STC Certification - What Does It Really Mean

Subject: STC Certification - What Does It Really Mean
From: "William Sherman" <bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2011 13:43:20 -0400

We have had some very long discussions about STC Certification. However, I have a few thoughts to ponder.

A little Devil's Advocate, here, so think about this not as an attack but a different POV.

1. STC is claiming to be THE body to sanction the skill and quality of a technical writer as the primary organization of writers. However, how many do they represent? I have searched the website and cannot find a membership number. Do they represent 500 of us, 5000 of us, or 50,000 of us? And what percentage of the technical writers and communicators do they actually represent?

If you are in some areas, this question is sacrilegious to even question STC. Some areas like the Bay Area have (had) an extremely strong and useful chapter. Others are virtually non-existent or exist only to take your dues. Don't let the fact you have a good or bad one color where STC really stands in respect to the industry of technical writers. Find out.

Do you want a group that may represent 1% to determine the rules for the other 99% getting a job? Maybe my McDonnell Douglas Technical Data Engineering Certificate actually carries more weight.

2. Read all the fine lines and you see it is a club. It is no different than the National Ferrari Owners Club, the National White Poodles Breeders Club, or a host of others. It is a professional club but it is still a club none the less. Until the club is recognized by other significant organizations, what weight does it really have? I could start the North American Technical Writers Association Society and begin a certification program. If I give away donuts at the meetings, I might get more active members than many STC chapters. Add some frozen yogurt and I bet I do.

3. There are lots of awards for club members. In many ways, they are like Emmy or Oscar, the club patting its members on the back. Do these awards mean anything outside of the organization? I have never in my life ever had anyone in business ever say "Oh, we are lucky to have John Doe, because he is an STC Fellow." Maybe others have, but I haven't and I have worked in groups that have been as large as 200 writers before.

4. Certification is needed - yes | maybe | no. There are as many argument for as against. I think it will come because of an early post I made about companies being inept at interviewing today. They will be worse in the years to come. This is the real reason for hiring only degreed people in all fields, not because they are looking for the best, but because they have no idea how to determine the satisfactory. That is unfortunately failing miserably, because since everyone needs a degree to get a job, everyone in the last 10 or 15 years is getting or has gotten a degree. Now nothing sets them apart, so certification is the next natural course.

5. STC is pushing it. They are smart as they want in on the ground floor. Someone will do it and whoever does, will have the power and the money. But in some ways, this threatens everyone who has been working just fine for the last 10, 20, 30 years without one based on the merits of their reputation. Certification will essentially wipe out your reputation. It has already begun with degrees. The last five years, many jobs demand a degree, whether stated or not, and the lack of one gets you weeded out of the eligibility before you ever have a chance to talk to anyone. You may have invented FrameMaker or RoboHelp, but with no degree, many companies won't even get to the point you can tell them. I know this for a fact. My sister works in the legal department of a large electronics company which is more of a holding company today and anyone without a degree is automatically removed from the selection process. They did a lot of research on the legality of that before it was instituted so she knows they are, as well as the companies they own or control. If they do it, you can bet everyone else is, too.

6. Samples - many of you are walking down a narrow path that can't be good here. ALL of my projects are for the benefit of the company paying and I have always signed non-disclosure agreements. I will not under any circumstance give ANYONE who does not have a need to know (as determined by the client company) any of that information. And I do not take any of that home, so I have no samples. So I can kiss certification goodbye.

When asked for samples by interviewers, I reply I do not have any because all were produced under confidential or secret conditions and I am not at liberty to pass those on. I trust they can appreciate that, because it means I will protect their information the same way, as I am sure they do not want me passing it to any and all companies just for an interview.

If it is available publicly, I point them to such URLs or locations where they can find it.

Of course, these public documents that one can find today, are they all mine? Or only 50%? Which words are mine and which have been rewritten by one, two, or a dozen others since me?

Now this may seem harsh, but this is exactly what is going on in the minds of some out there. This forum hasn't been harsh as they are observing a certain amount of restraint as to do otherwise is an invitation to leave.

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Re: Technical writing as a trade; was, RE: Give Me a Clear Thinker (was STC certification: what's in it for tech writers?): From: Steven Jong

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