Embarrassing STC members and certification (fwd)

Subject: Embarrassing STC members and certification (fwd)
From: Ann Balaban <annb -at- DADD -dot- TI -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 15:48:34 -0600

I'm posting this for someone else; please respond to her directly if
you want to make comments.

> I have pushed hard for certiification among the ranks of STC.
> Unfortunately, in Dallas we have very embarrassing representation among
> the executive rank. Folks who could not complete a grammarically correct
> sentence if they were paid as much as they charge as consultants to do
> so. I know. I have had the misfortune to have to work with them and
> clean up their work after they've collected their enormous consulting
> fees and moved on.

There are plenty of excellent technical writers in the STC in Dallas.
If you ever volunteered as a judge for the STC competition and participated
in the discussions on Judges' Day, you would realize this. These people are
very talented, knowledgeable, and hardworking. They put a great deal of
effort into making the competition educational for all of those who enter.
If you had attended the Region 5 conference and listened to STC members'
presentations, you (like the other attendees) would have learned new things
about the field of technical communication.

I have never seen a professional organization that did not have some
members who were not up to snuff, either through lack of experience and
exposure, or, in rarer cases through lack of trying. The STC does a great
deal to educate those who are new to the field and who want to learn. It
is not the purpose or intent of the STC to weed out and pass judgment on
those who appear to be substandard. (For one thing, the legal implications
of this are prohibitive.) And there are incompetents in every profession
who manage to acquire certification (or whatever official blessing is
available). I've known at least one Ph.D. who was incompetent. It seems
to me that the incompetent people are often the first to get themselves
some piece of paper to "prove" their worth.

If you or your coworkers keep finding yourselves hiring people who can't
get the job done, do you honestly believe the STC is to blame? I'm a
supervisor who has been hiring technical writers for years, and I would
never dream of blaming any poor performance from my staff members on the
STC. First, it is my job to work with my team to determine what our
requirements are for a specific position and to carefully select the best
of the applicants. If none seem to fit the bill, we wait and go back to
look for more applicants. And second, it is my job to work with my team to
ensure that all of our technical communicators understand what is required
of them and have the training they need to do the job well. You can't rely
on a person's credentials (degrees, society memberships, even work history)
to determine whether they will be able to do the job for you. You have to
know what you need, and ask your candidates plenty of questions to determine
if they can meet those needs. Reviewing work samples is a must, too.
(Although you can't always know whether the person actually did the work,
you can ask enough questions about it to get a good feel for their ability.)

Kathlyn Auten kathlyna -at- dadd -dot- ti -dot- com

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