Re: What Technical Communicators Do

Subject: Re: What Technical Communicators Do
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 13:10:35 -0800

> On 12JAN95, Dana B. Mackonis wrote

> "I have found that most companies still don't understand
> the skills of a tech writer."
Mike Uhl answers with:
> My experience corroborates this. Projects that I am well qualified and
> able to do are handed off to others because management refuses to listen
> to me when I explain what I do and can do. For example, the latest need
[snip some legit complaints...]

When I first came to StarBase, I told the CEO that I wanted to
have a lot more public contact in my job description. I didn't
want a job where I just sat in my ivory tower and wrote to an
audience I knew nothing about -- and he agreed.

Soon after, the project architect -- a control freak to the max --
was after me to define the scope of the technical writer as it
related to the projects that I worked on with his team... So, I
did. I enumerated tasks like produce paper documentation and
online help, user interface design, usability testing (including
needs determination), review marketing material, conduct demos at
trade shows... Mr. Control went thru the document (which was in
a public area for comment by the entire team) and reassigned all
but the doc and help tasks, whereupon I countered with logical
arguments, including academic sources, why I was the most qualified
for the task. I found out later that I had him soooooo mad he
was in the CEO's office trying to spew and all that would come
out of his mouth was steam! I actually had him speachless!!! :-)

But, they did (eventually) listen. And when they forget what I do,
I'm standing right there to remind them. And if they still don't
listen, I say it even louder!

Now, Mr. Control jokes about it. Every time I take another class
or attend another seminar, I'm expanding the role of a tech
writer again.;-) But, you're never gonna get there unless you
fight for it... And fight hard... And don't stop fighting!

My next mountain is project management. Who says a writer can't
lead a development team? Especially when it's and end-user
product with a complicated UI???

Sue Gallagher
StarBase Corp, Irvine CA
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com

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