Re: Degree, certification, education clarification

Subject: Re: Degree, certification, education clarification
From: Wayne Douglass <wayned -at- VERITY -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 11:05:53 -0800

At 10:10 AM 12/8/98 -0700, Dave Hailey wrote:
>I would like to end this with a question: Discussions of the whole person
>aside, looking at your day to day jobs, what professional skills do you use,
>and how might they be included in a TW curriculum? Also, if the
>professional skills you are presently using were to be folded into a program
>for credit (in other words, if you could be given credit for your work) how
>might it be done?

Alas, Dave, you can't set "discussions of the whole person aside," which is
why discussions of job interview questions erupt periodically in this forum
(everyone wants to know how to ask the question that *really* reveals the
person being interviewed.) And as valuable as integrating "real life"
experience into the curriculum may be, it still doesn't guarantee success
for your graduates.

Take my own case (please). I went to journalism school because I wanted to
be Walter Cronkite. What did I learn? How to write like a professional
(find out the facts, get it down in words as quickly and as clearly as you
can, be prepared for some editor to rearrange or even rewrite it all to
suit the publication). I also learned that I didn't have a nose for news,
that I hated the legwork (although I liked being an editor), and that I
couldn't stand daily print journalism. I also couldn't see myself pointing
a microphone in the face of a woman whose husband has been trapped in a
mine cave-in and asking, "How does it *feel* to know that your husband has
been trapped in a mine cave-in?" In short, the best journalism training in
the world would not make me a good reporter, just as the best technical
communications curriculum in the world may not make a good technical writer.

What I *did* like was research, or interrogating "dead sources" (records,
official documents, etc.) In a word, I really wanted to be a scholar. So I
went to grad school and earned a PhD in English Literature. With no
prospects in academic life, I got into this business as a technical editor,
technical writer, and publications manager. It's honest work that pays well
(in Silicon Valley, at least), and if you're lucky you can work on
interesting projects at a good company.

Despite (or perhaps because of) my academic credentials, it wasn't easy
finding that first job. Pubs managers weren't sure that I really wanted to
work in this business or that I had the temperament to put up with all the
crap. I told my first manager in the job interview, "I don't know much
about computers, but if I do a good job of *copy* editing, I'll find
technical errors you can drive a truck through." He believed me, and I did.

Wayne Douglass phone: 408-542-2139
Verity, Inc. FAX: 408-542-2040
894 Ross Road mailto:wayned -at- verity -dot- com
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

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