Entry-level tech writers...a new twist

Subject: Entry-level tech writers...a new twist
From: "Bergen, Jane" <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 13:53:11 -0600

Normally, I don't foam at the mouth. This situation is an exception:

Elna Tymes writes:

"2. A degree in something that the person found challenging. The
should probably NOT be in technical writing - we're after people who
know how to learn on their own, not people who have simply learned
tools. "

Then Mark Baker chimes in with:

"For me a degree or a diploma in technical writing earns a resume a
much automatic trip to the "no" pile. A good writer is someone who is
interested in things. I find it hard to imagine why someone who has the
active interest in things around them that would make them a good tech
writer would not have sought a degree in some substantial subject area."

I've never heard such pseudo-elitist drivel in my life. Obviously, these
two have never been through a real technical communication curriculum.
In my schooling, I NEVER ONCE took a course on a particular tool (though
it might have been handy). Instead, our curriculum included courses on
readability, usability, problem solving, nuances of the language as
relative to instruction, information design, and project planning. We
learned to interview, to research, and to pull apart documents, then put
them back together in a more meaningful way. Anyone who would
categorically dismiss a degree in technical writing shows extreme
ignorance of what our profession is all about, not to mention a real
disregard for technical communication as a profession.

If I were to look for entry-level writers, I would look for people who
were dedicated to the profession, not to someone who merely "sought a
degree in some substantial subject area." What is "substantial" anyway?
Nuclear physics? I would also look for someone who could work
independently, who likes to learn new skills, who has people skills (to
interview and work with belligerent engineers with attitudes like Baker
and Tymes), who excelled at problem-solving, and who has a real feel for
how people (end users) think and how to meet the users' needs. Whether
or not they know how to use FrameMaker or RoboHelp is the least of my
concerns....if they are problem solvers and are quick learners, they'll
be able to handle it.

I've seen and met far too many people who fell into positions as
technical communicators from "substantial fields" who have no clue as to
what communication is all about .... and seen a few too many messages
from them, too.

Not humble and not apologetic,

Jane Bergen
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer,
AnswerSoft, Inc. Richardson, TX
(972) 997-8355
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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