Am I qualified to be a Technical Writer based on my knowledge?

Subject: Am I qualified to be a Technical Writer based on my knowledge?
From: "Regina Heater" <rsheater -at- mooncloud -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 18:09:55 -0500

>Some people seem, and I emphasize SEEM, to be advocating that
>a writer can live
>and breathe something else other than the topic they are
>documenting. Most of
>the best journalists are good at what they do because they
>have some formal
>training and passion with whatever it is they are writing
>about. Sports writers
>are a perfect example. Most sports writers live an breathe
>sports. They can
>recite statistics like mad, and know every possible sports
>trivia fact. This
>is the "content skills" I speak of. An intimate and
>comprehensive understanding
>of the subject matter.

Andrew, your position is fascinating me, so I'd like to pose a question to

I have a BA in Communication and Christian Education. I have no formal
training in technology. While in college I served on the campus technology
committee. I did internships with the Academic Computing department,
creating a newsletter for the department to faculty and students and
documentation with step by step instructions on how to connect to the
Internet, surf the web, and check email. (This was 1995-96 when we were
still surfing with Lynx.) In 1996 for my final project, I created a web
page for a local non-profit organization, the first student on campus to use
HTML for a student project -- and I wasn't even using it for a Computer
Science major; it was for my Persuasion final. While an undergraduate I
taught myself Pagemaker and Photoshop, served as an editor of the yearbook
and was editor of another campus publication.

While getting my Master of Divinity degree, I worked as a Technology
Assistant for the Doctoral Program, creating web pages for an online course
taught through web conferencing. I also worked for the Dean as a reasearch
and editorial assistant for the Dean of the seminary, a prolific author.
Eventually I redesigned and maintained his website. Wherever possible in my
coursework, I utilized technology in my presentations and papers. I
assisted faculty members in learning new software and utilizing technology
in their research. But my research areas didn't have anything to do with
any sort of technology. My writing dealt with Postmodern Biblical Studies.
Emerging World Theologies in relation to Postmodern Criticism like Queer
Theory, Autobiographical Criticism, and Foucault's Theory of Identity.

Upon graduation with my Master of Divinity degree, I decided I needed a
break from churchwork and took a job as an administrative assistant with a
software company. The job was mostly technical writing. I documented a
system created in COOL:GEN. Specifications, test harnesses and screen
shots. When the documents became unwieldy and were crashing Word, I
researched possibilities and created a proposal to switch to Framemaker,
which we did successfully. I learned Frame and converted our documentation
library, then began documenting a web-based software system, technical and
user documentation, from scratch. First it was two writers, then three,
then two, then just me. (Now they don't have any writers, since they've
laid off 90% of my team in the last 18 months). I worked with documents
from nothing through the print production process, working with marketing.
I don't know COOL:GEN or ASP or vbscript or anything about the insurance
industry (where the product was targeted) but I took specification documents
and interviewed SME's and did research. I spent time with my supervisor in
his office as he drew out the database structure. I asked questions and
made sure that when those documents went through SME review, they were right
the first time. Reviews from my supervisors and peers were outstanding.

So here's my question: Assume I am an excellent writer. Based on your
criteria for knowledge, am I qualified to document software?

Curious and interested in your response(s),


Regina Snyder Heater | regina -at- mooncloud -dot- net


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