Re requiring University Degrees for TWers

Subject: Re requiring University Degrees for TWers
From: Bruce Faron <bfaron -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 22:24:22 -0700

On the "University Degree" thread, Arlen Walker wrote:

People, get off your hobby horses! The question IS NOT whether you learned
something while getting your degree. The question IS NOT whether you can
write as well not having a degree as other writers who have one. The
question IS NOT whether college is a Colossal Waste Of Time or The Perfect
Learning Experience. The question IS simply whether requiring degrees for a
TW job is a valid way of getting more able TWs.

Among the TWs I'm familiar with, a degree seems to be the *least* reliable
determinant of ability.


Fellow TWers, please consider:

Each potential employer or customer must consider his(her) particular

* Will the TWer be the lone tech writer for the company, who therefore
must figure out most answers for him(her)self, or merely a member of
a TW team, group, or department who is "closely supervised"?

* Will the TWer need certain prior subject matter knowledge
(different from TW knowledge) to fulfill the employer's or customer's
needs or requirements by developing the desired "product"
(any medium)? If yes, *how much* knowledge in *which* field?

* Will the potential employer or customer tell each TWer candidate a
"rough approximation" of what product is desired, then ask each
candidate to "bid the (or each) job" (this happened to me)?

IMO, potential employers or customers requiring a degree for TW candidates
as a means of (hopefully) getting more qualified TW employees makes
sense if:

1) the potential employer or customer knows (by requesting copies of
transcripts from each school attended):

* *which courses* in which fields each TW candidate studied,
* *when* (AKA how recently) each TW candidate completed each
of the courses,
* *how well* each TWer candidate "learned" the material in each of
the completed courses.

2) the potential employer or customer can correlate *what* each candidate
learned in school(s) to *which* sets of knowledge the TW must know
to develop the "product" that fulfills the employer's or customer's
needs or requirements.

Please note the potential employer or customer may also demand "successful
completion" (to the employer's or customer's definition) of one or more tests
as a cross-check of each TW candidates' level of learning of each of the
required or needed sets of knowledge.

Since the above text sounds "really vague", here are some representative

1) The Owner and Chief Scientist of a start-up company has developed
a new method of determining an item's chemical or atomic composition
that is a distinct improvement over chromatography or spectrometry.
With the help of a few engineers he hired, he developed a series of new
computerized "Identifier(TM)" machines that will revolutionize the
analytical detection market. The machines are currently in
Engineering Prototype stage. Each of the machines has core elements
and a large number of optional elements. To sell these machines
worldwide, the Owner believes he needs for each model or configuration of
machine, keyed by serial number:

* Installation Manuals (paper),
* User's Manuals (paper and online),
* On-line Help (different from the User's Manuals),
* Service and Parts Manuals (paper and on-line),

and most important,

* ISO 9000-series and IEC 292 compliant manufacturing documentation.

Since this is a start-up company, and there is no time or money to train
people, the Owner believes he should hire or contract only TWers who have
demonstrated knowledge (by transcript, by test, and by portfolio) of:

* Technical Communication,
* state-of-the-art electronics,
* ISO 9000 and IEC 292 regulations,
* Software Quality Analysis or Software Quality Engineering,
* Software Configuration Management, and

(Hypothetical, but there are some small-to medium sized companies in
Southern California that have developed or are developing products at this
level of sophistication. I have received calls from job shops looking for
TWers with approximately the above level of knowledge.)

2) From the <ul>Los Angeles Times</ul>, September 15, 1996 Classified Ads:


Simulation Sciences Inc., the leader in process simulation, has an opening
for a Documentation Specialist to support SIMSCI's product line by
developing product technical documentation.

The successful candidate will write new technical documentation (user and
reference manuals), update and maintain existing documentation, improve
format and design, write and develop on-line hypertext help and
documentation, and use engineering background to help develop example
problems and applications.

The creative individual we seek should have knowledge of Microsoft Word and
Excel; and a BSChE or other engineering degree. Previous Technical Writing
experience preferred.


Please mail or fax a resume, cover letter, and salary history to:
Simulation Sciences Inc.,
Attn: Kathy Murphy
601 S. Valencia Ave.
Brea CA 92823
Fax (714) 579-0197
e-mail: kmurphy -at- simsci -dot- com

Equal Opportunity Employer"

(I believe to develop "quality" documentation for SIMSCI, the TWer needs
at least a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and at least a TC/TW Certificate if
not a TC/TW Degree, and at least "several years" experience in different TW

The above examples are why I go to night school (and eventually full-time day
school) to get my TC/TW Certificates (and eventually Degrees), and an
Degree. I have 11 years experience in a variety of TW positions, and 7 years
experience as a Metrology Technician, and I am painfully aware that there is
much I must learn!


Bruce Faron
Technical Writer/Editor

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