Re: "Training" versus "education"

Subject: Re: "Training" versus "education"
From: Paul Sholar <pks -at- GENSYM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 1995 18:54:14 EDT

Steven J. Owens writes:

> > Jobs and job requirements change. Without "education" you will tend to
> > bear the brunt of change, rather than anticipate and participate in how
> > change happens.

> I agree whole-heartedly; the more rounded education will serve as
> the theoretical foundation upon which you'll build your job skills. BUT...

> ...on the other hand, job training is not necessarily something
> you can count on your employer to provide, particularly if you're not
> yet employed! Employers seem increasingly reluctant to hire new
> graduates. I think you have to take your "job training" into your own
> hands, while you're getting your education by more formal means.

My posting wasn't intended to opine about where and how a prospective tech
writer receives "training". Probably the best advice is to take part-time
college-level coursework, leading to a certificate or degree in Technical
Writing, Information Design, Book Design, Computer-Based Training, and so on,
when it is available in your geographic area. Otherwise, there are approaches
that determined, intelligent persons can take to break into this field that
don't depend on the availability of formal training in technical writing.
A lot of organizations don't know that they need someone with formal training
in technical writing, because the pertinent hiring managers don't know that
such curricula exist. In such cases, persons who are inclined to write
structured material clearly and carefully have an opportunity to actually do
technical writing by training on-the-job.

> By the way, Mr. "Sr. Technical Writer", how does Gensym arrive at
> that classification? I'm trying to build a rule-of-thumb definition
> of entry-level, mid, and senior technical writer, so I can post it and
> let people take shots at it.

Steve, if you have an opinion on these things based on your own experience,
why don't you just post it, rather than "building" it based on the opinions of

I don't speak for the management of my company (which produces and sells
a workstation-level expert system software development tool called G2),
but my impression is that the definition of "Sr. Technical Writer" is based
primarily on a level of work experience (such as more than five years),
but also on having developed skills in page layout, graphics presentation,
interviewing, expository writing, and document project planning.

From my 15 years of experience at several software companies, management
doesn't typically know how to define the skill set that technical writers
often offer, because those organizations don't yet understand how to develop
their product documentation in an organized manner. For instance, how many
organizations require that each "Sr. Technical Writer" know how to author
a document plan, including audience assessment, outline, usability
criteria, evaluation criteria, and schedule?

Communicate well and prosper,

Paul Sholar pks -at- gensym -dot- com

DISCLAIMER: Not speaking for Gensym Corporation

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