RE: Interesting job description

Subject: RE: Interesting job description
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2016 18:34:18 -0400

It isnât about what problems the tech writer has. It is about what problems the organization has and what the tech writer can do to help alleviate those problems. A tech company has three problems that are relevant to this discussion.

* Time to market is critical. The window of opportunity for a new product or an upgrade to an old one is small and every day your product is not in the market people are buying your competitorâs product or moving on to the next tech revolution. Time to market is money in the bank. In many cases, time to market is survival. Ask Blackberry.

* Engineering is a constrained resource. It is hard to get the engineers you need and it is important to minimize the time they spend doing non-engineering tasks. Since adding more engineers to a project is both expensive and of limited value beyond a certain point, keeping them focused on engineering is critical to time to market.

* They need adequate docs.

Jobs exist to solve the problems of companies. The more of the companyâs problems you solve, the more valuable you are to the company and the more money you get. If that creates a caste system, so be it. It is a caste system based on the ability of each caste to contribute to the bottom line. If a tech writer can produce adequate documentation while minimizing the amount of time they take from the engineers, the greater their contribution to the bottom line, the more of the companyâs problems they solve, and more money they get paid. If you want more money and more respect, ask for less and contribute more.

This, after all, is standard job hunting advice. Find a problem the company has. Show them how you can fix it. The more you talk about fixing the companyâs problems, and the less you talk about asking the company to fix your problems, the more valuable you will be.

That does not mean you donât negotiate for resources. But you make your case for resources in terms of solving the companyâs problems, not in terms of solving your own.


From: Keith Hood [mailto:bus -dot- write -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, October 7, 2016 5:49 PM
To: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Interesting job description

I think your take on the situation still doesn't qualify as a "positive" expression. It seems to me you're accepting and perpetuating one of the worst problems that a tech writer can have, and a problem which can also have unhealthy manifestations among the engineers and their work - a caste system. You're basically saying that the tech writer is a second class citizen, not actually a worthwhile part of the team, who has to come like a peon hat in hand to crave a boon from el patron when he needs information. Make it known that the tech writer does not have the same right as others to coordinate and communicate with the rest of the staff, and that will be the end of him being included in any kind of planning or forward-looking analyses. And this siloing you have set up can make the engineers difficult to deal with because it breeds in them arrogance and a patronizing attitude toward everyone else. Once that kind of thinking takes hold in the engineering staff, schedules and deadlines become mythical.

The value proposition of a tech writer is 100% dependent on efficient information flow. And the tech writer is the one who is most most aware of what his information needs really are. Putting arbitrary limits on when and how he can seek information doesn't ensure efficiency in product development - all it really does is guarantee greater difficulty in producing good documents.

On Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 4:26 PM, <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com <mailto:mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com> > wrote:

Those have always been my criteria for hiring technical writers. Engineering
talent is a constrained resource in every technology company and the rest of
the organization should be set up to optimize the use of that resource. The
less SME time a tech writer needs, the less impact they have on the critical
path of product development. (This is not only because engineers are scarce
and expensive, BTW, but also because there is an optimal size to an
engineering team beyond which adding new bodies does not increase

This is also the basis on which tech writers can negotiate for higher pay.
If you can go to the company and say, "I can produce the requisite
documentation with less impact on the critical path than the next guy," that
is a value proposition that any project manager can understand. Time to
market is everything in a modern technology company.

This is also something I have emphasized with I was on the other side of the
interview process. I pride myself on my ability to minimize my impact on the
engineering staff, both by knowing my stuff, and by deliberately optimizing
the times I do need to consult them.

It surprises me somewhat that more tech writers do not understand this as a
fundamental part of their value proposition.


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Interesting job description: From: Keith Hood
RE: Interesting job description: From: mbaker

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