Re: FrameMaker Required

Subject: Re: FrameMaker Required
From: Jim Grey <jimgrey -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 1996 12:24:00 EST

Steve Jong (Steve_Jong/Lightbridge*LIGHTBRIDGE -at- lightbridge -dot- com) sent me the
following note. He tells me he can't post to techwr-l, but gave me
permission to post it for him.


[Jim, please feel free to post this to TECHWR-L -- for technical reasons, I
cannot. Thanks! -- Steve]

Jim Grey <jimgrey -at- IQUEST -dot- NET> voices the issue of whether, for a technical
communicator, proficiency with Tool X is a necessary or sufficient hiring
criterion. I generally agree with Jim, but I must take the "management"
side of the question for a moment.

I think in a Tool X shop, proficiency with Tool X is a reasonable criterion,
especially, as Jim points out, for a time-critical situation (for which you
are likely to hire a contractor). In interview situations I ask about tool
proficiency, and I further ask questions designed to see just how proficient
the candidate is. (You have been warned 8^) Tool proficiency
is even more important if the organization doesn't have training capability:
Some groups are so busy that they can't even take the time to bring someone up
to speed. (That's why I ask; more's the pity 8^(

Now, I agree that proficiency with Tool X is not a SUFFICIENT criterion. The
candidate who is a whiz with Tool X but can't write is -- well, a secretary,
and we are not secretaries! But I do take issue with one of Jim's points:

> A manager at one of my former employers was deathly afraid of Interleaf. In
> those rare cases we looked for temporary or permanent help, he got the most
> excited about resumes that cited Interleaf experience. "We wouldn't have to
> train them!" I regularly reminded him that I learned enough about Interleaf
> in my first week to be fairly productive.

My problem here comes from the same place that shouts "We are not secretaries!"
I've seen many a person in an interview breezily claim "proficiency" with a
tool (which frankly irritated me as an interviewer), only to discover after
the fact that the person doesn't know enough to create a letter, much less a
technical document.

(Let's take Word 6 just as an example. I set up automatic headers and footers,
and explain to the person that they are automatic. The next thing I know,
the person is asking me why the page numbers are all the same. I go into the
source files and discover that the fields have been overwritten. I can tell
exactly the same story in Interleaf. Admit it -- this sort of rework
happens all the time.)

You wouldn't hire a carpenter who didn't know how to use a hammer or a saw,
no matter how well the rest of the work might be. Are we not at least as
skilled? I've seen contractors fired for being incompetent in the tool of
choice. I have been the person who had to go into a document and
laboriously clean up after someone who rendered it unmanufacturable. For a
contractor, especially in a training-poor or mentor-poor environment, tool
ineptitude is as big a problem as being unable to write coherently.

Proficiency with Tool X -- whatever that tool is -- does not come in a week or
a month; it comes from experience. The more powerful the tool, the longer
it takes to master. (I considered myself a master at Interleaf, but it took
four years; I have been using Word as my primary tool for two years and I'm
no master.) In fact, I feel that comments to the effect that one tool is
the same as another and it only takes a few days to get 'up to speed'
undercuts our profession.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Group Leader ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc, 281 Winter St., Waltham, MA 02154 USA
<jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com>, 617.672.4902 [voice], 617.890.2681 [FAX]


A few words from me:

"Becoming fairly productive," as I said earlier, and becoming proficient are
different. It took me about four years to become an Interleaf "master,"
much as it did for Steve. But I still created a decent first document,
using an existing template, during my first month as an Interleaf user.

I'm currently writing online help for Windows products using RoboHELP. I'd
never touched RoboHELP before a month ago. I had, however, developed online
help before, and I had compiled and linked programs before. My manager,
during the interview process, recognized that these skills would apply here,
and gave me the nod. I'm fairly productive. My boss, after two years, is


P.S. George Heiner <gmh -at- skyenet -dot- com>: I got your e-mail, and tried to reply,
but my reply bounced.

jim grey |beebeebumbleandthestingersmottthehoopleraycharlessingers
jimgrey -at- iquest -dot- net|lonniemackandtwangin'eddiehere'smyringwe'regoingsteadyta
My vanity page is now online! Oh boy!

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