Re: Tech Comm Survey

Subject: Re: Tech Comm Survey
From: Martha J Davidson <editrix -at- nemasys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 17:28:49 -0700

I sent my reply privately; here's what I wrote, for the record:

1. How long have you been a technical communicator?

I designed and edited my first manual in 1984.

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

From the start I used word-processing software to create manuals. For the first book, I created the text, and a contract writer at another location retrieved the files using a modem, then printed them and "published" them in 3-ring binders.

After that, I've used desktop publishing programs, originally Ventura Publisher, and since 1988 FrameMaker. Starting in 1996, Adobe Acrobat has been available to convert printed manuals to PDF to supplement or replace printed books.

Since the mid-1990s, I've also used standalone help-authoring tools like RoboHELP and then conversion tools like WebWorks Publisher to single-source content from FrameMaker so that I could produce both printed books and context-sensitive online help, each customized to fit the corresponding delivery medium.

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

It's kept going up. Now, even after several layoffs and the end of the dot-com bubble, I'm making more than I ever have before, and more than the numbers I see on most salary surveys.

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

I explained some of that for question 2: the main differences now are single-sourcing to produce both printable manuals and help. I've always worked directly with software developers to understand the products I document, and I've designed the entire layout of both books and help systems since the first project I described, in which a contractor took care of the page design and printing.

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

I've only relocated once, while I was a software engineer (before I was officially a tech writer), from the east coast to San Francisco. On the other hand, I've changed jobs numerous times over the years, mostly because of layoffs.

Martha Jane {Kolman | Davidson}
Dances With Words
editrix -at- nemasys -dot- com

"Too many words bring about exhaustion."
--Tao Te Ching, chapter 5 (translated by Sheets/Tovey)


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