Re: A Quandry about Titles...

Subject: Re: A Quandry about Titles...
From: Jane Torpie <Jane_Torpie_at_III-HQ -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1993 17:55:00 EST

Text item: Text_1

<Warning - this rambles... I'm tired.>
Dave -

1. Experience & Titles
I'm assuming that you don't have many years of experience in Tech. Comm.
(Correct me if I'm wrong; I'm taking clues from context.) I'm wondering
because in large companies with some sort of career track for TC people,
writers earn promotions according to some vague pattern like this
(Conglomeration of my experience at 4 companies; this differs according to
company & technology but you get the basic idea):

Associate Technical Writer (years 1 & 2)
TW (years 2-5)
Senior TW (usually 5 years or later)
Principal TW (usually 7 years at the earliest; can be much later)
Senior Principal TW (I've no clue).

In my company (if we had that many people in our group!), Principal TW
would correspond to "supervisor," a nebulous term that is equivalent to
being a project leader, but permanently (maybe "group leader" is more
descriptive). Sr. Principal TW would be the individual contributor
equivalent to Doc. Group Manager.

If you work in a small company, there's probably not a well-established
career track for the "only writer." If you don't have enough experience to
convince them to give you a Senior TW title, then stick with Technical
Writer. It's broad enough to give you lots of leeway as to your tasks and
descriptive enough so that people will know what you do.

2. Job Description
While you're at this title business, you should probably also think about
your job description. Make sure the Human Resources people have one, and
make sure that it reflects what you do. (Our HR dept. had a description of
my job that was based on hardware writing a few years ago; it was all of
one paragraph long. My manager wrote a much better one that was more
accurate and inclusive. It gave me room to try new things & credit for
doing other things, like investigating new tools to do the job.) If you
have to write your own, start by considering what you'd put on your resume.
Ask this list; some of us will be able to help you. It's a great way to
educate your company about what this profession is about and what you
personally have to offer.

3. Your Other Tasks & Interests
Do you do just technical writing? How about marketing writing? What about
course development? Do you work on user interfaces? What about
development? Do you want to do any of these? If so, consider that when
you pick a title. You may be better off making one up that's more
descriptive. Unfortunately, people inside and outside of our companies
judge us by our titles; it helps them to get a "mindset" about you. This
can affect:
- the tasks you can take on in your company (the silent version of "You're
a TW; you shouldn't be doing that" or "you would be great at that")
- your resume ("gee, why was a TW doing that?" or "a TW couldn't know very
much about that")
- the next job you look for ("he's already been an ABC")
- your paycheck, esp. when the HR people pair it up with a job description
& salary scale ("TWs in this locale w/ X years of experience can only
make between Y & Z and Associate TWs get less; people who do this other
job get more/less than TWs")

All this is to say, think about what you're doing now and what you want to
do in your next position (in your current company or outside it), then pick
a title and write a job description to support it. You've got a great
opportunity to be in the driver's seat for your professional growth.

Best of luck, and feel free to ask us for assistance if you'd like it.
(I've received some amazing advice from the helpful people on this list.)

Jane Torpie
Senior Technical Writer
Easel Corporation
Burlington, MA

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