Re: Tools experience

Subject: Re: Tools experience
From: Bee Hanson <beelia -at- pacbell -dot- net>
To: "Wright, Lynne" <Lynne -dot- Wright -at- Kronos -dot- com>, Dave C <davec2468 -at- gmail -dot- com>, Tech Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 May 2017 21:13:35 +0000 (UTC)

If the company is willing to train someone, then yes, doing some advance study on DITA will help. Learning about types of structured content is useful, and can help you to write better.
But DITA jobs are really hands-on publishing gigs - usually not thinking or writing about technology, as most of us have learned to do. The training is totally tools-oriented. Since most people can't afford to buy an XMetaL license (north of $1800 or so), or set up a huge SDL LCA or AEM CMS at home, most training does have to take place in a company that already has a large-scale, company-wide CMS set up.
Even if you get the job, you might not want it. My first year with DITA was kind of interesting, because it was a challenging new skill I could master and feel good about having done it. In my case, I had to convert a whole Flare docset to XMetaL/Trisoft. It was very challenging and I felt good about it, even though I still think Flare is pretty nifty (I used it on my next non-DITA job, and wouldn't mind using it on another).
But in a DITA system, you are dependent on information architects and publication managers to get the job done. Sometimes you just won't be able to keep working without help from one of those talented and industrious folks. Bless them, they are in the only career path that makes sense if you really, really like DITA. If you're not an IA, you're just a replaceable part - and it appears to me that your prospective employer is just trying to replace a part.
On a DITA job, the content you write might have already been written and stuffed many directories deep in a system in Tel Aviv or Mumbai, and it might not be your job to figure out or test any processes to make sure they are accurate. So if you like developing technical content, you are not going to learn anything. You might be stuck just fixing lists of steps and making sure they all use the same pattern so that the translation management system works at maximum efficiency. There are lots of boilerplates and conrefs to maintain so that the document 'products' can be pushed out like sausages. You keep lists of stuff you have to do to maintain each sausage in its correct case, and you have to keep track of the sausages as they move along the assembly line. It's exhausting.
I guess by now you can tell how I feel about DITA. My last DITA job made me stark, raving, bonkers mad. I was so bored and fed up with all of the stupid, meaningless details that one day I just blew up and walked off the job. I shouldn't have done that, but I immediately went into therapy and was able to successfully deprogram myself. I am now working on improving my Java and API skills so I can get better jobs that will keep my brain alive.
The only useful result is that now I can tell the tale, so colleagues and friends of mine don't take a job that will drop them into a career-ending hole. I hope this helps.


Bee



On Thursday, May 4, 2017 11:30 AM, "Wright, Lynne" <Lynne -dot- Wright -at- Kronos -dot- com> wrote:


I hope this isn't too obvious, but given that they've been explicit about wanting someone with experience in content management systems, you'd best do some research so that you can talk about CMS theory/best practices or otherwise give them the sense that while you may never have DONE it, you have a solid understanding of what its all about, how you would structure such a system, etc.Â

Otherwise, somebody who also has good writing skills but can also talk the talk about CMSs will put you out of the running.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+lynne -dot- wright=kronos -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+lynne -dot- wright=kronos -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Dave C
Sent: May-04-17 2:20 PM
To: Tech Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: Tools experience

The interview tomorrow will include questions about my experience with content management systems. I have none. They want someone âto hit the ground runningâ.

This company uses Framemaker with DITA XML standards. While Iâve used Frame (long ago) I have no experience with DITA or other tools they are asking about: Live Content, Knowledge Center (which I think are not tools they use, just another way of asking if Iâve used any CMS).

My strengths are in my 15 years (a decade ago) of experience as a
writer: information collection including SME interviews; development of the document (comes with experience, as we all know); and my experience working with electronics (not just writing about it)âIâm a target audience of one.

Iâm going to emphasize that tools come and go but writing is a skill that outlasts all these. Not the best basis for an interview at a company that uses modern CMSâs but I have to go with the strengths I have.

Observations?

Thanks,
Dave
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Tools experience: From: Dave C
RE: Tools experience: From: Wright, Lynne

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