Re: New slant: professionalism

Subject: Re: New slant: professionalism
From: Dan Brinegar <vr2link -at- VR2LINK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 17:59:04 -0700

While I have no desire to flame Jane (whom I'll be happy to proclaim as One
of The Gurus), or offer any offense in any way; and don't wanna reignite
the Annual Certification Wars prematurely (not scheduled till June, check
the archives ;-)... Let me say this about that....

If the questions under review are

"why aren't we recognized at the same level of professionalism as
Engineers/Programmers?" OR

"why aren't we paid more than secretaries or simple paste-up specialists
(or always mistaken for being in the same league)?"

Who knows? Shall we spin our wheels and rant (hey, it's not *always* a bad
thing), or identify what we want to do, and go do it!

[while saying to my former 17-year-old self that "NO, I don't think it
just-that-easy" just that it's the goal worth pursuing]

Jane would like us to measure our level of professionalism against several
standards. Let's look at them as if they were applied to
Programmers/Engineers at the same time (based on the programmers *I* know
-- YMMV).

>>* How many research studies, and books and articles on technical
>>communication issues have you read in the past year?

Programmers/Engineers: How many research studies have you *conducted*?
Books or articles *written*?

Techwriters: Same questions!

Me: I've written four articles, spent wayyy too much time babbling in
TECHWR-L, worked on my "book," and proved once again thru trying to
relearn C++ and Java and getting BSD UN*X to work on my home machine that
I'm a *lousy* programmer (once I write up the results, it'll count as
research, right? ).

>>* Are you a member of a professional organization such as STC?

I don't know many programmers/engineers for whom membership in any
professional org is seen as a job-requirement/plus/detriment -- a result of
the places I prefer to work, no doubt.

In the last year I've been to two or three interviews in which the
interviewer noticed my STC affiliation and proclaimed STC a "bunch of
fuddy-duddy-busybodies with red pencils." Despite my lapsed membership, I
usually feel the need to dispute that characterization. STC and ten years'
communications experience got me *into* this
sometimes-lucrative/satisfying/infuriating/life-affirming bag. I'm still
enormously fond of many many of the folks I know thru STC, whether we've
worked together or not, whether we agree on every aspect of what-it-is
*real* techwriters do, or how closely they've listened to me or dad.

>>* Do you attend conferences, workshops, etc. to keep up with the latest
>>trends and technologies?

Programmers/Engineers: Do you surf every possible medium to find
cool/interesting/useful stuff to learn? What trends and technologies have
you mastered in the last year by download-and-experiment? Jumping in,
thinking it up, and making it work? What workshops have you *presented*?

Techwriters: same same

Me: I can't claim total mastery of the stuff I've surfed-up in the last
year; I've done Java e-commerce, two disasterous vaporware projects ,
resurrected at least 200 Macs (from the 512K to G3) and trained other techs
on them, relearned publishing on CD-ROM (changed a lot in the last five
years). Haven't made any presentations.

>>* Have you pursued professional coursework in technical communication?

Programmers/Engineering: Most of the ones I know are working too late to
get to class; but they do a lot of self-study... a curious lot [gee, that
can be taken more than one way ;-].

Techwriters: This correspondent is unable to answer that question for other
TWs due to insufficient data (although I congratulate Melissa Alton for
working full time *and* taking graduate courses).

Me: No coursework this year. Lots of self-directed study to improve skills
or knowledge. [Roomie still teaches at college, tho!]

>>Or do you think you just "know it" because your boss is satisfied?

I compare the ratio of "attaboys" to "dammit-reports" from users.

Did I make any money in the last year? I'll put it this way; I get a tax
refund from the State of Arizona for the first time in ten years
<smile><tremble>... on the *short* form. Not my worst year, not my best.

Did I just get two jobs because the bosses were satisfied with my previous
work? Yepperrrrr....

It's been exactly one year since I rejoined TECHWR-L; my first post them
was a flame and my latest posts have been (I hope) evangelical.

I feel that this next year offers the best opportunities yet to achieve
those goals I set for myself when I decided to call myself a techwriter.
That's all I can ask, y'know?

So there it is: you may draw your own conclusions about professionalism --
consider, tho, that measures of "professionalism" vary depending on whether
you work for Pointy-Hairs or Anarchic Geek-Synthesists, or whether you
come from an academic background or cut your teeth on being the "poor sod
who had to go out in the rain and fix it." -- we'll never solve that
dilemma thru wrestling in the choir-chamber.

Here in TECHWR-L, we're all *in* the same choir, and choirs need different
voices: may we we find a chance or two to sit-in with another band and
never get laryngitis or stage fright.

At 9:16 AM -0500 4/23/98, Bergen, Jane wrote:
>This whole thread is very interesting but unless I've missed it, one
>aspect has not been discussed and that is whether we are enhancing the
>professional aspect of technical communication in the workplace, or if
>we are part of the problem.

Performance S u p p o r t Svcs.
Phoenix, Arizona

"This is not a Fat Guy confined to a wheelchair...
it's a new Telecommuter saving tons on auto insurance."

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