Re: Attitudes toward tech writers (Was: Re[2]: secretary's day)

Subject: Re: Attitudes toward tech writers (Was: Re[2]: secretary's day)
From: Sella Rush <SellaR -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 17:53:04 -0400

Not to, like, bring this topic back on topic, but I've finally thought
of something to contribute to this ongoing and mutated thread. (God
forbid I should keep my mouth shut.)

I think there is and will continue to be an ambivalence toward the
"technical communication" field because writers and editors are
generally classified as "support". In every job I've ever worked (pre
and post college), there was a distinct separation between those who
actually brought in the money and those who supported the ones who
brought in the money. And in every case, the support personnel were
viewed as second class, sometimes in a very nice way, sometimes in not
so nice ways.

I find this very interesting, because as writers we often produce what
the people paying the bills see. When I worked in environmental
engineering, the people who did the actual work (the engineers) were
primary and the people who produced the reports (writing or editing)
that went to the clients were support.

Now I work in the computer field and produce user documentation. We
give a client a set of software and a book (or help file). But the
general perception is that the client paid for the software, period.
The documentation *supports* the real product, the real moneymaker,
which is the software itself.

Naturally, having ended up on the support side more often than not, I
find it easy to resent this segregation. How frustrating to finally
settle on a career and be excited about it, and find myself right smack
on the support side again.

I'm not sure there's anything we can do about this. In many ways, tech
writers do "support" the actual product, whatever it is. Wouldn't it be
a much nicer world if no one felt the need to draw the distinction,
though? Of course, isn't it easy to turn around and treat the clerical
staff as "just the secretaries".

(Note: I thought of something as I was writing the last paragraph on
the human tendency to discriminate. I've worked in a couple of
companies who deliberately did this kind of thing. Instead of
compensating valued employees financially, they set up very specific
"perk" levels, including certain offices, certain equipment, parking,
staffing, etc. As a result, we'd have some of the best offices standing
empty and others crammed with two or three people, because the crowded
people didn't meet the established criteria.)

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