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

Subject: Re: Value of technical writers - Sorry, boss is (mostly) right
From: Jill Burgchardt <jburgcha -at- PESTILENCE -dot- ITC -dot- NRCS -dot- USDA -dot- GOV>
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 17:26:35 -0700

Not all of us are the paragons of technical knowledge that Andrew P. admires. I
happen to fit the technical niche. One of my colleagues is stronger in graphic
arts, another is strong in javascript with limited writing experience, yet
another is a solid writer good at analyzing organization. Together, we
accomplish the near-impossible on a routine basis. A lone tech writer may need
more technical skills (depending on position), but a team works best when people
fulfill different roles. Do I value my doctor less, because he happens to be a
family practitioner rather than a specialist? No, I appreciate that he has the
big picture of my health when he treats me. For those isolated situations when I
need a specialist, I'm glad he refers me to one. In most professions, there are
varied roles.

It's a big world. If a technical guru is what you need, fine, hold out until you
can hire the person you need. But, recognize that situations vary. Would a
technical guru be happy in a situation that emnpahsizes formatting and revision
over content development? I've known those who couldn't or thought it beneath
them. Consequently, their highly technical knowledge was worthless, because it
was inadequately communicated. The value is not in having the most technical
person available or in having a versatile generalist--it's in having the person
or team best suited to the tasks.

If I were in Robin's shoes, I'd point out that ex-engineer is only one possible
skill of many that a technical writer can bring to the job. I think it's a
mistake to allow engineering, or programming, or any field but communication to
be the defining element of our career path. Robin shouldn't buy into the boss's
attitutde or Andrew's. Instead, I'd suggest looking at the discriminators--the
unique skills that we as technical writers bring to a task.

Jill Burgchardt
jburgchardt -at- pestilence -dot- itc -dot- nrcs -dot- usda -dot- gov

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