Re: Jobs Future for Technical Communication

Subject: Re: Jobs Future for Technical Communication
From: Richard Lippincott <rlippinc -at- BEV -dot- ETN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 08:21:31 EST

Mike Uhl talked about the disadvantages of contract workers, saying that
companies that hire them are:

>creating a class of entrepreneurial, mercenary technical
>people. Our loyalty will be to our own tribe, not to any articifial
>construct such as IBM or AT&T.

I think one of the biggest dangers in the use of contract workers is the loss
of "history." This isn't the fault of the contract writer, but of the company
that has chosen this course.

When I refer to "history" I'm not just talking about product/company loyalty.
It's also the fact that in many organizations, the tech writers end up being
one of the few places where the entire product comes together, where we see
"the big picuture." You might have a few independant software or hardware
development teams, or both, creating systems that conflict with each other.
Many of us have had the experience, I'm sure, of being the sudden lone voice
that pops up at a meeting and says "Well, that won't work, because there's a
team down the hall that's just disabled that function in the next release." Or,
more closely related to "history," to be able to say "Yeah, but it won't work
on all the machines we sold in 1989, that's the year we had to switch vendors
for the tuning magnet." Of course, the tech writers are the only ones that
remembers this because they had to put all the dual configuration data into
the manuals.

It takes a while to reach the point where an employee is expert enough to be
able to do that, and contractors usually don't have the opportunity to reach
that point.

Contractors and temps are a hot thing in the industry right now. There have
always been contract workers, there always will be. But I think the increased
use -right now- has quite a bit of "fad" written all over it. The pendulum
will swing back, the idea will lose popularity, and in a few years we'll
be seeing published articles saying "Contractors? What a lousy idea. We
sure know better -now-."

Then, some -more- years down the road, the pendulum will swing back again, and
the use of contractors will cycle back up.

(Of course, I've been wrong before. If I could -really- predict the future, I'd
be picking ponies at Pimlico.)

Rick Lippincott
Eaton Semiconductor
rlippinc -at- bev -dot- etn -dot- com

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