job futures for tech writing

Subject: job futures for tech writing
From: Caryn Rizell <caryn -at- HPPTC95 -dot- ROSE -dot- HP -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 1994 11:12:33 PST


This is a long post. So delete it now if you aren't interested.

I have been reading the correspondence on this issue as it is
of great interest to me as a contractor. So now it's time to
add my 2 cents to the discussion.

I think the issue of history is an important one. I have
been contracting for one client since August 1993 and have
been given ever increasing amounts of responsibility. I
have accumulated quite a bit of knowledge and know how to
do certain things that noone else does.

As a result, if I were to leave, I would have to train
a regular employee on what I do. Now I know that full-time
employees leave all the time, but you have to admit that
there is a greater liklihood of a permanent employee staying
around longer than a contract employee.

As a contractor, I am also NOT allowed to attend meetings
where issues regarding the product are being discussed.
The rationale is that those privileges/benefits are for
staff members, and I am not a staff member. The company
did face a problem once because a contractor claimed that
they were being treated like a regular employee and therefore
should be one. Since then the company treats their contractors
at true arms length.

For the most part I don't most miss going to meetings, but
there are times when I could have added something to a discussion
based on my knowledge, or a decision is made that I have to
rehash later because I wasn't at the meeting to add my
perspective to this issue. If I would have been there, the
decision might have been different and could have been made

This is where the issue of history becomes essential. Having
worked at the company for over a year and having certain unique
knowledge, by not including me at meetings the company is
essentially foregoing my contributions to the history of how
things get done.

This isn't a complaint. Just a statement of reality. I think
the company loses out more than I do.

My other clients operate similarly. I was hired to do a task
(editing, online help, etc) and only that task. When I start
crossing the line into suggesting design changes or pointing
out problems, it is clear that I am supposed to stay in
my role as contractor.

I think Bonni Graham has an ideal situation where the company
treats her as a permanent employee, but she can go away and
do her thing. Of course I might argue that most companies
no matter how small really DO have enough work to keep a
full-time technical writer busy. If the writer does get involved
in design, online help, manuals, testing, then there is more
than enough to do. It's when the company puts us in the position
of "someone to do the manual after the product is finished" that
they perceive this to be less than a full-time position.

I will get off of my soapbox now. These are just some of
my observations from being a contractor. I do enjoy being
a contractor and wouldn't go back to permanent employment
without some really great perks!

Caryn Rizell

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