Re: Tech Comm Survey

Subject: Re: Tech Comm Survey
From: Barry Campbell <barry -dot- campbell -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 20:20:43 -0400

> 1. How long have you been a technical communicator?

16 years - 20 if you count my part-time and summer jobs at IBM while
an undergraduate.

> 2. Have you noticed changes in software programs that you use? Explain
> briefly.

Started out writing books in a markup language on a mainframe. Moved
on to PC-based (and, later, Mac-based) software packages, including MS
Word (which I've been using since DOS days), Pagemaker, Quark XPress,
and Framemaker. Now, ironically enough, I'm back to using markup
languages (HTML, XML) much of the time and do most of my writing in a
good text editor (TextPad.)

I still use Word and (ack, barf) Powerpoint sometimes and rely heavily
on tools like Visio for rough-and-ready drawings and flowcharts.

I'd like to send a love letter to Adobe for their Acrobat/PDF
software, which freed me from ever having to deal with printing
hassles again, and from the disagreeable task of shipping huge, heavy,
bulky manual sets to customers. These days I either post the docs on
a Web site or just slip a CD-ROM in a cardboard mailer and stuff it in
a FedEx envelope... bliss!

> 3. Have you noticed a change in salary? Explain briefly.

Started out making around 25K a year and went up over the years. You
won't get rich doing this job, in all likelihood, but it's a nice
steady living with no heavy lifting (now that we've got PDF, that

During the dot-com boom years, I was making over 100K a year with
bonuses. I'm making somewhat less than that now and am noticing a
general downward trend in salaries for tech writers in the last few
years, possibly due to outsourcing and offshoring economic pressures
(other factors are involved as well; a lot of IT jobs have gone away
for various reasons.)

> 4. Do the tasks that you complete now vary from what you did when you began
> working in this field? Explain briefly.

My first assignments were repair and maintenance manuals aimed at a
highly technical audience. Moved on to develop end-user documentation
and training material, then online help. These days I'm doing a lot
of process-related documentation and project management stuff. As I
get older, I tend to do less writing and more management, which is
probably inevitable.

> 5. How many times have you changed jobs or relocated?

Five staff jobs over twenty years, plus about a dozen relatively
short-term consulting gigs in between. Relocated once, about eight
years ago, from the Research Triangle area of NC to New York City.

Barry Campbell <barry -dot- campbell -at- gmail -dot- com>


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