Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent

Subject: Re: Programming Tools -- How Prevalent
From: John Posada <John_Posada -at- NOTES -dot- CC -dot- BELLCORE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 17:23:08 -0400


I continue to see people post messages about how they are being pissed on at
their jobs or by their customer/clients/bosses.

Understand that either I've been VERY lucky to have worked at three separate
organizations (consecutively) that were extremely pro-tech writer, or I've been
able to bring something to my position that was unusual.

First...for the last two of the three, I've been paid very well (including the
one I'm at)...both of them coming close to 100k per year. The first one was
only at about 50k, but it was also my first stab at this stuff.

Second...I've not only been encouraged to be involved with the process, but
occasionally, the techies have asked for an appointment to come to my office
to explain what they were doing and what their product did.

I go to price strategy meetings and sometimes, I conduct the technical
read-throughs..and yes, sometimes arbitrated the answer when the product
managers gave conflicting answers.

Most of the contributors encourage me to rework their text, clean up their
graphics, and was recently involved in one meeting where one product manager
that's worked with me before convinced another product manager to let me rework
her graphics (his quote..."wait til you see his stuff...he's good").


I know the situation that you describe below is the norm...simply from reading
these messages over the last few months.

I know I'm NOT the easiest person to deal with. I had a SME call me on the
phone one day, early in a project, and tell me that his boss wanted the table
of contents to only go two levels down instead of the full depth ( I use the
TOC to do my sanity checking to make sure that my heading styles are uniform)
I told him that his boss could "kiss my butt... when I can see and comment on
his source code for his product when it's only 10% finished, then he can
comment on my material at that level."

If I do anything, it's to turn the material around "real fast"...and sometimes
its clean, too, ask intelligent questions, listen, listen, listen, then when
someone says something, I listen to what they are saying.

Another thing...I NEVER say I can't do something. I may end up working three
weeks in a row at over 40 hours OT per week, but I never say no. I'll buy
books with my own money to learn it, I'll buy software with my own money to do
something that can't be done with the tools they supply. (and yes, I get paid
for the OT). Oh, yes...I've never missed meeting a
committment...never!...well...maybe once, but that was only by 45 minutes.

And yes...sometimes I bluff...I nod my head and look like I know what the
person is saying when I only have a faint idea. Maybe 15 years of sales prior
to my tech gigs really did pay off.

I firmly believe that if you act like their equal, they will treat you like
their equal.

Oh, last thing. I know and accept that sometimes all you can do is
polish turds.

John Posada
Technical Proposal Writer
Bell Communications Research, Piscataway, NJ
(908) 699-5839 (W)
jposada -at- notes -dot- cc -dot- bellcore -dot- com (W)

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that
one word is 'to be prepared'"
- Vice President Dan Quayle 11/30/1988
I don't speak for my employer and they return the favor

Mike Huber says...

>My manuals look clear to me, but everybody thinks thier prose
>is golden.

Nah. Mine is platinum.

But to expand on something, I said earlier...

>Some employers do their damndest to screw any Technical Writer that
>shows any sign of being technically competent. They'll also make
>life for you as difficult as possible if you show any independence
>or ability to write.

Technical competent is completely worthless if your employer decides
that Technical Writers are <expletive deleted>.

I have as more software education than many engineers _and_ more
software experience. But this has not prevented some engineers from
telling me how to write the document when it is clear that they haven't
the slightest idea themselves. And to make matters worse, their
managers will back them up because they have "engineer" in their job

Or to put this another way, employer stupidity trumps tech writing

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