Re: STC Certification - What Does It Really Mean

Subject: Re: STC Certification - What Does It Really Mean
From: Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: William Sherman <bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2011 11:15:51 -0400

Answering as factually as possible based on what I know frmo their
articles of incorporation, bylaws, tax status, and history. (I've been
involved in a lot.) Anything I answer as opinion will be labeled as
such.

> 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?

STC is a society for Technical Communication, not for its membership.
It would be in violation of its articles of incorporation, bylaws, and
tax status as an organization if it were a member-facing society. Yes,
it has members, but it's in the context of those who support the
Society's cause.

> 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.

The chapter landscape is ever-changing as well. Many of the virtually
non-existent chapters have since merged with thriving ones.

> 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.

Opinion: I'm not camping out. ;)

> 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.

Very true. STC's evolving though. They are building a Body of
Knowledge and taking other steps to strengthen its presence.

> 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.

Opinion: Well, to use your example, and Emmy or an Oscar does mean
something outside the organization. So, there's that. But no, there's
nothing concrete there such as CEs, or nothing government-regulated
such as in legal and medical fields.

> 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.

Opinion: That's an extremely important point, and it's not only
affecting how we set pro techcomm folks apart from basic degree
holders, but is impacting the workforce at large. How many college
grads are actually working in their field of choice? How many have
given up on trying to get a job in their field to wait on tables, or
start a completely unrelated business? A buddy of mine gave up his
Physics career to become a professional brewer. Another set his MS in
EE aside (well, most of it, and left the engineering world) to become
a master electrician, because it paid more. There are many more
examples I could share, but back on point, we will certainly need
something to differentiate those who have a degree from those who know
what to do with it, and from those who have held job titles vs those
who have excelled in roles. Right now we bank on the savvy of
interviewers to pick the good ones out of the pile of candidates, but
many employers simply don't know what they need or what they should be
looking for (or how to go about it).

> 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.

Opinion: Bingo, which is why I'm also interested in what Tekom is
bringing to the table now beyond Germany.

> 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.

Opinion: APPLAUSE! I'm in the same boat, and as I've mentioned before,
I'm now in a role where I directly impact the success and quality of
documentation and other content authoring and distribution efforts but
I don't write an ounce of that content myself. Could I? You bet! But
that's not my job. Yet I'm still working in the scope of techcomm.

> 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.

Opinion: I do the exact same thing.

> 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?

Opinion: In some cases I have the fortune of versioned documents on
the web, so I can point to specific releases. In other cases, I can
simply point to a latest version and say something like, "I laid the
groundwork for this".

> 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.

Opinion: I am surprised how long this general discussion has gone on
and how civil it's been. We may not agree, but we sure showed we can
have some hearty discussion! I hope STC is taking notes.

--
Bill Swallow

Twitter: @techcommdood
Blog: http://techcommdood.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/techcommdood
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References:
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
STC Certification - What Does It Really Mean: From: William Sherman

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