Re: Engineering approach to certification

Subject: Re: Engineering approach to certification
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 12:31:37 -0500

>This has been debated numerous time. A general point of agreement
>is that the field and the backgrounds of people in the field are so
>divergent that an equitable test is impossible.

I don't think this is a general point of agreement at all. As I've pointed
out before, business communicators, trainers, project managers, and others
much like us have conquered this diversity dilemma, and there is no reason
to believe that we'd fail where they've succeeded.
> How fair is a test on the minutia of grammar and usage for
>Writers who have switched careers from a technical or scientific field ?

Very, just as certification tests for technical fields insist on math and
science knowledge even if the poor applicant was a liberal arts wonk like
me. To be a true professional, you need to know the rudiments of your craft,
which in this case starts with grammar and usage. Pleading technical
expertise while producing unreadable dreck is no tradeoff.
> How fair is a test on interface design for a writer that has been
>writing banking and insurance literature for 10 years?

Actually, I think every professional must keep current with the basics of
his or her profession. We now know a good more about interface design than
we did 10 years ago, and I think it beholden on anyone who waves their
"technical communicator" banner to demonstrate a passing knowledge of it.

> How fair is a test on technical communication theory for someone
>has been in the field for 25 years and went to college at a time when there
>probably were not technical communication theory classes taught or the
>theories have been developed since they went to school? And please don't
>give me the "They should have gone back to school" line. This is not
>possible or practical.

Again, why should lawyers, doctors, accountants, trainers, psychologists,
realtors, PR writers, project managers, manufacturing engineers, human
resources people, and many others expect to periodically demonstrate updated
knowledge, yet we need not? Why should we be given special dispensation to
be ignorant, to the detriment of our profession, our brethren, our users,
and our unknowing employers? Or, more appropriately, why should we not
establish a plateau of accomplishment that says to the world "I'm not lazy,
uninformed, or a dilattante, but rather a committed professional?" The means
exist to keep updated and informed, including STC publications and books. If
a practitioner chooses to be outdated, that's her concern, but I will argue
that the mass of committed and up-to-date practitioners should be

> My pet conspiracy theory is that the push for certification is
>coming from two camps. Both camps are looking to close the field to
>competition by putting the obstacle of a test (biased toward their
>strengths) in the way.

A simple recognition program does not eliminate or close anything. No one is
seriously proposing licensure of technical communicators. There are many
technical trainers who aren't certified. Ditto PR writers, business writers,
and many others.

The push for recognition is not to close the profession, but to place a
clear and publicly announced line between those who are demonstratably
capable and willing to reach a standard, and those who pretend to have
reached it. It honors and pats on the back those who truly do pour their
lives into the pursuit of ever greater technical communications. It also
encourages less accomplished practitioners to excel, by providing a target
for them to reach. And it sets a mark for the rest of the world to judge us.
We're judged today of course, but according to nebulous standards set by
those not familiar with our profession. It's all very well to argue that
"The best of us do well anyway" but that's not really true. Even the largest
companies often remain in ignorance of what they need, and what skills we
have that will help.

And more to the point, whether or not a fortunate few do well is not the
issue; what's at issue is the profession as a whole, and the ability of
those who come after us to see the peak they're expected to reach, and the
well-marked path to the top. What's at issue is the question...are we a
profession, or aren't we? Not "Well, are, sort of..." but simply and
clearly, are we capable of thinking of ourselves in the aggregate as a true
profession? Are we simply a gaggle of individuals who don't care about
others' well-being? Or are we really a profession, a group of those who
recognize each others' committment to a cause?

Tim Altom
Adobe Certified Expert, Acrobat
Simply Written, Inc.
The FrameMaker support people
Ask about Clustar Method training and consulting

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

Previous by Author: How Times Have Not Changed
Next by Author: Re: Engineering approach to certification
Previous by Thread: Re: Engineering approach to certification
Next by Thread: Re: Engineering approach to certification

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads