RE: Is this just the way things are?

Subject: RE: Is this just the way things are?
From: Ellen Black <eblack -at- usdata -dot- com>
To: "'krupp, marguerite'" <krupp_marguerite -at- emc -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 08:33:21 -0600

Hi Marquerite:

I'm very glad that you've found wonderful environments in which to work. It
would be great if we could all find such environments. As I stated in my
original email, I did find two such places to work. However, most of my
experience with managers and engineers in this industry has been very
negative, and it's not because I'm a hard person with whom to deal.

I'm very willing to compromise and I truly want the project to be the best
that it can be, thus producing a great product (both software and doc).
However, I don't find this attitude to be the norm amongst most managers and
engineers (except for the two good places that I worked). I find managers to
be concerned mostly with politics and I find engineers concerned mostly with
hiding information and trying to act/sound superior. This makes it very
difficult for writers.

Having said that, I will also say that there are plenty of writers who don't
take pride in their craft. Therefore, they don't try to obtain the
appropriate information, they don't go out of their way to be nice to the
people with whom they have to work, they don't try to learn the software
needed to create the project at hand, and they don't take the time and
effort necessary to create great doc. So, it's a two-way street.

Tech writing is actually a second career for me. I became a technical writer
on the advice of a career professional. At the time of this suggestion, such
a career move made sense. I could take my writing skills and my natural
(albeit, surprising) computer skills and turn them into a career that
provided more opportunity and more money than working as an editor in a
communication firm.

And, while I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have earned a good
living, I cannot even put into words how tired, frustrated, and disappointed
I've been working as a tech writer. I live for the day when I can know that
my daughter's education is paid for and then I'm off to find saner pastures.

And, I have nothing against Pittsburgh; I was simply trying to describe the
size of some peoples' egos.


-----Original Message-----
From: krupp, marguerite [mailto:krupp_marguerite -at- emc -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 8:13 AM
Subject: RE: Is this just the way things are?

I can't let this thread go by without saying that my experience has been,
for the most part, quite the opposite. Maybe it's because I've been lucky,
or maybe it's because I have trouble keeping my mouth shut. Here's a recent

Instead of the following scenario:

1. Technical feasibility of a tool for Help creation is determined after a
decision to use that tool has been made.

2. Technical implementation is delegated to a person who has not been able
produce acceptable results in more than six months.

3. The approved design of the Help system is constantly changing, depending
on whom one speaks with. <snip>

The company I work for recently formed a task force of volunteers from the
writing groups to examine the features and suitability of HATs, and they are
abiding by our recommendations.

The person doing the technical implementation of the Help (that is, putting
the hooks into the software) is the one in charge of integrating the
software builds, too.

We have a team working on the design of the Help AND of the other
documentation formats, too. There is one very competent person in charge,
and she makes sure that we're all up to date on the latest developments. She
works through our editorial group to ensure consistency, too. Everyone gives
a little when necessary to find an acceptable workaround, and when that's
not possible, the team makes sure that we understand the necessity for
following the prescribed format.

Do we have problems? Sure, the same ones that everyone else has. But there's
an attitude here (and at many other places where I've worked) that we all
need to work together to solve problems. Management does a lot to foster
that attitude.

I'm impressed with this group, but it's not the exception among the big
software companies I've worked at (for over three decades). In fact, the
exceptions seem to have been the smaller places that didn't really have
their acts together. When I did find the types of problems the writers have
described at larger places (sometimes as the result of a megamerger, again
where the group didn't have its act together and fell back upon absolutes),
I left. The job market's too good and our talents are too valuable to put up
with garbage and lack of professional respect.

We definitely don't get all the support we'd like from the engineers and
programmers. Specs? Reviews? Gotta go digging. As for programmers with "egos
the size of Pittsburgh," well, I used to be a programmer, too, so I'm
prejudiced. My best strategy is to treat them like people, not
"programmers." But then, I liked Pittsburgh, too!


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