Re[3]: Certification (long)

Subject: Re[3]: Certification (long)
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 08:33:00 -0600

Can you explain this further? When I was first thinking about
changing careers 3 years ago, I would have been grateful to have a
test to pass. Instead, I had to work on a lot of fronts, excluding
writing, and it took over a year and a half to find a job. I think
certification would have made the process of changing careers a lot
easier and a lot more focused.

Robert, in his usual thorough-going way, said most of what I would have
said about the issue.

You're right in one respect. It would have given you a focus for your
career change. But would it have been the *right* focus? I doubt it. It
would have been one more "not writing" thing to worry about.

Would it have made it easier? I doubt it. You would have had to aim for
passing through whatever the certification process was, in addition to
discovering and improving your writing abilities. Most of the people who
have been proposing certification standards on this list have included
experience as one of the issues, and education as another. Experience
creates a *real* Catch-22, as you can't get it unless someone will hire
you, and if people only hire certified pros, you'll never get the chance to
get the experience. Education as a prerequisite for certification would
have required that you take a great deal of time to make the changeover.
Most people who are already established in one career field will find the
up-front investment of time prohibitive. Then there's always the cost,
which might be insignificant, and might not be, depending upon the process
itself.

Certification adds one more item to the to-do list for anyone wanting to
enter the field. As Robert mentioned, it's a good way to ensure that all
tech writers are the same. It makes sure that 99% of tech writers have made
their decision in their teenage years, and come to the field with pristine
minds, unpolluted by the knowledge and experiences of other career fields.

It reminds me of a fresh engineering student we picked up from MIT some
time back. He assured us he knew assembly language, had taken two courses
in it at MIT. Turned out that MIT had some courses in theoretical assembly
languages, completely uncoupled from any given microprocessor. So we had to
teach him the language after all. (And, his first project was completely
destroyed one morning when we turned it on. Seems he didn't know that CMOS
powers up in a random state, so he routed about 100 volts from lead-acid
batteries through a CMOS switch, creating a short-duration arc-welder. My,
the smoke!) The tech writers who come into the field in that manner will be
lacking some possibly necessary skills. Now, they can acquire those skills
on the job, but I guess the main point is why should *they* be considered
special enough to be allowed to acquire those skills on the job, while
someone else who has those skills but is perhaps lacking in one of the
"certifiable" skills is verboten?

A side note about Robert's programmer analogy. Many companies are now
finding it easier to take business people and teach them programming skills
than to take programming people and teach them about the business.

Certification is an exclusionary process. I continue to find it little
short of hilarious that a list which is so sensitive to exclusionary
language can be so hot for excluding anyone who is "not-us."


Have fun,
Arlen
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 124

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
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In God we trust; all others must provide data.
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Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.


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