Re: Query--software doc writer's responsibilities

Subject: Re: Query--software doc writer's responsibilities
From: Sella Rush <SellaR -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 12:51:08 -0800

Karl Hakkarainen writes:
>It's important that technical writers be treated as professionals. It's
equally important that we don't define ourselves so narrowly that we
ourselves into obscurity.<

and Win Day writes:

>Think of it this way -- no matter what your offical job description says,
you were really hired to improve your company's bottom line. Any task
needs doing is probably fair game.<

Personally, I'm discovering that these two statements are not mutually
conducive--at least in my situation.

I've recently started a new job with a small software company. They are
about to release their first general market product (after 3 years), so
you can imagine how stressed people are. I walked into the job with
some pretty good writing/documentation skills, but, like Win, was eager
to fill in where ever I was needed. That has included recruiting more
programmers (including maintaining a database, filing, and standard
responses), as well as some marketing work (other than writing) and
maintaining MS project files. My perspective echoed Win's: my future
depended on the success of the product, which couldn't happen unless the
programmers had the time to code. So I took on the jobs that I could do
to free them up.

Unfortunately, this has led directly to a lact of professional respect
from *some* programmers. One flat out requested me to do the
"secretarial" thing on a small task (compiling some data)--I replied
that I would be happy to do him the *favor* of taking care of it for
him. Another (potentially more serious) incident was when a senior
programmer suggested that my usefulness to the team was to do the
documentation tasks so that the programmers wouldn't have to. Meaning
that I have no intrinsic value of my own--that the programmers "can do
anything I can do better."

I'm not beating up on programmers here. That's only 2 perspectives in 5
(plus the team's non-programming boss who actually sees my writng skills
as a valuable asset). In many ways I feel at fault that I'm now in a
defensive position in terms of my reputation. Part of this, I'm sure,
is due to my reluctance to delegate administrative tasks to
administrative people--because I'm the new kid and didn't want to offend
by dumping on them. (Also, I often have extra time while I'm waiting
for tech reviews, etc.)

Now I'm wondering how to remedy the situation, because I fear the
attitude might spread. Is the only way to get professional respect to
refuse to do some jobs? Did I go too far in my willingness to pitch in
where ever needed? It seems like there's a fine line, which I've
apparently dug a trench through!

Basically, though, I'm just intensely irritated that my good intentions
are being taken advantage of.
Sella Rush
Applied Technical Systems, Inc. (ATS)
Bremerton, Washington USA
Developers of the CCM Database

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