RE: permalancers

Subject: RE: permalancers
From: Technical Writer <tekwrytr -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- polycom -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 20:00:27 -0500

Richard Combs wrote:

I suppose, if you're focused entirely on skills and dismiss knowledge asunimportant, and if you think of a tech writing career as just asequence of short-term assignments doing rote work in fields you knownothing about, this may make some sense. And if that's your perspective,I suppose "adds value" is indeed a foreign concept. Some of us have a different perspective. Fortunately, so do ouremployers. That's why they pay us the big bucks. :-) Richard</quote>

Not at all. "doing rote work in fields you know nothing about" is about as far from technical writing as it is possible to get. That is more on the order of "technical secretaries," of whom there are an ever-increasing number, quite capable of handling the major portion of repetitive writing.

A few years back, quite a number of "software developers" fancied themselves invaluable, because of their experience (primarily) and skills (secondarily). When the dotcom greed campaign shakeout happened, a lot of $100K programmers were replaced by relative newbies in Bangalore. Employers soon discovered that the $100K programmers might be worth a bit more than the typical Bangalore keyboard jockey, but nowhere near 10 times as much.

That is, for half the salary of the typical Silicon Valley developer, one could hire four or five well-educated, highly-skilled Bangalore programmers, and a crackerjack PM to assure all went well. The same situation exists in technical writing now; as important as individual experience and skill may be, the negative is that it is individual.

My argument is simply that such a situation is a failure of management. If a project cannot be chunked down to the point of task completion by (almost any) skilled, competent technical writer, it is a failure of the BA, the PM, and whoever is running the IT department to do their jobs. If they had done their jobs, the notion of a particular technical writer being "essential" is ludicrous.

This is not a debate. It is just my opinion. If you have managed to convince your employer that you are worth whatever amount of money you are being paid, that is irrelevant to the overall situation. Best hang on to that job for dear life; your next employer may be a bit more in tune with the real world.

Finally, in regard to dismissing knowledge as unimportant, that is precisely the point. Why hire a technical writer who is "experienced" (writing about, not doing) a particular task, when I can hire an expert practitioner in the field for an equivalent or lesser amount?

It is certainly less expensive to train a competent engineer to write well enough (that old "satisficing" trip) than to train a technical writer to write about a topic that requires engineering knowledge. If the technical writer actual understood the topic as well as the engineer, why would he or she be writing about it rather than doing it?

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RE: permalancers: From: Technical Writer
RE: permalancers: From: Combs, Richard

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