Yearly Review

Subject: Yearly Review
From: Michael Gos <mgos -at- LEE -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 09:41:10 -0600

I couldn't agree more with Jane's assessment of how tech writers often hurt
themselves and their image as a profession. As a professor in the field, I
see part of my job as instilling a sense of professionalism in my students.
I don't mean just professional performance, I mean demanding to be treated
as professionals. For example, I strongly discourage students from taking
positions, upon graduation, that offer less than 40K in salary. I also
discourage accepting positions where tech writing will be only a part of
their responsibilities. It has been my experience that companies that
offer such positions tend to see the "other" part as far more important.

I think back to some of the "good moves" tech writers have made to improve
the image of the profession, such as demanding high hourly fees for
contract work when companies that downsized got caught with their pants
down. Those are they kind of "moves" that bring a profession respect.

But I have concerns for the present in ways other than money. I am deeply
distressed that in their move toward the implementation of document
management systems, companies are putting people other than tech writers in
charge of these new areas. The most common pattern I see is for librarians
to get these assignments. He who controls communications has power. It is
not only logical that the tech writers control document management, but it
is also critical to the future position of the field of tech writing. Yet
I see no concerted move toward demanding control of our own products
(documents) by the profession or its representative organizations (STC,

You may know that what you do takes a great deal of talent, training and
experience to do well, but does everyone else in your company? If I don't
know how a spread offense in football is supposed to be run, I can't tell
whether it has been done well or not. The same holds true for companies
and colleagues. If they know nothing about the differences between good
writing and bad, why pay for the good?

I think we need to look at other professions to see how they have done it.
Doctors, engineers, and yes, even programmers, do things others don't
understand, and can't judge in terms of quality. Yet none of us challenge
the importance of those professions. How they got to that point might
serve as a lesson to the tech writing professionals as well.

Dr. Michael W. Gos
Department of English and Communications
Lee College
Baytown, Texas 77522
"My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am."

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