Re[2]: New slant: professionalism

Subject: Re[2]: New slant: professionalism
From: Keith Arnett <keith_arnett -at- RESTON -dot- OMD -dot- STERLING -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 14:28:27 -0500

Heather Searl <SearlHL -at- SCIEX -dot- COM> wrote:

> So, I think we need to start at home and educate those among us who
> are bring us down--lead by example as they say--and if that fails,
> encourage them to at least change their job title. Then we can push
> the right buttons with management and SMEs to make lasting change in
> how our profession is seen.

Example does speak the loudest. And, the education can be applied to
those who hire technical writers as well.

For instance: when I was contracting several years ago, I was called
in for an interview with a systems integrator who wanted documentation
for a nationwide upgrade of computer facilities for a major federal

On arriving, the project manager, a pleasant fellow in his
mid-thirties, told me that their first idea was to have the
"secretarial pool" handle the documentation, but "it just wasn't
working out."

We talked, I learned of his needs, told him how I would address them,
and finally, quoted my hourly rate. When the shock had worn off
enough for him to speak again, the project manager thanked me for
coming, and said he'd get back to me.

To his credit, he called me a few days later to say that he had hired
another technical writer whose rate was less. OK, thanks, etc.

Two months went by, and who should call one day by Mr. Project
Manager. Was it possible I was still available? The earlier tech
writer was a complete disaster. As it happened, I was available, and
off to work I went.

The project manager and I developed a great relationship, and I was
even asked to accompany him to onsite meetings with the federal
client. The project came out on time and everyone was happy.

The result: one more project manager who now knows why you don't use
the secretarial pool for documentation, that you shouldn't take the
word of everyone who says he/she is a technical writer, and that you
get what you pay for.

This project manager was one of several in his company, and in my
presence, spoke to other project managers about the importance of
hiring top quality documentation contractors. He was also good for
another project in the future, and for enthusiastic references for
other jobs.

Moral: a little education can go a long way.

Keith Arnett
Technical Writer
Sterling Software, Inc./Operations Management Division
Reston VA USA

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