RE: Bullfighter diagnosis on post

Subject: RE: Bullfighter diagnosis on post
From: "Hemstreet, Deborah" <DHemstreet -at- kaydon -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 13:03:42 -0400

I thought I'd throw my two cents into this discussion.

What qualifies for a technical writer (I prefer communicator) is quite
vague, as long as we are a profession without official standards. There
are numerous schools, certificate programs, and so forth - and you can
get all kinds of opinions as to what makes a good Technical
Communicator, and what are their qualifications.

I worked in the Medical Device industry for 10+ years. Before that I
worked in Academia... Now I am working in manufacturing. I was terrified
of the latter choice, sure I would have difficulty, but found that the
same problems I had elsewhere apply here
1. My issues (I'm terribly mathematically challenged)
2. Timely reviews
3. Getting input from my SMEs

My experience indicates that having a degree or a diploma in ANY field,
does not a technical communicator make... It might help... But there is
far more to our profession than a degree or tools.

I was interviewed for a job in the medical device industry here in
Michigan. I was turned down as being a poor fit (I asked too many
questions about what they did and how they did it, and I had not worked
with a particular publishing application they used.)

In the end, I am glad I did not get the position - but could I have done
it? An unequivocal yes. We need the ability to learn quickly and to
adapt to numerous tools. However, as a profession, we have not succeeded
to convince those hiring that it is our ability to learn that is
important - not our prior knowledge.

Someone may be able to write well - but can they work well in a team? A
writing sample is not going to reflect how well someone will work with

A degree, while nice, is no guarantee that a person can take the
knowledge they have and put it into practice. Again, these are fuzzy
areas that only an interview is going to reflect. But only if the person
doing the interviewing asks a lot more questions than about experience
and education.

Then, we have the problem that some people don't WANT a real technical
communicator. The job that I interviewed for? I remember telling my
husband afterwards, "Man, I'm surprised they get anything done, their
head writer knows nothing about preparing documents for an international
market..." And that, my friends, is I believe the real reason I did not
get the position.

The place where I am at now is thrilled to have me. Since being here, my
supervisor said that all they wanted to do is to improve their processes
a little. However, in working with me, they see I am striving for a
standard far higher than they had hoped for. They are challenged and
excited as the first documents have begun to roll out. But you see, they
ASKED for a technical writer - what they NEEDED was a technical
COMMUNICATOR and they found one.

I think many companies have no idea what they really need, and we,
sadly, do not know how to promote our profession in such a way as to
guide those hiring to find professionals whose expertise is
communication (above and beyond the written word).

Well, that is my two cents on all this.

For what it is worth - I was purposely vague in my initial post about
corrective actions... And so this discussion has permutated into a
discussion of issues that are near and dear to my heart -
professionalism in technical communication.

Have a great rest of your days!

Deborah (Shapiro) Hemstreet


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