Re: % of time technical writers spend on core tasks?

Subject: Re: % of time technical writers spend on core tasks?
From: "William Sherman" <bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 15:54:17 -0400

Wow, this is almost like some of the job requests I have had lately.

They have requirements like formatting, using HTML, UI design, etc. I tried to explain to the recruiter, who obviously didn't have a clue what a technical writer does, that each of these things vary so much from job to job and day to day that it is extremely hard to put a figure on it. I have done them for 20 years. I can't say I did each one every day for 20 years. Some may only have been a dozen times in twenty years.

He wanted information like:
- How many years formatting?
- How many years using Excel?
- How many years diagramming?
- Ability to write technical documents and end-user documentation
- How many years using Visio?
- How many years creating PDFs?
- How many years of Office Experience?
- How many years of MS Office - Expert Level? -- OK, so does the Office Experience above mean Microsoft Office or sitting in a building at a desk?


But he really wanted to know how much time I had actually spend on each type of task. It wasn't good enough I have done 20 plus years of technical writing. How much of that was formatting? How much was using Excel? How much was creating and working on diagrams? How much was creating PDFs?

Well, you know what, on a previous project, I spent an hour to 3 hours doing PDFs, as sometimes they would not come out right, or the review of the PDF would reveal something that had to be fixed and then a new PDF made. That would be at the end of maybe 3 months or more of writing. So in 3 years, is that 3 years of creating PDFs, or about 12 hours (or a day and a half) experience in creating PDFs?

Another every book I made about every month was converted into PDF, but it was done as part of the publishing program that put it online. So I didn't even use Acrobat to create them, but I did create them. Or maybe I didn't? Do I get credit?

It is a lot like asking a carpenter how much experience he has using a certain type of saw. You know, he may have used one since 1980, but maybe he only uses it 5 times a year and only a day at a time. He may well do that better than anyone else, has done it more than anyone else, but the requirement to find how much time he has done it is ridiculous.

I've had jobs where 80% was formatting, while on others the formatting was something like half of a percent. Some of these were where use of HTML was 60% and others where it was 1%. Yet I have used HTML since 1995, but how many years of it do I have?

I think you will find each job is different. In each job, I do what is required on that job, which might be expertise in formatting or in HTML or in RoboHelp or whatever. I have done projects like the others where I spend the first week doing one task constantly, then never touch that for the next 6 months. How do you gauge the percentage of something like that?

If you are a software technical writer, then learning that software is a core task. If you are talking software like learning Word or FrameMaker that you need to know to do your job, then that isn't a core task, that is something you are supposed to already know. Your core task is creating a publication. However, many think it is typing, and that is why many view us as no more than glorified secretaries.


Writing - 10% to 80%
Research - 10% to 90%
Formatting - 1% to 80%
Publishing - 1% to 90%
Meetings - 1% to 50%
Email - 25% to 75%
Chasing reviewers - 1% to 30%
Using product being documented - 0% to 50%
Doing artwork - 5% to 40%
Guiding/mentoring others - 0% to 75%

Yes, it can be that varied.

It isn't like working on an assembly line.



----- Original Message ----- From: <ryan -dot- minaker -at- ca -dot- pwc -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:08 AM
Subject: % of time technical writers spend on core tasks?


Hey everyone,

I'm trying to put together some percentages relating to how much time an
average technical writer spends performing 'core' tasks. What I've found
by searching around online seems to jive with what I would expect.
Although, I can't find any sort of formal study/survey, just a few random
articles and blogs etc.

Any feedback/comments/ would be appreciated. This is what I was going to
roll with -- 30% of time spent on core tasks, 70% spent on other (i.e.,
learning software, attending meetings etc.)

Writing - 10%
Formatting/layout - 10%
Publishing - 10%


Thanks!

Ryan

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