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Re: What constitutes a senior tech writer and how to get there?
Subject:Re: What constitutes a senior tech writer and how to get there? From:Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 30 Jul 1999 11:34:38 -0600
I have to agree with Kevin McGowan on this issue, with some qualifications.
The manager's responsibility was to train and mentor the writer. Fair
enough. The manager is culpable for not fulfilling his or her
responsibility--as long as he or she didn't provide alternative training
opportunities. The manager may also be culpable for not providing leadership
to an entry-level employee. If these were the promised conditions, then the
manager made some errors. (Even my entry-level position required a "self
starter who can work with minimal supervision." Believe me, after 3 years, I
still had a lot to learn--and still do now.)
However, the writer certainly should have taken the initiative to learn
something--new tools, new technologies, new methods. The writer could've
undertaken this with little expense, in many cases. It costs nothing but
time to open Notepad and learn HTML, or read trade magazines, or browse the
web for design tutorials, or download HCW and learn how to code WinHelp. If
this writer truly had no resources, then that **might** be a legitimate
excuse. But why would it take three years to figure out that he or she
wasn't developing any skills? In any case, I'd have a hard time buying the
excuse that the opportunities weren't available. Like Lisa H. said, you
gotta make your own opportunities. (Flesh wounds, LH? Eewww.)
But all of this really doesn't address the issue of qualifications for
senior technical writer. I doubt a writer with 3 years experience could
possibly have gleaned enough during that time to qualify as a senior writer.
This doesn't mean one can't learn a lot in 3 years, but longevity provides
hindsight, and that's what differentiates the seasoned professional from the
I agree with what Sarah and Eric have both added about hard skills, and I'd
add that the soft skills and business savvy are also necessary. You have to
know how to deal with people of all types in various business settings.
Senior writers, at least here at IC Design & Development, are consultants.
If they can't advise a customer on the appropriate media for a piece, act as
lead on more than one small-to-midsize project (or one RILLY biggun), and
improve production processes, then that senior writer isn't much of a senior
writer. Writers who are qualified to advance to senior positions should
already be proving they have these abilities.
Bill Burns - Eccentric Technology Consultant
International Communications Design & Development
billdb -at- ile -dot- com
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