Re: New slant: professionalism

Subject: Re: New slant: professionalism
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 15:05:03 -0700

I wanted to respond to something Roger Mallett said for a minute: =)

I think *every* tech writer, regardless of the industry s/he writes for,
always strives to be as right as possible; checking, double checking,
triple checking, always trying to make sure everything's right the first
time whenever possible.

And now, to continue...

I submitted my original post because I know of both tech writers and
*engineers* who've run into a lot of the elitism from the commercial
high-tech side of the world. Imagine being an engineer who's developed
part of a launcher system who's now trying to find work at a disk drive
manufacturer like Quantum. Now imagine the engineer, maybe in his 40s
or 50s, being told by some 30 year old that Quantum can't use him
because he's never designed a hard disk drive in his life.

I've seen way too much of that in my lifetime, both as an observer and
as a participant. Never mind that the 30 year old *could* learn
something from someone who's been around the block more. That's where
I'm coming from. =)

It's also been suggested I try a little leniency with respect to the
post Jane Bergen wrote that really bothered me. For the record, I did
initially consider directing my post privately to her. I also thought
about asking her for a retraction. In the end, I decided not to

* there still remains a fair amount of discrimination in TW hiring
practices, or at least I think so, when it comes to not hiring a tech
writer because he once worked in the mil-spec world. I consider this
type of discrimination unconscionable, just as much as those who felt my
closing remark to Jane was just as unconscionable.

* I felt the community here could benefit from this type of discussion
and hopefully see it as an honest attempt to raise the community
consciousness. That had to outweigh any criticism, justified or not,
that may have -- and did -- come my way as a result of my having posted
what I did.

It was my intent to attack what I felt was an inappropriate stereotype
that was being presented to us by Jane. I did that. In the process,
however, I also learned that some people felt they were being attacked,
or that I was attacking Jane and not the stereotype she'd posted. That
was regrettable and that was not my intent at all.

To those who felt I somehow personally attacked them, my apologies.
Jane and I obviously need to have something of a civilized discussion
offline, and I hope we can have that.

In the end, it's the profession itself we have to be loyal to. It's
what we do. The latest techniques don't matter as much as getting
things right. And using the latest tools doesn't matter as much as
making sure we've made the documentation the best we know how to make it
and to meet the deadlines assigned to us. That's what matters, in my

Have a good weekend, folks. Thanks to all who provided input. =)

George Mena

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Roger Mallett [SMTP:roger -at- CSICAL -dot- COM]
> Sent: Friday, April 24, 1998 11:58 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: New slant: professionalism
> ><snip> (from Jane) 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. <snip>
> ><snip> (from Beverly) Yes, but the broken books
> > >you are fixing were written by yourcontemporaries,
> >not colleagues of long ago. <snip>
> Beverly,
> I wasn't thinking of books written by my exclusively by my
> contemporaries. I simply feel that legacy earned by writers from long
> ago is just as applicable to writers today. Think about the last time
> you read a book concerning a complicated/technical subject (new or
> old).
> Was it enjoyable?, was it easy to read?, should it have been so? For
> the reading I have in mind when I ask the question, the answers are a
> resounding NOs.
> To introduce my background, I spent years editing and writing mil-spec
> manuals for Rockwell. While there I wrote the products for various
> weapons systems, avionics, aircraft, radio/radar, security, etc. (and
> yes George, what I wrote was absolutely accurate, all errors uncovered
> and corrected before val/ver). I have had my hands deep into the work
> of previous writers, fixing, editing, tearing apart, rebuilding, etc.
> (some of the writers whose work I put my surgeons knife to were
> contemporaries, some gone a decade or more before I came on the
> scene).

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