THE VALUE OF TECHNICAL WRITERS

Subject: THE VALUE OF TECHNICAL WRITERS
From: "Kathleen Galvin (S&T Onsite)" <a-kgalv -at- MICROSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 08:39:29 -0800

Where to begin? I'm in danger of flaming here, so I'll try to be calm and
clear. Oh, what the heck...

I am EXTREMELY proud of what I do. I became a tech writer because I'm
passionate about the need for clear communication in all settings,
professional and personal. I happily left a high paying, high profile,
b-o-r-I-n-g job (Sr. VP of a trade association) for a satisfying, well-paid
profession in technical communications. I can, and have, done many other
things but I choose to do this.

I get so exercised when I hear the kind of demeaning talk Robin Currier's
manager subjected her to (the same trash talk Andrew Plato subjected the
list to). Sloppy, dishonest, and/or mean spirited communication is the
source of the majority of problems in corporations, governments, religions,
professions, and personal relationships. We as technical communicators can
contribute an immeasurably valuable ingredient to any environment. I don't
tolerate the kinds of slams that Robin's manager and Andrew deal out. I have
thought out my responses and am very clear on the value I contribute; and I
say so.

I'd love to hear from others who are proud of what we do and can articulate
why. I think it would be useful for us all to hear because it gives us
content with which to form rebuttals. Then we can speak eloquently when
we're in situations like Robin's.

Lest this sound harsh, let me say I love the people I work with and they
know it. That's how I can get away with delivering bad news. (One memorable
conversation with a SME started out with him saying to me, "Well, after all,
anyone can write." I told him gently, "You can't. I've seen your stuff and
you need me badly." We are the best of friends now.)

And FYI, Robin, the last I heard, engineers have the highest divorce rate of
all the professions. No wonder your manager doesn't value quality
communication - she hasn't a clue as to what it's about.


Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 11:28:28 -0800
From: RCURRIER <Rcurrier -at- RAINBOW -dot- COM>
Subject: The value of technical writers

I was flabbergasted by a comment by my boss the other day
that left me
speechless (an unusual condition). In a manager's meeting we
were discussing
how to rank all of Engineering's employees for yearly
performance reviews,
and she said something like: "It's difficult to rank
technical writers along
with Engineers, because people who go into tech writing and
QA are usually
people who tried to be Engineers and failed. Also, Engineers
can keep
learning and advancing in their field, but technical writers
have no where
to go or new things to learn." This revealed such a horrific
misunderstanding of the value of technical writers, that I
feel I'm
teetering on the edge of an abyss. All I could come up with
at the time, was
to splutter "You are completely wrong, and we need to have a
long talk about
this soon." After 20 years of being a technical writer and
manager, I find
that I am continually challenged to learn new technologies
and that this job
is still fun and exciting. In no way do I feel like a
"failed Engineer!"
What in the world do I say to this dyed-in-the-wool Engineer
who holds my
fate and salary in her hands to convince her that technical
writers have
different skills than Engineers and should be valued
differently?

--------------------------------------------
Robin Currier
Technical Documentation Manager
Irvine, CA
rcurrier -at- rainbow -dot- com
-------------------------------------------

Kathy Galvin
Technical Writer
PBS Web Team

Just look what a writer actually does: all that unnatural tense
squatting and hunching, all those rituals: pathological!
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger

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