Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer

Subject: Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer
From: Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2016 16:18:19 -0400

Nice thread.

I've been lifting some ideas from Carol Fisher Saller's *The Subversive
Copy Editor*, especially chapter six. FYI, she runs the online Q&A for
the *Chicago
Manual of Style*.

Chris Morton



â Substantive Editing â Technical Writing â Proofreading
â Marketing Expertise â Mentoring
Click to
<http://t.sidekickopen63.com/e1t/c/5/f18dQhb0S7lC8dDMPbW2n0x6l2B9nMJN7t5XYgdnqQxW7fsH3H4XrddKW1pNgV-56dMhqf2Q-c6C02?t=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.linkedin.com%2Fpub%2Fchris-morton%2F2%2F166%2F6ba&si=6020636811198464&pi=1f67a681-ce64-4dd2-ebca-e7d6e295ba8f>


On Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 3:57 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
wrote:

> Thank you, Raj. This is incredibly insightful material. Thanks for
> sharing these thoughts. They bring a very different perspective to this
> discussion.
>
> I also appreciate your civility â it is a breath of fresh air. â
>
> Steve
>
>
> From: Raj Karamchedu [mailto:raj -at- rajkaramchedu -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 7:35 PM
> To: 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
> Subject: Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer
>
> Steven,
>
> Yes to all that you said, and allow me to add a bit more detail with a
> real-life example.
>
> 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 :- (
>
> Raj
>
>
> On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 6:49 PM, Jonathan Baker <jbaker2525 -at- gmail -dot- com
> <mailto: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,
>
> Jon
>
> On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 9:32 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com<
> mailto:Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>> wrote:
> 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<mailto:
> raj -at- rajkaramchedu -dot- com>]
> Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 4:31 PM
> To: Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com<mailto:
> Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>>
> Cc: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net<mailto:neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>>;
> 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>
> 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><mailto: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><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><mailto:mbake
> r -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><mailto: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><mailto:
> 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><mailto:
> 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><tel:%2B16508146017>
>
> [https://mailtrack.io/trace/mail/172a7cca49ee06a4c319dc484bfd8c
> baeec0cede.png?u=1023405]
> --
> Raj Karamchedu
> Sunnyvale, CA
> Mobile: +16508146017<tel:%2B16508146017>
>
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References:
Re: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Raj Karamchedu
RE: Transferable skills of a Tech Writer: From: Janoff, Steven

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