Re: STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?

Subject: Re: STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>, Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>, TECHWR-L Digest <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- TECHWR-L -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 08:50:22 -0700 (PDT)

The first major problem with having a certification process for technical writers is the fact there is no way to test on, and certify a person on, the parts of the job that don't have to do with language or software use.  For example, an extremely important part of the job is communicating with SMEs and other people, and being able to get information out of them.  How do you test people on their ability to deal with an antisocial software engineer who doesn't like talking to tech writers because he considers them "not techy enough" to be worthy of his consideration?  How do you test on the ability to set up a review process that other people will actually use?  The human element is always the most variable element in any job, and it is vital to be able to deal with it, and I can't think of any way to sensibly test that ability.

Another major problem is the fact that "technical writing" is not a monolithic career field.  There are many different types of technical writing - using Robohelp to create online help systems for a startup is much different from writing business requirements for a huge multinational corporation.  And doing anything under a DOD contract is a whole other world.  STC certification may be worth something if it were a sheaf of certifications, each adapted to a particular type of technical writing, but developing something like that would take years - and by the time that development is finished, some of the stuff in them would be obsolescent.

Some of the things that will determine success or failure on the job are environmental.  How well the writer fits into the local company "culture" can be a significant factor in determining how easy it is to get things done.  Since that varies wildly between locations, there is no test possible for that.

No matter what the STC does, experience and track record will remain the most important things in proving ability to a prospective employer.

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Re: STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?: From: Steven Jong

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