going into tech writing (was: Re: Framemaker, Word and Robohelp)

Subject: going into tech writing (was: Re: Framemaker, Word and Robohelp)
From: "Chuck Martin" <twriter -at- sonic -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 16:37:38 -0800

"David Berg" <dberg -at- dmpnet -dot- com> wrote in message news:86942 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> > The fact that I enjoy variety and learning new skills is a bonus
> I'm willing to wager that I'm not the only person on this list that
> considered variety one of the big draws when making a decision to go into
> tech writing.
Now there lies a story. To start, I should say that I had no clue about this
"variety" when I jumped into this field.

Ever since I was about 8 or 9, I thought I knew what I wanted. I was going
to go to college, get a degree in meteorology, and work in that field. It
didn't hurt that one of my close friends at the time had a father who worked
for the National Weather Service, which enabled me to go to the Chatham
weather station and see How It All Worked.

A few years later I got hooked on Star Trek reruns and decided I would
double major, in meteorology and astronomy. After getting accepted into the
Air Force Academy, and then getting my acceptance rejected because my
eyesight wasn't good enough (even though I wasn't going to be a pilot), and
then taking a break after my first abortive attempt at college, I found
myself in community college, still working on those goals.

This was the mid-80s. I was working at a newspaper, working with early PCs,
using an early word processor called Leading Edge. I had loved
microcomputers for a long time, having taken a couple of months in my senior
HS year programming a TRS-80 Model 2 in electronics shop. I was getting
kudos for my writing from my editor. I got through the calculus series, but
began to stumble in differential equations, and the engineering physics was
a bear.

About that time, 2 things happened almost at once: I went to the college's
employment office to do some research on my field, and I walked through a
4-year college fair. At the employment office, I found that in both
meteorology and astronomy, jobs were both few and low paying, and what few
jobs there were were either in research (tedious) or teaching (not my
forte). At the college fair, I picked up a packet from the college of
engineering, thinking I would look at the computer offerings. The Computer
Science department had a large section, describing the degree, the courses
needed, and so on. On the back page, there was a small blurb about
"Scientific and Technical Writing." And I do mean small.

Never having seen that before, I asked what it was about. I got an
interesting application, and the next thing I know I was applying. I got
accepted, graduated, and found my true calling. The ret is history (and it
remains to be seen whether the history is good or bad). That I can do a
variety of things, and can do several of them well, is probably a bonus. I
was once told I should focus more on product design, as that is where a lot
of my passion lies. I think I can do that as well as write. My highest
passion has evolved to be for the users, and to provide them with the best
possible experience.

Now if I had just taken more than one typing class in high school..... :)

"[Programmers] cannot successfully be asked to design for users
because...inevitably, they will make judgments based on the
difficulty of coding and not on the user's real needs."
- Alan Cooper
"About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design"

Chuck Martin
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net www.writeforyou.com

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