Re: High-Tech's Hiring-Firing Paradox

Subject: Re: High-Tech's Hiring-Firing Paradox
From: "Folena, Shannon" <SFolena -at- CKSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 15:39:33 -0700

As a technical writer and soon-to-be teacher of technical writing, I'd
like to suggest to all technical communicators that the information
presented in this article represents an opportunity for us. Being able
to communicate to people of many cultures is a skill to develop and will
be highly sought after in the business community.

> ----------
> From: George Mena[SMTP:George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM]
> Reply To: George Mena
> Sent: Monday, July 27, 1998 3:32 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: High-Tech's Hiring-Firing Paradox
> Thought I'd let everyone know about the article "High Tech's
> Hiring-Firing Paradox", which appears in today's Business section of
> the
> San Francisco Chronicle. To see the online copy, go to
> and look it up. :D
> I believe this article has some clear implications for tech writers at
> least here in Silicon Valley and the US. With the ongoing hiring of
> non-USA born engineers that USA-born tech writers will have to
> interview
> as subject matter experts, the question becomes one of how to make
> sure
> effective communication between these two types of technical
> professionals continues. With the ongoing presence of cultural
> differences between the two groups, I don't see this situation
> resolving
> itself anytime soon.
> Obviously, engineers from other countries have to know enough English
> to
> be hired on in the first place in the US, but there will always be the
> cultural differences that will occasionally get in the way of two
> people
> trying to do their jobs. Commentary from other people in similar
> situations in other countries is highly encouraged as feedback for
> this
> post. :D
> Some interesting excerpts from the article by Chronicle staff writer
> Dan
> Fost follow:
> "We are a prime example of what the apparent contradiction is," said
> T.J. Rodgers, president and chief execuitve officer of chipmaker
> Cypress
> Semiconductor Corp. of San Jose. Cypress has laid off 200 U.S.
> manufacturing workers this year but still has about 25 open positions
> for engineers. Rodgers understands the seeming paradox: "How am I
> hiring and firing on the same day?" He and other industry leaders
> said
> the answer is simple: they're hiring skilled engineers to design the
> products that represent their companies' futures, while laying off
> manufacturing workers, support staff, administrators and employees who
> have received poor performance evaulations.
> (Ed. Note 1: Support staff often includes us tech writers, folks.
> Knowing how to put something in HTML or PDF format is a nice "to have"
> skill, but it's worthless if there's no product to document, in my
> opinion. I think we need to keep this in mind as we progress in our
> careers -- but that's me. :D )
> As many as half the graduates of the most-prestigious engineering
> schools in the country are natives of other lands, industry officials
> say. "Because the U.S. has the best science and engineering education
> in the world, the people in the doctoral and master's programs aren't
> just from the U.S., but they're from India, China, Europe, Russia" and
> other countries, said Tom Waldrop, a spokesman for Intel. Engineers
> with advanced degrees "are scarcer than hen's teeth," Waldrop said.
> "If
> we could hire only American nationals, we would do it. It's cheaper.
> There's a whole lot less red tape. It costs $12,000 per person in
> extra
> legal work."
> "Quite honestly, it's a cultural difference," said Paul Kostek,
> president-elect of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
> Engineers. "In the U.S., it's 'Show me the money.' We're not
> impressed
> by reams of degrees. Other countries look at education as important."
> Bill Reed, president of the American Electronics Association, said
> he'd
> like to see American universities accept fewer foreign students. "I
> think it's a terrible waste to educate one of those people instead of
> taking some of ours, whether they meet the highest standards or not,
> and
> educating them," Reed said.
> (Ed. Note 2: This could easily mean taking a tech writer and have him
> or her become an engineer. There's no language barrier for
> university-level tech comm program grads to overcome while trying to
> master engineering subjects. This is putting the "technical" in
> technical writing, folks. It's an issue that university professors in
> the mass communications and English studies environments don't
> understand at all and one that the professors in the engineering
> colleges understand far too well, in my opinion. Hopefully, the
> professors in the tech comm faculties are at least talking with the
> professors in the engineering colleges. If they're not, the students
> *in* the tech comm programs may well be getting educationally
> shortchanged and not even realize it, IMO.)
> In fact, President Clinton insists any effort to import more high-tech
> workers must be accompanied by increased education and training for
> American workers. Industry leaders say they're working on long-term
> efforts to improve science and engineering education to increase the
> pool of future workers. "We've got to find ways to beef up K-12
> education," said Stan Myers, president of Semiconductor Equipment and
> Materials International, the trade group for the chip equipment
> companies.
> Industry giant Intel Corp. is cutting 3,000 jobs, Motorola laid off
> 15,000, Applied Materials is seeking 1,000 employees to take buyouts,
> and some companies such as Lam Research have announced several rounds
> of
> layoffs. The companies remain optimistic, however, that
> semiconductors
> will continue to drive the technological revolution and that
> profitability will return. And they say bright, talented -- and yes,
> often foreign-born -- engineers will design the products that will
> lead
> them to that promised land.
> "We believe our companies will grow and our industry will grow," said
> Daryl Hatano, vice president of international trade and government
> affairs for the Semiconductor Industry Association, the chip
> industry's
> largest trade group. "To accomplish that will take better, faster
> products, and it will take highly educated people to do that. It's a
> specialized knowledge of the latest research in processing skills,"
> Hatano said. "You don't want to let somebody go who's going to invent
> the next 'killer app' that creates hundreds of factory jobs."
> I tried to keep it short, folks. :D
> George Mena
> Technical Writing Consultant
> George -dot- Mena -at- esstech -dot- com
> ESS Technology, Inc.
> Fremont, CA
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