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I work as an ERP Technical Consultant and a few weeks ago I got assigned to one of our projects, which I thought would be great because it's a big project and I can benefit a lot from it.

The first task I got was a list of 7-8 documents and 'How to' guides about work and tasks that were done by other consultants (they still work here).
I finished a couple of documents and sent them to my boss, even though I wasn't really convinced I should be doing that. Now a few weeks have passed and it has become the trend to ask me to do guides or documentation for their work. My boss even asked me to make a training manual for a training he is about to give, about a task that he has done himself and didn't document.

Will it be rude or unprofessional to tell them to write their own documentation?
Sitting around all day doing documentation doesn't really benefit me as a junior technical consultant.

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    The best part of writing documentation is that it helps you learn the system inside out... – JohnHC Jul 6 '17 at 9:43
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    Also, writing technical documentation is part of the work of a technical consultant - I don't think the people developing the project can choose the specific parts they want to develop either... Still, you should discuss this with you manager if it becomes a problem for you. – carrdelling Jul 6 '17 at 10:33
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    Rude, unprofessional and unwise. This is an opportunity to get your finger on the pulse of everything that's going on. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jul 6 '17 at 12:28
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    Indeed, unfortunately it's a case of "you're lucky you have a job". If you don't like it, change jobs. Note that it's likely your excellent writing skills have meant you keep getting this. What I would do is, (A) write the best documentation that has ever been produced on the planet and (B) in a good-natured way, tell you're boss each time "I've been stuck on documentation again!" with a big smiley if in writing. If you go over the top in excellence, you'll soon be on to other stuff. Why haven't you moved to one of the automated doc systems (or - whatever - try to innovate dude!) – Fattie Jul 6 '17 at 12:53
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    While I doubt this was your manager's motivation for assigning the documentation tasks to you, there is an advantage to having an outsider write the documentation: you're less likely to overlook important details that the implementors take for granted. You—like the target users—are an outsider, and thus you're in a better position to fully document the process without the potential biases one of the developers would have (e.g., "well of course you need <developer's specific browser version>..."). – DaoWen Jul 6 '17 at 15:30
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Yes, it would be rude and unprofessional to tell them to do their own docs.

First of all, if you are a junior consultant, you do generally need to accept that at times you are likely to get stuck covering grunt work as the experienced engineers are going to be tied up with developing the project. As a junior you simply can't be as productive as they will be, so if they are told to futz around with docs so that you can code more, very likely at a slower pace, I think you can admit this is really not the best solution, strategically.

The positive angle to doing all of this documentation is that you are learning a great deal about how your product works. This will be very important once you move on to coding (presumably in the same product).

But you did actually get to the point in your last sentence: if you are only working on docs, you will not be developing the skills you need and want to work with, and this is indeed not good for you.

You need to talk with your boss and tell him/her your concerns. Tell them you understand the docs need to be finished, and you are happy to help, but you also need to get up to speed with the nuts and bolts of this project, and that is not happening as you are stuck doing only documentation work.

A good manager will take this seriously and should work with you to improve things.

On the other hand, if this consultancy is basically a "body shop", it's more likely you're stuck with this til the docs are complete.

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    Well written and very accurate based on my experience. – Mister Positive Jul 6 '17 at 13:31
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    I burned out of a technical support job for a company that provides online IT training because I got stuck writing the courses rather than doing technical support, and never brought it up with my manager. Learn from my mistakes and talk to your boss about your concerns. – SGR Jul 6 '17 at 13:40
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    "til the docs are complete" - the only time I've seen docs to be truly complete was when project was at the end of it's life. Earlier there always are changes that needs to be documented. – Mołot Jul 6 '17 at 14:44
  • yes of course, the point is exactly that ;) – user73310 Jul 6 '17 at 14:55
  • "til the docs are complete" - there's an old joke in the aviation industry: a new plane design can not be certified for flight testing until the weight of the documentation exceeds the weight of the plane ;) – alephzero Jul 6 '17 at 21:32
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Yes, it's totally the wrong way to deal with this. Your job is whatever your boss decides (within reason).

Work hard and do a great job on all the tasks assigned to you, but don't feel afraid to speak to your boss about future plans. Try and find a time when your boss seems approachable for best results.

If people work hard and perform well, they stand out from the crowd and get trusted with the most important jobs. People who complain or refuse work are often used as a last resort.

Don't be the last resort

Edit: I'm missing something huge. Reading and understanding code is an essential part of your job. This is a great learning opportunity. Treat it as such.

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Adding to the other valid answers, I'd like to cover an aspect that caught my attention:

My boss even asked me to make a training manual for a training he is about to give, about a task that he has done himself and didn't document.

If this task did not produce code or anything that can help you with writing such manual, you need to point out to the manager that you need all the required information.

Also, since he will eventually have to do the training, you could propose him to review the manual together with you, so that:

  • the manual will be as accurate as possible;
  • the boss will know in advance its content, and will be able to use it at best.
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The answers from David and user73310 are spot on.

I would like to add that I applaud your company's view on documenting. Some places do not take documentation seriously enough and pay the price months/years down the road. Trust me - this is a great opportunity for you to learn and hone your documentation skill set in. Providing exceptional documentation will set you aside from other candidates when you are ready to make that next career move.

As stated, you will eventually be involved more if your manager is always looking out for what is best for the team and following a career advancement program. Do not let your ambition get in your way and come off entitled - that would be inappropriate.

Edit: Wanted to add this: Saying "doing something that isn't mine" reminds me of being in elementary school and a kid spilled his milk on the lunch table and walked away. The cafeteria lady actually made the rest of the table clean up his mess even though it wasn't our fault. There's some lessons from doing that which has stuck with me. I encourage you to take a more positive spin on what you're asked to do and believe that every cog in the wheel has great purpose.

You got this.

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