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> 1. How long have you been a technical communicator?
15 years. I started right out of school.
> 2. Have you noticed changes in software programs that you use? Explain
I started using mostly FrameMaker and Word. Am still using FrameMaker
and Word. 15 years ago I did a few projects in markup languages like
scribe and troff. Now I do projects in markup languages like HTML and
XML. I've also done some work in OpenOffice and InDesign.
> 3. Have you noticed a change in salary? Explain briefly.
My salary has nearly tripled over 15 years. Its down from the boom
and has plateaued in the last couple of years. I am at the top end of
the market and I don't expect to go up much from here.
> 4. Do the tasks that you complete now vary from what you did when you began
> working in this field? Explain briefly.
I started out writing standard task-oriented user and sys admin
documentation on paper. I did online help in hypercard (hands up:
who remembers hypercard?) and some PDF when it first came out but
paper ruled the roost. I did all the writing, editing, illustration,
indexing, and depending on the job, most of the design and layout.
In 1994 I left corporate tech writing and became a freelance writer of
computer books. In computer books I did one thing: write. Courier,
double-spaced. Then I threw the manuscript over the wall to a team
of editors and designers and artists who produced the book. It wasn't
necessarily better or worse than tech writing (I don't mind layout or
illustration) but it was definitely different. I stayed in computer
books during the boom and came back to corporate tech writing just in
time for the bottom to fall out of the market. I have a spectacular
sense of timing.
In many ways it was especially difficult for me to come back to tech
writing because while I was gone I missed the entire online help
phenomenon and I don't have any experience in it less than ten years
old. Fortunately I have a lot of technical background now so I can
specialize in programmer documentation -- API docs, sample code,
architecture docs, tutorials. Its a narrower part of the field and
there's still a demand for it. But to this day I occasionally wake up
in the middle of the night and think "OMG I don't know Robohelp! I
suck! What am I going to do!?"
> 5. How many times have you changed jobs or relocated?
Two real jobs. Five books -- does that count as one job? Now as a
contractor I change jobs about once a year -- four so far. Have never
Laura Lemay Killer of Trees lemay % lne.com lemay % gmail.com http://www.lauralemay.comhttp://blog.lauralemay.com
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