Re: Degrees, certification, blah, et cetera

Subject: Re: Degrees, certification, blah, et cetera
From: David Blyth <dblyth -at- QUALCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 13:50:16 -0700

Dawn commented that....

>I am astonished by the belittlement I have seen concerning degrees. For
>those of you who didnt get a degree and who, back in the dark ages, lost
>a promotion to a young grad trying to get his/her foot in the door,
>rejoice for the tide has turned.

Well stated.

Dawn, I can't speak for the rest of us, but what I'm concerned about is
the assumption that a degree is the same as experience. I've watched grad
students - who passed a writing test to get into an MA program - take 20
to stumble through a simple subject analysis that shouldn't take a minute.

And they'll _still_ get it wrong. Worse yet, they'll be passed through the
class anyway.

If you're going to grade, then grade. If you're going to have a TW
certificate program - or at least, one that means anything - than
some people are going to fail. Not everyone passes the bar.

You're right. Progress has been made. Programs have been established.
Degrees are now possible. This is good. But there are still people who
graduate through the program, assume they now know how to do the work,
then promptly fall flat of their faces.

The bar is not high enough. Further degree work is still necessary. Better
programs have yet to be established, and more progress has yet to be made.

So what's the minimum standard? To be honest about it, I don't know.
But I do know that:

o Many grad students gawk at me because I actually understand the technology.
(Of course, a few students gawk because someone of my technical expertise
can actually write).

o Many engineers gawk at me because I can write. (And a few others are
surprised that someone of my writing experience actually understands
the technology).

But I'm not a baboon, here. I simply meet the minimum standard for a
Technical Writer. I understand the technology _and_ I can write.

The problem I see with TW programs is the emphasis of one over the other,
usually favoring writing. But writing _about_ technology is not the same as
understanding it. A TW can understand the technology better than the

But which technology? What really needs to be measured is not the skill
level in Chemistry, Double E, or Computers. What often happens is that the TW
absorbs any new technology quickly and efficiently then has the skill level to:

o make suggestions about that new technology
o write a clean description of just exactly what's happening

The best Technical Writers have learned how to learn, and they can do it very
rapidly. That's what a good certification program needs to measure. If that's
even possible.

>Someone won the fight somewhere to upgrade this profession
>to the level of higher education that it deserves. Unfortunately,
>companies and current twers don't think it is deserves such honor.
>Afterall, we can always hire our secretary to do the same job...and for
>less pay.

I disagree. I _do_ honor Technical Writing, and I _am_ glad to see it
gaining credance. I don't think too many TWs in this group would want to
hire our
secretary to do the same job - we've been down this road ourselves and it

It's simply that I don't think the profession has been upgraded _enough_. If I
were to make a wish, the certification program - if we actually have to
have one -
would be scaled, and the highest level would be very, very difficult to pass.

That way, several technical writers I know could pass the highest level
then go out and earn the money they deserve.

David (The Man) Blyth
Technical Writer & Web Site Designer

The usual disclaimers apply - QUALCOMM isn't that crazy.

Blodo Poa Maximus

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