Reply to Lisa Higgins

Subject: Reply to Lisa Higgins
From: Andrew Woodhouse <awoodhou -at- MPC-UK -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 May 1996 10:32:49 +0100

Lisa Higgins wrote:

> >>Of course. The first question you should have asked yourself is, "Why is
> >>this guy with 16 years of experience applying for a 3-month contract at
> >>US WEST?" Sure, it could happen when the market's slow, but that
> >>should've been a red flag for you nonetheless.
> >
> >That's bull. There are more reasons than I can state as to why someone
> with 16 years >experience would apply for a 3 month contract at US WEST
> (or anywhere else).

> Of course there are. Three month contracts are the lifeblood of the
> contract and freelance communities. They're fast-paced and lucrative and
> bite-sized. But when they're in a company the size and temperament of US
> WEST, they all too frequently are just like regular employment, but
> without even the perception of "security."

US WEST ISG [International Systems Group] is a small company of about 20-30
employees and is quite removed (literally!) from the monolith of corporate US
WEST. I agree that a 3 month contract may be fast-paced and lucrative, but what
do you mean by "bite sized"? I've got a feeling you mean you can get out before
your work is flung back in your face by the end users, and us poor staffers have
to pick up the pieces (I know - it's happened before!).


> First, there's a ceiling on the hourly rates they'll pay you, and as far
> as I know, they do not approach what one would need to get to be fairly
> compensated for 16 years of quality experience.


There *is* a ceiling on hourly rates - are you seriously telling me that this is
unusual? So what happens where you work? Tech. writers get paid more than senior
management or technical experts? And besides, as I've said before, as it turned
out the guy had, to put it bluntly, lied quite considerably about his
experience.

> Second, US WEST has outsourced much of their workforce (as have many
> other large companies) in an attempt to save money, but as a result of
> that, even those on the shortest term contracts are often expected to
> attend endless, excruciating meetings on company policy and to
> participate in bizarre, twisted little brainwashing seminars that try to
> eke out some sort of "loyalty" from a largely mercenary workplace.


Not here. I think you're oversimplifying the nature of large companies like US
WEST. The corporate mentality you describe may exist (I really don't know or
care) in the home market in the core business units - in this case, presumably
telephony in Midwest/Pacific Northwest - but US WEST does loads of other
business like cable TV, mobile telephony, entertainment, software development,
etc. Large companies can -and should - provide all manner of interesting and
challenging work in different areas.

> Now, I'm not sure why other people would be interested in short-term
> contracts, but my two primary reasons are money and challenge, and
> companies like US WEST generally provide neither, IMO.


It sounds to me, Lisa, like you're a bit of a Prima Donna. I guess if you're
*that* good you don't need the likes of US WEST anyway. I'm sure you make a
fortune working doing challenging work for companies that meet your criteria,
but others - maybe less skillful than you - are certainly glad the the "big
boys" need tech. writers. Please tell me, and perhaps the list, what you're
currently doing and for whom so that us mere mortals can aspire to the same.

> Of course, large companies are a little more consistent about paying
> their bills, and that is a perfectly valid reason to apply for a job
> like that. But I've seen a lot of thoroughly incompetent people with 10+
> years experience, and I've seen a hell of a lot of people who lie on
> their resumes, so I think it's only reasonable to approach these things
> with some skepticism.


So what's the point of your post? I'm glad that you admit that getting paid is
important to you; but after thoroughly lambasting my employer (and, may I add,
verging on libel on occasion) and accusing me (and others of us) of being
nothing but brainwashed serfs, you say that I was naive and should expect
contract tech. writers to lie?

Andrew Woodhouse
US WEST International Systems Group
Borehamwood, UK
awoodhou -at- isysg -dot- com
Tel: +44 181 214 3499
Fax: +44 181 214 2335

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