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Subject:Re: Engineering approach to certification From:"Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 17 Nov 1998 10:18:27 -0600
> I'd like that option. Engineers aren't all alike and neither are tech
> But we do make assumptions about ourselves and so do prospective
> employers. We
> assume we can communicate technical information. Let's say so proudly in
> form of standardized testing.
Oh please no!! We don't need a form of a Tech Writer's SAT score to
wave in front of potential employers. IMO, the employer is looking at two
things -- "Does the candidate have the experience and the skills needed?"
and, if the answer to the first question is yes, "Does the candidate want
too much money for the position?"
> The tech fields conduct certification programs at a number of levels; so
> we. We could have tests for grammar and usage, technical communication
> and specialties like user interface design, for instance.
This has been debated numerous time. A general point of agreement
is that the field and the backgrounds of people in the field are so
divergent that an equitable test is impossible.
How fair is a test on the minutia of grammar and usage for Technical
Writers who have switched careers from a technical or scientific field ?
How fair is a test on interface design for a writer that has been
writing banking and insurance literature for 10 years?
How fair is a test on technical communication theory for someone who
has been in the field for 25 years and went to college at a time when there
probably were not technical communication theory classes taught or the
theories have been developed since they went to school? And please don't
give me the "They should have gone back to school" line. This is not always
possible or practical.
> We could approach the
> technical fields about creating a tech writer track for their
> programs, just as they now have systems admin as well as engineering
> tracks. And
> maybe another level would require examination of a body of work, a writing
> portfolio. Certified or not, tech writers will continue to find work with
> without it. I just think that with it, we'd do better individually and as
My pet conspiracy theory is that the push for certification is
coming from two camps. Both camps are looking to close the field to
competition by putting the obstacle of a test (biased toward their
strengths) in the way.
Camp 1 are those with a non-technical background who feel threatened
by the technical side of the job. They feel that language skills are the
only skills that should be required. However, this camp sees ads wanting
technical skills, knowledge, and backgrounds. Because these requirements
are so alien to their personal backgrounds, they would like a screening
mechanism (such as a certificate) that would trip up competitors who come
from a more technical background. Therefore, let's make the certification
heavy on language skills and technical communication theory.
Camp 2 are independent contractors or heads of technical writing
contract agencies. They want rigid standards so that they can eliminate
competition who may be underbidding them. With that accomplished, they can
fix the prices and win more business with less effort.
People, listen. Certification and recognition programs may have the
candy coating of being done for your benefit. But the core is based on
closing the field to competition (in which you may be viewed as a
competitor) and slanting the qualifications toward a particular agenda. I'm
all for improving the skills and knowledge of the field, but I want it done
equitably. But because that cannot be done, I say leave the field wide
open. How many of you working as Technical Writers now would have been
excluded had the pro-certification group got their way years ago?
> Rene Gedaly rgedaly -at- msn -dot- com
> Gedaly Information Development
Mike "Oliver Stone" Wing