Skill Set

Without meaning to I seem to have taken some inspiration from this post, whilst I’m not directly offering a counterpoint, it’s worth a read.

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Every trade or profession has a skill set, a unique set of talents that make one role different from another. For most people in the IT industry we all have some amount of ‘business-led’ skills such as time management, a little project management perhaps, and so on.

As a profession, Technical Communications covers a wide range of skills and some people, depending on their role or the company the work for, can end up being a jack of all trades (master of some?). However, there are some skills that are easily identifiable as being part of our core job and apply to most, if not all, technical writing positions, for example:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Indexing

After that we can look to other areas in which some technical writers dabble, either because of company need or personal curiosity, such as:

  • Graphic design
  • QA/Testing
  • Coding
  • Usability
  • Information Architecture

All of these skills are professions in their own right, and whilst I would never suggest that a technical writer could replace like for like, we do tend to inherit a few additional skills as we bumble along. The specifics and amount vary from person to person, situation to situation, and whilst that means that no two jobs are the same it does present a small quandary.

How do we come up with a generic job description for our profession?

Even if I was to limit the scope of that question to my own personal experience, having worked in 5 different software companies with each having a slightly different view of what my role should be (and with each role being developed in a different way once I had joined the company), it’s still hard to get a single, generic, job description.

This all sparks another question, why do we need a generic job description for our profession?

Well put it this way. A software developer will have a set of skills, but I’d warrant that their list of core skills far outweights the list of their secondary skills. There is an understanding that a software developer will know certain things, and that list is far longer than that of a technical writer yet we have the potential to bring so much more than ‘just writing’ to a company.

To help publicise our capabilities, and the benefits of having a dedicated technical writing team within your company, a generic job description is an ideal starting point to make sure the hiring managers of the world know what we CAN do, if given half a chance.

I know that a generic job description will never match any one role, but I imagine it like a pie chart, with each slice (skill) growing or shrinking to meet the job specification. But before we can bake that pie we need a full list of ingredients.

So, what have I missed? What other roles and skills do you bring with you to a company? Let us build our generic technical writer, we can call her Tina… (or maybe not)


 
 
 

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