Re: Reply to Lisa Higgins

Subject: Re: Reply to Lisa Higgins
From: "Higgins, Lisa R." <eilrh -at- EXCHANGE -dot- WCC -dot- ATT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 May 1996 12:13:00 -0400

I've left this on the list for now, as there are still parts that are
relevant. However, I will not respond to any more incendiary personal
attacks publicly, and possibly not even privately. It's not relevant,
and I have much better things to do.

So it's pretty much open season now. If you'd like to call me names and
accuse me of all manner of crimes, you will go unchallenged.

Andrew Woodhouse wrote:
>Lisa Higgins wrote:
>> 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!).

Yeah. That's exactly what I meant. There's nothing I relish more than
coming into a contract, writing a REALLY crappy manual or something, and
darting before anyone has a chance to give me feedback. That's my job.
I'm Satan.

>> 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.

Well, first off, many companies do NOT have ceilings on salaries as
such. Second, do you have some reason that "technical experts" should
NEVER make less than technical writers? And what, pray tell, is a
"technical expert"? I've found that it's generally a pretty good idea
to find out if a potential employer has "salary ranges" for technical
writers and say, developers, and if so, how they relate to each other.
Companies that consistently pay developers more are generally not the
best companies to work for.

Further, you asked if you were asking too much. I answered your question
from my perspective. Apparently, I hit a nerve there. But 16 years is a
lot of experience, and you've strengthened my suspicion that you were
not offering fair compensation for 16 solid years of experience.

You get what you pay for. You don't say what you were offering, but I
suspect that it was little enough that you should have been a little
suspicious when someone with 16 years of experience came in to
interview. And YES, there could well have been a valid reason for his
doing so, but it's enough that you SHOULD have been suspicious.

>> 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.

OK. Maybe I painted US WEST with too broad a brush. But based on the
volume of your protests, I suspect that there was at least an element of
truth to my characterization.

>> 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.

It sounds to me, Andrew, as though you have a bit of a reading
comprehension problem. I do not have 16 years of experience. I do not
get perfect jobs. I do contract and freelance work, and I frequently
work for large companies and companies of all sizes and shapes that do
not pay enough. Sometimes, I do really boring work, and sometimes, it's
difficult to get any work at all. But when the market is good, I would
not consider a position like the one you described. And I only have
about 8 years under my belt. Feel free to be suspicious of me if I apply
for a 3-month contract at US WEST.

>> 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?

You asked a question. You wanted to know if you were asking too much.
You wanted to know why you ended up disappointed. I simply said that you
had reason to be suspicious. You get what you pay for, and it doesn't
sound like you were paying for a good technical writer with 16 years of
experience. So...no, you should not have been surprised. And yes, you
probably should expect people to lie on their resumes. I don't, and I
know plenty of other people who don't, either, but I am aware of many,
many others who do. And frequently, contract agencies lie for people who
don't do it themselves.

As far as libel goes, you forgot to add "I am not a lawyer," but based
on what you said, I guess it would have been redundant.

If you would like to continue your personal attacks, feel free to do so
in private email.

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