Re: Time for a Change

Subject: Re: Time for a Change
From: Win Day <winday -at- rogers -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 11:38:07 -0500

At 09:09 AM 14/12/2001 +0000, surfer924 -at- ameritech -dot- net wrote:

I am contemplating a career change. I've been a TW for three years
(although I did tech writing in various forms on and off for 20 years in
the military)and don't think this is how I want to spend the rest of my

I've read several threads on this list from those of you who entered tech
writing from other writing-type careers (journalism, marketing, etc.) and I
wonder if there are any former technical writers on this list? If so, what
are you doing now? Why did you leave tech writing? Was the transition

Any feedback on this would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

I guess I'd have to call myself a former technical writer. I've moved into multimedia development -- I create websites (everything from simple online presences all the way through completely dynamic database-driven e-commerce or e-business sites) and interactive CDs.

This was a much more formal transition than my switch into technical writing from chemical engineering! I left full-time engineering to go into freelance technical writing, and built my business based on the skills I had picked up during my years as an engineer (a year in marketing writing proposals and managing the proposal process didn't hurt). I actually went back to college full-time last year for a post-grad certificate in Interactive Multimedia.

I needed the change. I had stagnated, as a technical writer -- I found myself taking contract after contract with the same sort of responsibilities, albeit in vastly different industries, because that's what was available. Each project was fun at first as I came up to speed on the new technology about which I was writing, but I wasn't going anywhere AS A WRITER. I could easily have continued to take such projects till I decided to retire. But I would have gone slowly mad.

Going back to school full-time after 20+ years was difficult. The program I chose was very intense -- by the middle of each semester you're putting in 100+ hour weeks. I found the workload physically draining. And the program itself was managed quite poorly, to the point where more than half of the 45 student filed formal complaints with the associate dean. So it was the Year From Hell as far as stress was concerned.

But I learned an amazing amount. I'm comfortable in five programming languages, plus HTML/DHTML. More importantly, I know how to learn new ones (which is why I'm tackling PHP/mySQL over the holidays). I can create and edit digital audio and video. I know how to develop and manipulate Access databases. While I'm still no graphic artist, I'm OK in creating and manipulating simple imagery. And I know enough about the areas in which I'm comfortable but not expert to know when to hire outside help.

I have a whole new circle of networking groups. For the most part, I seek out different kinds of clients than I used to. And the work is fun! I don't have the steady influx of clients and projects yet, but it's building slowly. I also moved this summer, so I would probably have had to rebuild my client base anyway.

I still keep my ties to technical writing. I've been an STC member for years, and will continue to maintain my membership. I follow this list! And I chair the advisory committee for a technical writing certificate program at a local college.

It wasn't an easy transition, but definitely a worthwhile one.


Win Day
Multimedia Developer
mailto:winday -at- wordsplus -dot- net

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