RE: new tech writer

Subject: RE: new tech writer
From: Matthew Horn <mhorn -at- macromedia -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 10:46:25 -0400

>> "I am a recent graduate in technical communication (B.S.). I
>> have been working as a web designer / technical writer at a non-profit
>> for two years as a co-op, but now it's time for a "real job."

> The reasons are not quite what others on this list may think. The fastest
> growing field for technical documentation is web services, and the
> conversion of existing corporate docs into XML.

Is this true? I don't think I know anyone who documents web services. And the ones that i have used don't really require much more doc than telling me what the return values are. Maybe there is more to it than I think....

> 2. Realize that current openings routinely get hundreds of
> application. You need to stand out. You also need the right buzzwords, indicating
> proficiency. XML is big, so is web services. I assume that if
> you have a tech comm BS you are already proficient with RoboHELP and FrameMaker?

Putting "XML" on a resume is like putting "writing" on a resume. Unless you can programmatically work with XML, it's just a markup language. If you're going to learn XML, learn how to work with it with XSLT or Java. For example, the writers here use XML alot here, generating docs from schemas, writing sample applications, debugging, etc etc, but knowing XML wouldn't get us very far without knowing the tools that are used to manipulate it.

> 3. Web design skills are great, but HTML is a given. You
> might lean on your ability to create online content, rather than webpages--many
> hiring managers don't realize there is a difference. Since you know HTML,
> pick up as much XML as you can, as fast as you can.

There's that XML again. Forget learning straight XML. Learn web scripting and programming. While doing that, learn how to use XML objects in your scripting and programming. For example, create a Flash app, and instead of binding data objects with a loadVars call, load it into a custom XMLObject and then use that object to populate your screen. That would impress me much more than saying "I know XML".

> 4. Learn about databases, and database management. You will
> be working for
> businesses, businesses keep their records in databases, and
> often need
> people to interface. SQL proficiency and a knowledge of basic
> database
> design concepts are something any serious tech writer should
> have, and that
> goes doubly for those trying to break in to the field.

Agreed. But make sure your knowledge of the DB is applied knowledge (ie, learn a specific database), rather than general (like learning SQL). Download and install MySQL and use it in some home spun projects. That way you can have hands on knowledge of the database quirks.

Matthew Horn
Sr. Technical Writer
< m a c r o m e d i a >


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