Re: Baseline Skillset

Subject: Re: Baseline Skillset
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 18:01:40 -0000

Loretta Vosk writes:
>>Most respondents agree that the baseline skills for a technical writer
include the ability to understand complex technical subjects, know your
audience, interview your SME, organize your information, write clearly,
and play well with others. <snip> Please tell me: What good is mastery of
these baseline skills, if employability hinges on one's familiarity with
specific software

Because none of the baseline skills for a technical writer are easy to test.
("Write clearly" perhaps more than others, but even that - as you'll
remember from the peanut-butter thread - is not something that everyone can
agree on.)

Whereas familiarity with specific software applications is something that's
easily tested - and something that non-tech-authors can easily understand
and advertise for. I have only once been interviewed for a tech-author job
by someone who actually understood what the job was going to entail.

Five years ago I was a wannabee tech author - I had the baseline skills to
do the job, but lacked experience and technical background. I got a job with
a small firm who were basically willing to employ a newbie because I was
cheap. I worked for them for just over a year and then moved on to better
things, but that's how I got my foot in the door.

If you don't have familiarity with many software applications, emphasise
your ability to learn new software packages - point out that you know how to
*learn* how to use new software, and in the long run that's even more
valuable than a passing familiarity that will go out of date. Learn
everything you can about the software apps available to you - including
Word. And good luck!

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Compaq, UK
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.

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