Re: New slant: professionalism

Subject: Re: New slant: professionalism
From: Jane Bergen <janeber -at- CYBERRAMP -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 23:06:48 -0500

Well, since I spun off this thread, I'll jump back in. My
flame-retardant long johns are holding up pretty well so far.

On Thursday, April 23, 1998 2:40 PM, Lisa Comeau
[SMTP:lmcomeau -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM] wrote:
> I think Dick has a valid point, but, realistically, how many
> companies
> are going to be willing to PAY for a person who understands ALL
> facets
> of the technology they are writing about, AND can communicate the
> information they know to others with absolutely NONE of the same
> knowledge?

I think Dick made some valid points. How many people have you run
into who, when you tell them you're a technical writer, laugh about
"those computer manuals that no one can understand"? Those are the
legacy of early tech writers who wrote mil specs or who understood
the technology but failed as communicators. In my experience (maybe
I'm just fortunate to live in a city that worships technology [tongue
in cheek, folks]) more and more employers are realizing the value of
good documentation (including online help, web-related help delivery
systems, etc.) and are willing to pay for it. Tech writers are having
a heyday here in Dallas right now.

> My current situation is that I don't have a communications degree,
> but I
> do have a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English, minor in
> sociology ,
> an Information Technology Specialist's designation, and have been
> instructing computer applications for 2 years. Now I am an


> Does that mean that I am not a technical writer because I don't
> a
> degree, or does that make me a professional tech writer because I
> take
> more pride in my work than a diploma?

If the necessity of a degree is all that you inferred from my post,
then I failed as a communicator. It's not about "a degree" but rather
about approaching technical communication as a profession rather than
a job where you learn while you're doing it. It's possible, and quite
a few people do it, to do the same thing the same way for thirty
years and call yourself anything. But as I said before, the proof is
in the product. If it's good, then great. I just have not seen that
to be true in my lifetime.

So no, Lisa, you don't need a degree in technical communication to be
professional, but you do need to keep learning and growing. There are
other avenues that I mentioned (conferences, workshops, etc. for
example). It's not always comfortable or convenient, but that's what
people do to be considered professional.

Wayne Douglass said "If this is what it takes, I'll keep my amateur
status" in response to my original post. I'm not sure what exactly he
objected to, and he's probably not the only one...but it's not about
"amateur status." It's about those of us who care enough to make the
effort to further technical communication as a profession rather than
a job that a secretary can do (which is what started this whole
snowball anyway) and to make it easier for ALL of us to get paid and
treated like professionals.

Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
(writing from home so a different email address)
janeber -at- cyberramp -dot- net

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