RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer

Subject: RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer
From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
To: Raj Karamchedu <raj -at- rajkaramchedu -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2016 01:32:05 +0000

Thank you, Raj. Appreciate this interesting reply.

You have a distinguished background.

So you seem to be saying that there is hesitation at the higher levels about making a firm decision and committing to it because of potential consequences. Perhaps it wonât be a popular decision. Or it doesnât align with the general mood of everyone, the group-think. It would brand the exec as an iconoclast, not in a good way. Or it could result in their ousting.

Itâs odd to hear someone who has been through those higher levels say that they are now following their tech writing passion! I think thatâs the first time Iâve seen that, in fact.

Do I have it right that what you are referring to as lack of attachment is a willingness to make a decision based on the facts even if it is not the decision that everyone wants? So in that sense the exec needs the tech writer (or whoever has that skill) to be a sort of âhatchet man/womanâ?

Iâm not being glib, rather Iâm trying to get at this. It seems the exec needs a sort of excuse to make the tough decision, such as, âWell, our Statistics department has proven that we have to do X, so I am doing X, whether we like it or not. Itâs the right thing to do.â

Anywayâ you can imagine that your reply poses many challenges, so I hope I havenât jumped too soon, as I do want to absorb what you say.

At the same time, youâve identified one skill that a Technical Writer might possess that could come into play at the executive level.

What other skills can you think of, that Technical Writers are really adept at (and not limited to documentation), that could be offered either alone or in a combination to someone at the exec level, as a potential help?

Thanks so much and appreciate your taking the time for this discussion â you bring a much different and challenging perspective.

Steve


From: Raj Karamchedu [mailto:raj -at- rajkaramchedu -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 4:31 PM
To: Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
Cc: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>; mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer

I've been both a VP and a COO/day-to-day CEO, with overall 20+ years' experience in Silicon Valley, now following my tech writing passion, and I am speaking from my own experience.

As you go higher up the responsibility, senior manager, director, VP and CxO on up, a particular skill-set, i.e., an ability to stay unattached, becomes vital. Often at these higher levels department heads doggedly pursue their own passion and agenda, many times not really ready or willing to make tough decisions. Group think and party-line thinking pervades (yes, even in startups.)

I think a tech writer has all the right background (product, tech, customers and the perception of customers) but none of the attachment baggage. Many times a VP or a CxO wishes in her heart of hearts that someone just tell her the facts, express his/her independent opinion, so a tough decision can be made with a clear head. I'd say a tech writer is quite remarkably suited to this independent thinker role. In a nutshell, tech writing skillsets help us hone in on the essence of the matter, and that is a big asset for dispassionate decision making.

Raj

On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 4:21 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com<mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>> wrote:
I'm not talking about documentation, with all due respect.

I'm talking about skills we have that we've developed along the way of our careers as Technical Communicators, but that, either individually or in certain combinations, can be applied to higher-level challenges that might have nothing to do with documentation.

The two best ones I've heard so far are analytical thinking (Monica -- this is actually perfect) and researching (Robert).

You're not going to put "Analytical Thinker" or "Researcher" at the top of your resume (usually -- that second one might be appropriate for some things), but you can apply your skill of analytical thinking, or researching, or both, to a VP's particular challenge that might have nothing to do with documentation or technical communication.

This is what I meant by "transferable skills" from our skill set.

Thanks,

Steve

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Neilson [mailto:neilson -at- windstream -dot- net<mailto:neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>]
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 4:06 PM
To: mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com<mailto:mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com<mailto:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>; Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com<mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>>
Subject: Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer

On Tue, 06 Sep 2016 18:49:07 -0400, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com<mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>> wrote:

> But that pigeonholes you into being a communicator.
>
> What I'm trying to get at is skills that might transcend that, but use
> pieces of what we know and can do from the foundation of our roles.

I've told this story before, but it may be helpful here:

Product Mgr: "When is the software going to be ready to ship?"
Dev Mgr: "As soon as Laura (tech writer) stops finding bugs in it."
TW Mgr: "Are you saying that you would prefer the customer to find the bugs?"
Dev Mgr: "That's not what I meant at all!"

I have occasionally had to ask, "Would you prefer me to document according to the project plan, or to the design specs, or to the written code, or to the way I think the product should work?" The answer is usually not pleasant, sometimes suggesting that I should stick to writing.



--
Raj Karamchedu
Sunnyvale, CA
Mobile: +16508146017<tel:%2B16508146017>

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Follow-Ups:

References:
Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Janoff, Steven
RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: mbaker
RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Peter Neilson
RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Raj Karamchedu

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