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I figure the best way to know your audience is to meet them. First as
their trainers, and secondly as their tech support rep.
I don't think that functioning in multiple positions is a radical idea at all. My first (and favorite) tech writing position started in a small company. I was originally hired as an electronics technician - installing and servicing hardware and software in the field. In that position, I also functioned as a customer trainer and a technical telephone support person when I was in house (not traveling).
Because of my background in writing, I was recruited to write maintenance manuals and eventually software manuals. Over time writing became my primary function. I welcomed the opportunity not to travel as much and enjoyed the writing - to the extent that I eventually became the primary (sole) technical writer.
I was often the primary in house technical support person when the other technicians were in the field. Occasionally, I traveled on site to do extensive training (especially of new products). The technical support and training kept me abreast of the needs of the customers (know your audience) and in touch with current software developments. Our software was client driven and I worked hand in hand with the software developers in the field.
If the company grows larger and the opportunity to
split into separate disciplines arises, should we split and which
discipline(s) would you want to work in?
I think people will naturally fall into the roles in which they feel most comfortable. Perhaps it will be possible to rotate responsibilities as the company grows, or hire more specialized people as the need arises. In the meantime, multiple roles definitely keeps things interesting. Some of the other posters have mentioned that they wouldn't enjoy wearing so many hats and prefer writing exclusively over the other responsibilities. There are, however, those of us who welcome the diversity, and benefit from the customer contact. These are the people you'll need to seek out when you interview. IMHO ;-)
cdunning -at- prototypeinc -dot- com
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Subject: TECHWR-L Digest - 11 May 1997 to 12 May 1997