Re: Re. Certification (sorry, its long)

Subject: Re: Re. Certification (sorry, its long)
From: Dan Martillotti <danm -at- DEV -dot- TIVOLI -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 1995 17:07:07 CST

Geoff Hart suggests:

> 1. Obtain a work sample (or several for more senior or
> prestigious levels or grades of certification).

What about recent college graduates? Don't they need certification too (under
the certification scenario)? Also, you're saying that several samples means
that you can qualify for a higher level/grade? What if you have a killer manual
that you worked on for over a year that is an international award winner (and
itis your first book)? You still only qualify for the first level

As far as I know, and I don't know much :-), most certified fields have one test
that you either pass or fail. When you pass the Bar, you are a lawyer. You
don't get to take a Bar II in order to become a senior lawyer...

> 2. Identify (through the employer?) what the candidate's
> role was in producing the work.

What do you do if the writer is a part of team? How do you know what part that
writer contributed? How do you know what part wasn't "fixed" by a peer or an
editor? You believe someone's manager knows that much detail about a project?

> 3. Identify the goals of the work and the constraints under
> which the person worked.

So if my work was produced under a tight deadline, there are different
standards for certification? Isn't good writing good writing, period?

> 4. Determine the extent to which the candidate met each of
> these goals, in the context of the existing constraints.

Same statement...

> The evaluation would be performed by a committee of peers,
> perhaps including audience members to provide a reality
> check, and the certificate would be awarded or denied based
> on the committee's consensus. There would likely be a right
> of appeal (perhaps to a second committee) too. There are a
> few problems to work out in this scheme (e.g., how to
> determine objectively if the candidate met a criterion),
> but the overall outline seems robust.

I see a more than a few problems with this idea. How long
does a peer sit on the board? Let's say a year, shall we. How about this
scenario: I submit for certification in December and get turned down. I submit
the same work in January to a new board and get certified. Different board
members have different views. Not a very stable benchmark.

The idea that we as writers need to certify ourselves is useless unless you
can convince all the hiring managers not to hire a writer unless they are
certified. And to be honest, I bet most managers are going to say to
themselves, "Self, why hire a certified tech writer and pay them $45,000
a year? This writer here has just as good a set of credentials, interviewed
well, appears to write as well, but isn't certified. I'll bet he'll work for
less... :-> Won't my boss be happy I saved the company money."

Remember, certification does not guarantee anything. There are certified
doctors who are quacks, there are certified lawyers who can't argue a case,
there are certified mechanics that botch car engines, there
are certified accounts who can't balance the books...I'm sure there are many
more that I can't think of right now.

IMHO, certification will do nothing for the profession of technical writing,
outside of working for about 5% of the folks and working against about 5% of
the folks. With such a diverse field (software manuals, reports, medical
writing, editing, technical marketing, hardware manuals, technical journals,
web publishers, on-line help writers, etc), how can there be a fair cetification
process? The only certification we need is our skills.

Sorry Geoff, I didn't mean to single you out. I just had to respond to someones
posting. :-)

Have a happy new year everyone!

Dan Martillotti
danm -at- tivoli -dot- com
Tivoli Systems

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