TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Certification/Degrees, now Professio From:Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET> Date:Tue, 17 Dec 1996 14:25:00 EST
Hot damn, I don't think I've ever seen this subject presented any better!
At 09:51 AM 12/17/96 -0500, you wrote:
>I'm glad the certification/degrees thread has evolved to professionalism:
it is by identifying what professionalism is to our work that we can advance
True, true. The most basic benefit to certification isn't even the
paper...it's the determination of a common standard of professionalism.
That's the important bit.
>These consultants tend to specialize either in a methodology (say TQM or
BPR) or in an industry (say insurance or manufacturing). This is, simply
put, how they offer maximum value to their clients while retaining agility
in a rapidly changing marketplace. As our profession matures (and it *is*
maturing), we must realize that our posture in the workplace is that of the
consultant--even when we are employees in relatively long-term positions.
We must all develop and sustain *fluency* with the tools of our trade, not
just effective use of the languages we write in, but also with the basic
suite of computer tools (word processors, databases, spreadsheets, graphics,
and networks) we use to build our products. I use the word *fluency*
intentionally. Just like language skills, our professional skills must be
continually used and updated to be useful to us or valuable to others we
Kevin, I don't think you'd get a single argument from anyone on the list.
>Our field is big enough now that we're going to have to become
content/industry specialists in addition to being competent writers/editors
who are versed in layout and design principles. There will still be room
for narrow specialists, say those involved in one aspect of the document
finishing process, but their relationship to the industry will be more as
service providers--sort of like mechanics. The rest of us will be selling
our fluency with methods or industries, ideally a strategic combination of both.
Your analogy of our situation to that of engineers is exceedingly apt for
manufacturing engineers. They, like we, have had few formal degree programs
in place. Most practitioners, at least until this decade, were drawn from
the shop floor, not from engineering programs. To give practitioners a
common set of standards, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers instituted a
certification degree. It's in two parts, a basic one that certifies
technicians, and a broader, more difficult one for engineering.
Manufacturing engineers also echo our situation in that they're in many,
many industries: chemical, metalcutting, forging, molding, and so forth. Yet
the SME found many commonalities and professional expectations, enough to
create a certification program. That was the order, however...find the
bedrock capabilities first, then create a program to test for them. Not
every manufacturing engineer is certified by SME, but having been a member
myself I can tell you that the tests aren't walkovers. Earning the paper is
an achievement that sets you apart from the herd. Having the paper isn't a
guarantee of competency, but it's certainly a tangible bit of proof that you
knew the stuff for at least as long as it took to test for it.
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
HTML Help Consulting and Production