Re: What is the tool of choice?

Subject: Re: What is the tool of choice?
From: Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1993 13:49:59 -0500

Jonathan Leer had this to say:
>I believe that desktop publishing has certainly given the power of the press
>to the public but it has also reduced the concept of a technical writer as
>being an expert and professional. Certainly I am appalled that recruiters
>present a project to a senior writing consultant who has extensive experience
>in the product technical area as well as years of experience with various
>writing and illustration tools and says that the client won't use anyone
>who does not have recent experience using nroff/troff or AMIPro. As if
>a 3 month training course in Pagemaker will change anybody into a proficient
>technical writer.

I spent some time last summer looking for another job. I found that while
every company listed some sort of tool requirements (WordPerfect seemed to be
the most popular), none of them were too concerned that I've never used that
tool. I always listed "Interleaf 5 and Microsoft Word" on my cover letter;
most interviewers were happy that I'd had experience with those kinds of

On the other side, though, my company has gone Interleaf-crazy. We have this
notion that Interleaf is just sooooooo difficult to learn. ("We" does not
include "me".) We're looking to replace a writer who left in November, and
discussions reveal a strong sentiment that the writer be already proficient
in Interleaf, so there's less "ramp-up time". I guess I understand this.
We have the age-old problem of not planning well enough ahead; we need to
drop someone into this job as if they'd already been working here five years.
But I claim that any experienced writer we hire will be able to become
"functionally fluent" in Interleaf inside a week.

>So, to sum it up, the more we sell the concept of hire the "writer" rather
>than hire the tool user, the better our lot as technical writers will become.

I regularly have to gently remind my superiors that I'm a writer who happens
to have become very good with Interleaf, not an Interleaf user who happens
to write our user manuals. "Here, can you draw this for a 10:00 meeting?"
I've heard some rumbling on this list more than once that you folks resent
being used as glorified secretaries. When a company hires a tool user, a
glorified secretary is all they were looking for.


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