Re: Certification - do it urself

Subject: Re: Certification - do it urself
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 08:47:44 -0700

Katav ( katav -at- yahoo -dot- com ) wrote (tongue firmly in cheek):

>OK - all of us with less than a PhD in 'Technical Communication or a
>related field' and who feel a
>/certificate/ would help should
>(a) think up a prestigious sounding name

That would be the

C_ommittee to
Y_early, and to


Otherwise known as CRAPPY IDEA.

Seriously, although I'm generally for anything that gets
my resume in the hands of actual potential employers,
I don't see certification as doing anything in that direction.

I had a nice interview recently, and it got me to thinking
about the whole certification process.
The interviewers were clearly quite experienced tech
writers and knew what they needed to know about me,
a potential contractor. (I knew what I need to know about
them and the company as well.)

It was obvious through the interview that they were looking
for understanding of key concepts--e.g., the key to making
context sensitive help (any platform, any environment)
is having ContextId fields or the equivalent,
and that's only possible through some kind of coordination
between programmers and writers. As soon as I showed that
I got the _concept_, we were off to something else.

We'd have gone through the same process if I were
"certified" through any process, because there's no
way to feasibly assess the issues they were trying to
assess in a standardized way.

The obvious/easy/wrong way to administer any kind of
certification program would have to be at least
superficially objective. (Clearly, the choice of topic
alone would prevent true objectivity, but the administration
would have to appear to be objective, or the certification
would have less than zero credibility, even with fans.)

However, and this is what makes certification
impossible to reasonably implement, the right
answers aren't the specific words, phrases, or
concept, they're the thought processes to get

Back to that interview, the interviewers didn't really
care if I said that "ContextIDs are used to implement
context sensitive help" or "Programs must contain
hooks that are integrated with the help system, so
that a call to help is passed to the help browser with
the necessary information to open the right topic" or
even if I'd said that "Doc-to-Help requires that you
get context IDs from the programmers and include one
in each context sensitive help topic using the
Blah Blah command." What they cared about is that
I understood the concept.

A certification process in which I'd correctly answered the
question "Coordination between programmers and
writers is necessary for context-sensitive help -- True or
False" wouldn't have been at all helpful, because it wouldn't
have demonstrated that I understood _WHY_.

Now, before anyone claims that certification isn't designed
to replace interviews... of course it is! The entire
point of certification is to stamp an individual as
qualified or not, thus obviating the need to actually
read the resume or talk with the person. If certification
isn't used as a screening device, it won't be used at all.

I can't imagine a certification process that would satisfy
me, as an employER, that a candidate had any particular
skills or abilities. Thus, it'd worthless to me as an

With a fairly recent MA in Technical Communication,
several years of experience, and solid publications
and portfolio pieces, I'd likely be certified without a
problem. However, I wouldn't want to work in an
environment in which "certification" as a technical
writer was required or preferred over experience and
ability. Thus, it'd be worthless to me as an employee.

Why bother?

<ADMIN hat on>
I have no objection to continuing this discussion, but
strongly encourage everyone to follow Elna's suggestion
to search the archives and post only if you have
NEW contributions to offer.
</ADMIN hat off>


Eric J. Ray RayComm, Inc. ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com

*Award-winning author of several popular computer books
*Syndicated columnist: Rays on Computing
*Technology Department Editor, _Technical Communication_

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

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