Re: Value of technical writers - Sorry, boss is (mostly) right

Subject: Re: Value of technical writers - Sorry, boss is (mostly) right
From: Marjorie Hermansen-Eldard <meldard -at- ZZSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 13:24:40 -0700

To add just a couple quick words to Nora and Lorrie's comments:

Our new testing manager just came by my office to "sample" the candy jar. . . which has been a staple on my desk throughout my technical writing career. Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds cheesy but believe me, that candy jar has given me more openings and "how can I help you do your job better" opportunities than anything I've ever tried!

Lorrie, thanks for reminding WHY I do what I do and why I like it so much!

Happy New Year to all!

Marj Hermansen-Eldard
Senior Technical Writer
ZZSoft, Inc.

>>> "Staples, Lorrie" <Lorrie -dot- Staples -at- NEXTEL -dot- COM> 12/30 1:06 PM >>>
I'm mostly responding to Nora's last paragraph. She's right. We should
remember to "lighten up" & keep our sense of humor. This is true for
everything in life you encounter, not just your job.

A little secret to my success as a tech writer so far - - keep a jar of
assorted candy on your desk & leave it in an easily accessible place.
(Oh, yeah, don't use "crappy" candy - - go ahead, get the good stuff
like Hershey's, Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Rolls) People around you will
stop by & ask (or stare at it while drooling <grin>) and there's your
opportunity to break the ice by telling them to help themselves. The
next time they stop by, I take a couple of seconds to show a personal
interest in them. Word of your candy jar will spread and chances are,
management will even stop by. What've you got to lose? A few bucks??
(I've even used my kids' rejected Halloween candy before - - they ate it
up at work!!) Within a visit or two to the candy jar, people will want
to know what you do for your job - - open door to showcase your
abilities. It's worked too many times!

One thing I've observed in the 2 weeks I've been reading these posts is
that we are a "tough" bunch, with a lot of cynicism thrown in for spice.
There's nothing wrong with the toughness. In fact, I think we tech
writers *have* to have that in order to do our jobs well, because we do
work with a lot of arrogant, ignorant people, who would steamroller us
if we let them. But there's the key - - if we *let* them.

I believe that the core success of that key *has* to come from within
you, the technical writer. You have to have genuine faith in your own
abilities before anyone else will notice & respect you, even if you are
just starting out as an entry-level TW. I don't think that that means
you have to walk around with an arrogant demeanor that pushes the idea
of "I know more about technical writing than you" on others, because
that will be misread as defensive or insecure.

Many times I've found that the people who treat me ignorantly are doing
it for one of several reasons: 1) they've never worked with a technical
writer before and thus need your diplomatic education and patience to
understand your value, or 2) they have worked with a tech writer before
and had a bad experience which also will require your diplomatic
education and patience to shift their opinion, or 3) they felt insecure
about their own abilities and thus felt threatened by your "editing"
(which they interpreted as "critiquing") of their work.

I also am not naive enough to believe that, just because you have
demonstrated your abilities, that others will ever respect that.
Sometimes this is impossible to achieve. In those cases, give it your
best shot and then maybe it's time you looked for another job . . . As
a mentor I had once said - - "If it's/they're broke (sic) and can't or
won't fix, give up & move on!"

In summary of my opinion, if you feel you are treated ignorantly by
co-workers because of being "the tech writer", either you need to do
some diplomatic educating or maybe you should think about finding a
different job. There are companies all over the USA (& I would assume,
the world) who are desperate for our expertise. So, why put up with
ignorance? Just smile and tell yourself, "if they don't need my
capabilities, then there's someone else who does!" and go update your
resume. Even if you don't pursue getting another job after updating it,
it's a great ego boost!

Have a great day & keep your sense of humor!

Lorrie Staples
NEXTEL Communications
Technical Writer
IT Operations - Brookhollow
Lorrie -dot- Staples -at- nextel -dot- com

Nora Merhar wrote:


I think we should all try to take ourselves a little less seriously. I
am often surprised at the topics that appear to be life-or-death on
this forum. I know that the world could probably live without what I
do, and am tickled to death that I am well-paid for it and that it is
sometimes appreciated. And I leave the work at work, and go home and
live the life that my work is subsidizing. (uh-oh--now I KNOW no-one
on this list will ever hire me!)

Senior Technical Writer, Charles Industries, Ltd.
nmerhar -at- charlesindustries -dot- com

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