Re: Managing a Tech Writing Group

Subject: Re: Managing a Tech Writing Group
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 19:15:19 PDT

>I've been a tech writer for several years and now have the opportunity to
>"move up" and manage a group of tech writers. I'm looking for advice. Please
>respond to any of the following questions and concerns:

>-Has anyone out there made this transition and what was it like (good points
>/ bad points)?

I did. There's good news, and bad news. The bad news is, being in
management means that you have to fire your friends when the company
has a layoff. The good news is that management is different, interesting,
sometimes fun, and sometimes makes a big positive difference for your
staff and the company.

In my case, the transition was extremely straightforward, as I was
the most senior person in the group, and had been in a project-planning
role for a long time.

>-What skills from my tech writing career will transfer easily?

A tolerance for tedium and asking the same question 37 times until
you get an answer. Management meetings are unbelievably awful wastes
of time, with few exceptions.

>-What new skills will I need? Which skills are most important?

You need to learn to manage. You need to learn how to figure out what
the company really needs, DEMAND to be allowed to produce it, and then
deliver it, praising your group's efforts and the efforts of everyone
outside your group who assisted in the least little way. You need to
learn how to put together plans that call for spending money that's not
in the budget, hiring employees and contractors that aren't in the plan,
and sell your plans to upper management. You need to learn how to
be Finance and Purchasing's favorite customer (easy enough -- ask them
how they want you to do things, then do it their way). You need to
learn how to protect your staff from predation. You need to learn how
to deal with other managers in a way that gets results.

Learning how to get lunch meetings catered is a good skill, too.

>-What are the typical responsibilities of the tech pubs manager?

Managing a tech pubs department, obviously. Hiring and firing,
getting the job done, dealing with vendors, managing a budget,
determining future needs and dealing with them.

>-What is a typical pay range for this job?

It varies all over the map, depending on credentials and the company.
Ask about management bonus programs, additional stock options, and
more money. This is best done by talking to some knowlegeable HR
person, in the context of, "Is it going to be worth the heartache?"

>-Does anyone know of any good books on managing a tech pubs department?


-- Robert

Robert Plamondon * High-Tech Technical Writing
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (503) 453-5841
"I regret that I have but one * for my country." -- Nathan Hale

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