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I'm not sure what an abstract skill is, but there are quantifiable skills
and non-quantifiable skills. For a job that requires quantifiable skills,
like accounting, for example, you can demonstrate that you have the skill in
concrete terms. The value of that skill can then be set by the market based
on the quantification of the skill, not the results.
Then there are non-quantifiable skills like sales. You can't measure what
makes someone a good salesperson. However, sales has quantifiable results.
You can measure how much a person actually sells, even if you can can't
measure why they are good at it. The value of this skill is therefore set by
results, not qualifications, which is why most sales people are paid on
Then there is technical communication. Communication is a non-quantifiable
skill. There may be training for it, but some who get the training are awful
and some who don't are brilliant and we can't quantify the difference. But
technical communication also has largely unquantifiable results. Other
communication professions, such as novelist, have quantifiable results
because we can count book sales. But the result of good tech writing is that
customers are successful using your products and you can't instrument that
consistently, nor can you easily tell whether their success is due to the
interface design, the training, or the docs. Yes, there are indirect
measures, but they are hard to tie back to the individual acts of individual
So, we produce unquantifiable results using unquantifiable skills. Our
compensation, therefore, is based on supply and demand. And if you are
asking how to convince a VP that you could do other things, you are going to
have a hard slog because there is not much quantifiable to point to in what
Which brings me back to explaining the curse of knowledge. Because if you
can't quantify your skills or your results, you can at least explain why
communication is hard. And since communication is key to so many functions
in the corporation, that might open some doors, especially if it give the VP
an a-ha moment about why some other initiative might be struggling. In other
words, if you can't quantify an effect, demonstrate it.
On Tuesday, 6 September 2016, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
> If you wanted to educate a VP, or someone from the C-suite, as to what
> "abstract" skills a Tech Writer has that could be applied to their own
> challenges, what would you list?
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