Re: Advice

Subject: Re: Advice
From: Sabahat Ashraf <sabahat -at- viragelogic -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 16:45:04 -0700

Vicky Rubin wrote:
> Hello Seasoned Pros,

Folks, this personsa tawkin' to yooo.

But I will throw my two cowries worth in anyways.

> I'm new to the field and to the board. I'm learning so much from your
> posts, not to mention getting a good laugh at least once a day.

Well, welcome to the underappreciated outhouse of
engineering ;) You're already doing well if you've subscribed to this
list early in your career. I wish someone had told me about TECHWRL
much, much earlier in my TW'ing career than they did. [Others wish they
hadn't, but that's whole 'nuther storee.;)]

> I have a 20 yr. old undergrad in Org. Development and a certificate from
> Northwestern. (My class was the first for the program, and apparently, the
>'s being discontinued.) My writing credits to date are creative
> (poetry, radio work, short story) and talent agency stuff, but tech is what
> I want to do.

Well, tw'ers get paid whether the book sells or not ;). Of course, if
the software/hardware(and that can mean more than you'd think at first
blush; as I like to point out, I have written labels for the little
things in your kitchen and restroom)/what-have-you dudn't sell, then no
one gets paid!

In case no one's pointed it out -- and the basics can get kinda buried
in all the "stuff" [and I say "stuff", to quote my Freshman Year English
teacher, to avoid saying more interesting words] -- here's the Golden
Rule of Tech Writing:

Know Thy User.

That's all you need to know. No go forth and ... er ... um ... Write.

Seriously, IMNSHO that's the main difference between fiction writing and
technical writing; in one the reader learns and understands your
language, metaphor, etc. while in the other, you try to understand where
they are cognitively and try to get the information to them.

If you *do* need to know more about Tech Writing, here's another one
I've been using lately to impress my friends and new bosses: Tech
Writing is equal parts knowing the industry you're writing for, the
technology you're writing about, and the user who will have to use your
documentation.** Once you know these three, you work out the right
tools, techniques, processes and delivery mechanism for the information
you want to convey to your user in a form they he or she can use.

**[Of course, the words "industry", "technology", and "documentation"
are to be interpreted as liberally as possible -- sometimes, "domain",
"product or service", and "information" or "knowledge product" are used
so you've got better coverage...coverage is important, too, btw, but I
digress ...]

Beyond that, as the Gurus of the Orient say, "sub maaya hai"; all is
dross/mundane/worthless -- or, to put it in today's language, everything
else is just details.

> If you all had one piece of advice on how to prepare for interviewing and
> looking for work what would that be?

Ah, but you're right. It is the mundane that pays the bills. And thus we
have to give interviews and get jobs. My take? What I like to do is ask
questions. About [forgive the repetition] their industry, their
technology, their user base, their tools, techniques, processes,
delivery mechanisms. And make it a conversation; they ask you, you ask
them. Sound interested, learn as much as you can about those things
before you turn up for the interview and then ask more. Get involved.

Oh, and in this market? Network, network, network. Find your nearest STC
chapter and attend meetings. [see -- local chapters
usually have job lists/banks; there's one on the national site, too]

I will stop babbling now. My tea's ready.

> I have some knowledge of Frame,
> Dreamweaver, Acrobat 5.0, Visual Basic, Visio, and Office 2000, but am
> concerned that I'll be laughed out of space, cyber and physical, because I
> can't compete with folks who can do it all.

Ah, but you've got something most people don't -- the variety of tools.
Don't underestimate that. The fact that you can be productive with any
of those at a moment's notice [you can, can't you?] is a great asset.
However much sleep-and-caffeine-deprived folks like me might babble
about Golden Rules, a lot of HR folks [the first group shortlisting your
resume] and even managers insist on previous knowledge of the exact
tools their departments are using. So that's a good thing.

You have a nice day now. I will, too, as soon as I have enough caffeine
in me ;).



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