TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Squashed ego--techwriter syndrome? From:benadam -at- CYBERDUDE -dot- COM To:techwr-l Date:Thu, 7 Oct 1999 11:33:4
I think you're right, Sean. And you're wrong.
Is this some form of doublethink? No, it's just the existence technical
writers seem to have today. What's worse, I think they accept it too
I went through countless contract jobs where I felt that everything I did
was pearls before swine. I started to wonder if I hadn't become an Edsel
mechanic, an expert in a trade for which there was absolutely no demand
left. The people around me, even the other technical writers, seemed to
have very little idea as to what I was doing and what was involved in my
work, so appreciation was out of the question. At that point in time, I
would have said to your remark, "You can't expect more, guy; that's our lot
Everything changed when I went to my current contract job. It was my good
fortune to be working where two former technical writers were on the staff.
It made all the difference in the world.
Before, I always felt I had to be prepared with a defense, always had to be
able to justify my existence, even when there were periods during which I
could really not progress or do anything except wait for problems in
development to be resolved. I was made to feel that I was taking too long
to do tasks that were quite complex in reality. That all ended on my
current contract; suddenly I didn't have to defend myself or feel guilty
that five hours of work took five hours and not one.
It all boils down to the same problem: the role of the technical writer is
still very poorly defined, and as time goes by, that definition is getting
blurrier by the second.
I know that when I apply for a position, I try to be sure that the hiring
company is in truth looking for someone with my skills; sometimes they just
want a warm body, though, and the unsuspecting candidate gets hurt
unnecessarily. I try to sniff out the ones who really don't have a clue as
to what I need to know, because those companies are going to be miserable
places to work for all but persons with the thickest of skin. If the job
description is unclear, it usually means trouble.
Of course, you can take all the precautions to protect yourself and still
get hurt. A case in point is a company in which the manager was so
self-important that this person managed to alienate one qualified writer
after the next. A writer without a sufficiently strong ego would have been
crushed by such a manager; the ones who believed in themselves left, but
they went on to success.
To some extent, a crushed ego can be an occupational hazard in many lines
of work. It is just that we technical writers are more vulnerable because
our roles are often poorly defined and, therefore, we get misused a lot.
Before my current contract, I felt very downcast about my line of work as
well, but I know now that it's not every place that does that.
You know you did more than "beautify." Find a place where others know it
too -- and be happy there. It CAN be done.