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Subject:Re: Fair wage From:Katherine Graden <kgraden -at- MAIL -dot- DANCRIS -dot- COM> Date:Thu, 13 Mar 1997 12:01:19 -0700
I agree with Susan and Jane. The engineer in question would need software
development experience and would need to be a very good writer to qualify
as anything but an entry level tech writer.
In my previous incarnation as a documentation manager--I consult now--I
often received resumes from programmers and engineers applying for
technical writing positions. Had I been lucky enough to find someone with
solid tech writing and engineering or programming experience, I would have
hired him or her on the spot. But my hiring choices were always one or the
other: experienced writer or experienced techie.
Why? Because I believe (and have seen people demonstrate many times) that
it's much easier to teach a bright, talented writer programming or
engineering than it is to teach an equally bright programmer or engineer
who's a poor writer how to write well. Don't forget, excellent writing
ability is the basic requirement for someone producing documentation.
Although you can train a poor or mediocre writer to write better, she or he
probably never will become a great writer. An average writer with
excellent technical knowledge may be just what's needed in some situations.
But anytime I've hired someone who had very good writing skills and the
ability to pick up new information quickly, she or he always was able to
get up to speed quickly with the technology being written about.
At 10:20 AM 3/13/97 -0800, Susan W. Gallagher wrote:
>Bruce Brill wrote:
>>> How much is 15 years technical (but not user's-manual) writing
>>> experience as an independent alternative energy engineer
>>> (with an MSc) worth
>>> in terms of technical writing experience in a computer
>>> software firm.
>And Jane Bergen answered:
>>Unless the engineer (you?) is also a fine writer and unless he/she
>>knows something about software development, the engineer should be
>For my two cents, I have to agree with Jane. A senior position
>really requires industry-specific experience *and* experience
>with the kinds of problems you run into while writing and
>publishing software manuals. If you could demonstrate a fair
>amount of proficiency with software and show some book-length
>samples in your portfolio, then maybe you'd have a chance at
>One major flaw in your experience as an engineer is your lack
>of experience with SMEs -- at least I'm assuming that you've
>been your own subject matter expert. Getting information out
>of other people, as opposed to getting it out of your own head,
>is a skill that takes time to develop.
>OTOH, if you start with software that deals in some way with
>alternative energy sources, you've got an advantage that could
>command you more money. Then, when you move to other software
>companies, you have the requisite experience and can hire in
>You don't say where you are, so it's hard to guess at actual
>Susan W. Gallagher Manager, Technical Publications
>sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com Expersoft Corporation, San Diego CA
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