Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer
Raj Karamchedu <raj -at- rajkaramchedu -dot- com>
Jonathan Baker <jbaker2525 -at- gmail -dot- com>, "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Tue, 6 Sep 2016 19:34:31 -0700
Yes to all that you said, and allow me to add a bit more detail with a
Often it is the case that a VP will find herself in the middle of many
conflicting, strong, opinions; hours and hours are spent in meetings
delving into details of what the business/customer reality "out there" is,
interspersed with the department heads' interpretation of that reality
(powerpoint, spreadsheets, you know the drill.) Obviously this VP can't be
everywhere all the time, so she has to rely on the interpretations of these
department heads. Millions of $ are involved, so by the time discussion
gets to this meeting, everyone already had dug in into their positions
(each thinking they have to be resolute in their opinions and have to
defend what they believe in.) This is what I am referring to by
"attachment." (as Jon and you pointed already below in your comments.) It's
too difficult for the dept. heads to switch their positions because they
haven't mustered up enough arguments beforehand to defend their new
position if they switch: they had only brainstormed various arguments
favoring their own position. See what I mean?
If you are a VP, tasked with making a decision and your information is only
coming from these department heads, and you have to make a decision either
today or latest in two days, and this decision involves approving a
spending of multi-million $, what would you do? As a human being? You have
no problem owning up to your decision, but you want to make the right
decision, not give in to whomever shouts the loudest and whichever
department front-loads the meeting with several party-line members.
Now imagine this above attachment dynamic showing up in practically every
meeting in a company, whether it involves millions of $ or just a new
product creation or whatever. Every meeting gets intense, in the name of
passionate discussion. If I was that VP I'd just get out that meeting,
saunter over to the desk of a "junior-level" sales manager or someone who
has her eyes and ears close to the ground, and attempt for an honest
opinion from them.
Tech writers are naturally suited to this independent mindset by virtue of
our "service provider" function within the organization. Of course methinks
if we take a tech writer and call her a VP of whatever, then she'll
probably be forced to shed that independent mindset :- (
On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 6:49 PM, Jonathan Baker <jbaker2525 -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> Actually, at one time, years ago, the most common background for a CEO was
> either law or journalism degree. I would argue that tech writing isn't that
> dissimilar from journalism. One of the interesting things that has been
> mentioned, but is extremely important, is that TWs rarely have a political
> position or stake in the ground and therefore are rarely seen as political
> threats within organizations.
> My 2 cents,
> On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 9:32 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
>> 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
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> -----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
>> 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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