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Gina brings up a topic of interest to me. My company has quite a few
writers, operating at various levels, but all given the same title and job
description. Since we have recently been split from a centralized writing
group into the various product development group, we are working at
increasing the company's level of awareness about what we have to offer and
our importance in product development.
One tool some of us believe would help is new job titles. Technical
Communicator does seem to imply to some that we are technical secretaries.
Recently, when a writer was assigned to a product support process
improvement committee, the committee chair announced that he was glad a
writer was there to take notes! Another factor is that the programmers have
6 or 7 levels of titles and responsibility, while we have only one. Another
sign that our work is not adequately valued.
Has anyone received, or heard of, good job titles for writers? Some that I
have come across are Knowledge Engineer, Information Designer, Information
It's threads like the one Guy started that allow us to take a
broader look at what is sometimes myopic thinking, and
reflect on how it is that we as writers can receive not accolades
(as one person remarked) but a level of respect of position and of
understanding of our value to the marketplace and to the companies
from whom we collect a paycheck. We'll only get paid what the market
will bear; however, by elevating our position, elevates the value
as well. And that determining where we are (perhaps by establishing
categories), may be a good place to access our present value.
Also, I'm certain that few companies honestly have a grasp of what
tech writers do. Mostly we're treated like overpaid (though generally
overworked) secretaries who simply regurgitate information given to
us by the engineering team. If we were to find a way to classify
ourselves, as a starting point, then perhaps our place as team members
on development staffs would also have a greater significance.
It's been my experience that companies will hire a writer in the
throes of a deadline, months into development and expect the writer
to very quickly learn the product and catch up to the team. If HR
and management folks had a clearer understanding of the role of a
technical writer, then a writer would become an integral part of
the team and would participate in the design (including the initial
stages), development, and implementation. That would include the
documentation process, production, and user feasibility studies so
that the finished projects (the product and the accompanying docs)
would match each other. In this way, the writer would provide a
great benefit for the team that could perceive as a help to them
and not just as something that needs to get done so the customer
can understand how the product works. It may also help project
managers to realize the importance of documentation and that it
needs to be an important benchmark of every design team.