RE: Baseline Skillset for Technical Writers?

Subject: RE: Baseline Skillset for Technical Writers?
From: "Rock, Megan" <Megan -dot- Rock -at- fanucrobotics -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 06:49:19 -0500

> Tracy Boyington wrote:
> > Actually, I am not assuming that we all write about computers. I really
> > think, since we all - god, I hope we all! - are writing on computers,
must
> > know how to use our tools. And as someone else pointed out, it is
really
> > handy to know how to add memory when tech support can't do it for a
month.
> > Or how to swap out a hard drive if needed.
>
> Then perhaps I'm the only one who's not *allowed* to do those
> things. Systems would have my head on a platter if I tried to swap out my
hard drive.

The documentation group at my company sits in the same general area as the
developers, who happen to be some of the most computer-savvy people in the
company. My company designs and builds robots, so these developers have
robot controllers (several computer boards and other things all connected
together) sitting on their desks or hanging on their cubicle walls, and
they're forever changing components and building new boards. It's just
understood by IS that the developers know what they're doing when it comes
to PCs and controllers and fiddling with things. And since Documentation
people work in this same part of the building, we have the same IS support
guy as the developers. He's a pretty cool guy and he's forever solving the
computer problems of less techno-savvy groups (Finance and HR come to mind),
so he's always relieved when we can take care of simple hardware or software
issues ourselves. With one IS guy responsible for about a gazillion people,
and since he's forever tied up bailing out the other folk, it saves us a lot
of wait time if we can do some of these things ourselves!

Most everyone in the development and documentation groups has been given
administrative priviledges on our PCs so we can install hardware and
software, change settings, and (gasp) even change the little timeclock on
our PC. Of course the IS guy doesn't haphazardly give out administrative
privs; you have to demonstrate a need and demonstrate that you're competent
and comfortable with it.

I had a summer job as a college student setting up PCs for people, swapping
hardware, and installing software. Sometime prior to that I was doing some
reading and investigating (I tend to be the curious type) and I learned the
basics of computer repair (make sure you're grounded, don't do it on carpet,
don't use a magnetized screwdriver, etc.). When I bought my first home PC
after I graduated from college, the modem was dead so I simply called tech
support and asked that they send a new one. Same thing when the harddrive
was dying a few months later (something about a defect in the way data got
written to the firmware). "Just send me a new harddrive. I can format it
and put my software back." When time is of the essence, it's nice being
able to do these things for myself.

Over Thanksgiving I visited my parents and we played a game called Life
Memories. As each player crosses the finish line, all of the other players
are supposed to share something that they appreciate about the winner. My
dad told me that he has always been proud of and impressed with my eagerness
and willingness to learn about computers in an age when it wasn't that
popular for girls to know much about technology. It's still unusual for me
to find other women my age (I'm almost 24) who have pursued computers and
technology as a hobbie or a career. I think it won't be until the current
generation of elementary-age children reaches adulthood that we'll see
significantly more women in technical careers. It'll be second nature for
them to know how to use a computer AND to know how it works and how to fix
it if it breaks. But I wouldn't make any guarantees about their writing
skills!

____________________
Megan Rock
megan -dot- rock -at- fanucrobotics -dot- com




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