Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit

Subject: Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 16:08:46 -0700

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
> I think your point is that compared to engineers and others, some tech
> writers don't seem to be able to think of themselves as professionals.
> Let's say that means they don't assert independent judgement.

More along the lines of they start out believing that they aren't
going to be able to so they don't make an effort to, but ok, let's
go with "don't" for now.

> I gather that the Professional Tech Writer you're developing or
> looking for will act in a characteristic way at this point. I know
> what I would do, but I'm not sure I'm seeing the full palette options.
> Here are the choices I would see:

Well, the tech writers I managed in my previous companies
were never be in this situation in the first place, because:

a) I nagged all product/project manager incessantly for early
notifications of all new projects.

b) If a project manager managed to slip a "stealth" project
past me and then called and asked for a writer "at the
end of the project" my response was, "You didn't
request document support at the beginning and now
have HOW long left before release to document this
project? IF I have anyone available we'll look at what
you have and let you know much documentation you're
going to be able to get without slipping your release date."
CC's to our upper management.

I suppose these might fit into your #5, because I tasked
the writer to investigate the project situation, get back to
me with his/her assessment of what was doable within
the time left and then go do it while I made the project
manager put on a hair shirt and self-flagellate before the
executives so as to not become a repeat offender, but if
I failed at that very often, the most likely would be #2 or
#4 for a short time while they implemented parts of #1 and
#3 (update resume and quit). So far I haven't had anyone
I hired make that choice on me (well, there was one case,
but I chose it as well, so I don't think it counts).

In my current company I *am* the company's projects
manager, so there are no "stealth projects."

> If such a scenario is possible for professionals, how would a
> degree-holder from business adminstration, marketing and accounting,
> or an engineering program handle it? What would make a techwriter any
> different?

They wouldn't be. Any professionals who aren't backed
up by their management are inevitably going to turn slowly
in the wind and fail or qut.

> This effect might be something from the design problem they're working
> on. If I come on your job and appear to be lost because the project
> has no written specs or engineer assigned to brief me, I have to solve
> that problem before I can even begin doing my tech writer work. If I'm
> a recent grad, I don't have any ideas about this problem. All I know
> is, I'm here to get started and you're not ready for me. If you simply
> expect me to get started, I might look unprofessional, I guess.

"It is difficult to soar like an eagle when one is surrounded
by turkeys."

> Maybe someone from a tech writing program will weigh in about how
> toinstill the Professional identity in technical writers, but to me,
> the sort of Professionalism that copes effectively with vagaries of
> the tech writing job environment isn't classroom learning, or if it
> is, it would be something for an Outward Bound kind of program to
> teach: Survival Skills as Professional Values.

I have my doubts as to whether it can be classroom taught.
Ideally, people select their profession because they see it
*as* a profession, and not just because "it's a job." I have
this sneaking suspicion that a lot of tech writers who started
out as non-technicals are there because they resigned
themselves to the fact that they weren't destined to win the
Pulitzer or Peabody awards and needed "a job" that paid
better, and lack "professional identity" because they don't
see tech writing as a profession, just "a job" they settled
for that is something less than the "real" profession they
started out aspiring to.

> I'm not so sure we've heard all the facts or that they will point to a
> conclusion that she's throwing a $100K job away because of a few lost
> weekends. My guess, based on what I've heard, would be that the the
> job had a bad passive-aggressive problem in general: "Do what I say or
> you won't be allowed to work independently." The weekends issue might
> be just the last straw.

> Laws and lawyers, I'd just don't know. Maybe they've already donned
> armor, mounted chargers, and are running full tilt toward each other
> in the main joust event. But I rather imagine everything we've heard
> from both sides at this point is calculated to evoke without tipping
> the hand.

At this point, the best we can do is listen to the dueling claims
and say, "if this claim is true, then it's this way and if that claim
is true then it's that way." I don't put it past either side to bend
the facts to suit. But I also don't let the claims of either side
have much of an effect on how I would like to be regarded in
my profession.

Gene Kim-Eng

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Follow-Ups:

References:
Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Darcy Rumbold
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger

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