Re: Value of technical writers

Subject: Re: Value of technical writers
From: Janet Valade <janetv -at- MAIL -dot- SYSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 13:29:13 -0800

>> /Most/ people go into tech writing because they care about the
user and the
>> communication process.

>Susan, I must take issue with the above statement. In my (rather
considerable)
>experience, people go into technical writing because they find they
can do
>something that pays well with a fundamental ability to write.

It sounds like you are saying that technical writers are wannabee
novellists and poets who can't make a living writing novels and poems. I
hope this is not true. This is not much different than saying that technical
writers are wannabee engineers. Technical writers need to be people who have
an interest in both technology and writing. Personally, it's a great way to
get to play with new technology regularly. And to write. What could be
better?

Personally, I think programming and tech writing are very similar,
both fun. The predominant skills required are conceptualizing and
organizing. However, you also need to be someone who can focus on details.
Programming and engineering are even more detail oriented than tech writing.
Whether one uses a comma or semi-colon is much more significant when writing
a C program than when writing the text of a user guide.

> > >When tech writing becomes a profession focused on technology and
> > >content maybe then the perceptions of co-workers and managers will
> > >change. Until then, all I can say is "deal with it." This is why I
> > >left tech writing for consulting.
> >
> > Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, darlin'!
> > Obviously, your skills of observation don't nearly qualify you for
> > the job of tech writer.
>
>In defense of Andrew, he has BEEN a technical writer.

And he didn't like it. He's entitled to not like it. But I don't
think he's entitled to feel that, because he didn't like it and couldn't
make it as a tech writer, tech writing is somehow an inferior career to the
one he does like or that people who do like and succeed at tech writing are
somehow not as talented as he is.

>He has 'graduated' to the
>point of hiring and placing technical writers, and has become a
consultant

"graduated"? This sounds like tech writing is some sort of entry
level career in the field of technology. This is not the way I see it.

>because he too discovered that technical writing was only one facet
of the
>types of problems technical companies need help with.

Just as tech writer is only one career among many--engineer,
programmer, systems analyst, businest analyst, quality assurance, technical
support, etc. All fine careers. I have had more than one.

> >Plus, of course, he
>discovered that solving other kinds of technical problems pays
better, in
>general, than technical writing.

One thing I have learned in my long life and am pretty dogmatic
about is that it is NOT all about money. The satisfaction and enjoyment of a
job is only slightly correlated with salary. While its true that money
assumes a pretty high priority when you are homeless or unemployed, overall,
a boring job is boring, no matter how much money you are payed, and makes
for long, unhappy days.

Janet

Janet Valade
Technical Writer
Systech Corp, San Diego, CA
mailto:janetv -at- systech -dot- com

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