RE: Looking for advice -- up to the job?

Subject: RE: Looking for advice -- up to the job?
From: "Damien Braniff" <DBraniff -at- amphion -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2002 14:24:03 +0100

<<I did need to use MS Word more professionally - dOxygen - and sundry
minor tools.>>

For a start I'd learn more about the most popular tools. We've had
numerous debates about tools vs product skills (you can check the
archives) but a lot of employers ARE looking for somebody who can use
the tools (Frame, RH etc). In many cases now a TW is not simply (or
even?) a writer - they write, edit, design etc and the amount of 'new'
writing varies greatly.

<<tells me I don't have sufficient depth of understanding of its
software (after ten months
writing about it)>>

Here I'd have to ask what type of documentation you were producing. If
you were producing documentation for programmers then you could well
have been getting into the guts of the program and that may be where you
were lacking in knowledge. From what you've said I'd say you have a lot
more programming experience than me (university, 20 years ago!) and I've
documented software from the source code (my first job). I knew the
basics and how to ask questions. In my last job our main product was
software based and the documentation was user information and online
help. I didn't need to have the programming depth. It may be
worthwhile, when applying for jobs, to specify that you'd like to do
some end-user docs to broaden your experience. With a programming
background, recruiters will tend to push you towards more intensive
programming documentation - more money in it.

<<* Training? I love explaining to people. I'm a helpful, committed
sort of guy - but training seems v hard *to get into* at any level.>>

If money isn't an issue it may be worth looking at 'training to be
trainer' - look at who's recruiting trainers and what they require and
then see if you can go get the relevant qualification. Alternatively,
check out smaller local companies or even government agencies - lots of
training being provided at the moment as part of adult education etc.

<<* Telephone support? In my experience telephone support requires a
very quick mind to analyse the problem from a garbled description.>>

Wouldn't recommend it.

<<* Teaching? Education in the UK has changed radically since I left,
and I don't think I could cope any more.>>

I know it's changed a lot but there's still a shortage of teachers in
the maths/science/IT areas. A lot of it depends on the school you end up
at! Another possibility is looking at adult education - lots of local
authorities run classes in IT etc. Often not full time so it could be
ideal if money isn't a problem.

<<* Technical Writing? I'm told that there are large staid companies
that still need solid plodders like me to write for them. Is this so?>>

Oh yes they exist (but getting rarer!). As I said earlier, part of the
problem may be down to the type of documentation you were producing.
User documentation may be more what you're after. With programming and
writing experience it may also be worth looking at QA/usability - linked
but separate fields.


Damien Braniff
Technical Writer
Amphion Semiconductor Ltd.
50/51 Malone Road
BT9 5BS Belfast, Antrim
Northern Ireland

Tel: 028 9050 4000
Fax: 028 9050 4001
E-mail: dbraniff -at- amphion -dot- com

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