Tech Weenies in the TC group (was: Job Descriptions)

Subject: Tech Weenies in the TC group (was: Job Descriptions)
From: Jane Torpie <Jane_Torpie_at_III-HQ -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 15:46:00 EST

John, Laura, et al. -

I'm also a Senior Technical Writer ... my nickname in the TC group is Geordi,
Lieutenant Commander and Engineering Officer (after the Star Trek: Next
Generation character). This is my situation:

Until recently, our company had one group split into two parts, one in Boston
and one in San Diego. The Boston people at the corporate office had regular
access to the services of our information systems group; the San Diego people
had a somewhat less formal (and often less efficient) arrangement for support.
However talented and well-intentioned the IS folks are, they can never know as
much about our jobs and needs as we can. The "best case" situation is that
each writer/editor can support her or his own needs. But in reality this isn't
always possible. IMHO, the next best case is to have the group support itself
as much as possible.

In this environment, I saw an opportunity to provide network, hardware, and
software support to the group. Sometimes I contacted the right people in a
pinch; more often I fixed network access (h/w & s/w), evaluated software, and
trained writers or editors. At first I had to convince my manager that this
was a wise use of my time. ("OK, but that's really not your job.") When he
didn't have to fix as many problems or explain the schedule delays they caused,
he allowed me to continue.

These are the results:
1. In general, the group runs more smoothly and produces deliverables more
efficiently b/c problems are handled quickly.
2. The TC group can more easily choose its own tools b/c they know their needs
and can support the tools.
3. Technical learning in the TC group usually meets the groups needs well b/c
it's geared to the tasks at hand and the group's doc. schedule(s).
4. Individual group members develop their own skills more quickly b/c I can
provide follow-up attention.
5. Over time, I've developed a great relationship with the IS folks, who take
my requests on behalf of the group very seriously when I ask for something.
(One asked me if I'd consider interviewing for a job in their group!)

I always list this work in my status reports, on my reviews, and in my resume.
Unfortunately, while it's definitely worthwhile work, many managers don't
regard it that way. It's easy to fall into a "technical housekeeper" type of

Therefore, I'd suggest making the "tech weenie" duties part of the job
description. Managers and VPs need to know that the TC group needs technical
resources and should budget time & money for them. Tech weenies contribute
expertise (much as online doc. specialists) and should also get compensated for
that, rather than penalized b/c "it's not [your] job."

Jane Torpie
Senior Technical Writer
Easel Corporation
Burlington, MA

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