be lame to do that and no competent hiring manager would only look at the presence of certification when making a hiring decision.

When viewed from a different angle, certification is like a license to drive. Having a license does not mean that a driver drives well. A lack of a license does not mean that a driver cannot drive well. But a license is one measure of a person's driving ability. Years driving is another measure and a lack of points from accidents or driving violations is yet another measure. Perhaps we would accept a world with unlicensed drivers that drive well, rather than licensed drivers that cause accidents, but the license does stand for something, just as a certification stands for something.



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Re: Technical Writing Certifications: From: stevefjong
RE: Technical Writing Certifications: From: Tariel, Lauren R
RE: Technical Writing Certifications: From: Dan Goldstein

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