career path in the third and fourth decades?

Subject: career path in the third and fourth decades?
From: Monica Cellio <cellio -at- pobox -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:58:10 -0500 (EST)

Hello,

It's my impression that even the best technical writers will hit a glass
ceiling long before they complete a 40- or 45-year career, unless they
adjust their careers away from technical writing. (If you know of places
where that's not true -- where, say, a 30-year veteran can continue to
advance in salary while remaining a technical writer -- please let me
know.) I've got a pretty good idea of how the first 20-odd years of a
tech-writing career can play out, but am interested in hearing from
people who are farther along. What changes in direction did you make to
stay marketable while using the skills you've acquired? I see a few
possibilities.

Many people go into management, which works at companies large enough
to have sizable doc departments. I'm not sure where doc managers go
to be promoted -- perhaps to maangers of larger groups encompassing doc,
training, support, consulting services, and so on (managers of managers)?
That's how it played out in the one case I've witnessed.

Technical writers who are domain experts might transition into working
in that domain. A writer of programming documentation, for instance,
might shift from technical writing to being a programmer. This would
mean moving from a senior-writer position to (initially) a non-senior
programmer position, but it would seem to have growth potential. This
presumably applies in other domains too, so long as you don't seek the
senior positions.

Another path would be product management. Good technical writers have
to know their users; one could presumably transition that into a
customer-facing role involving requirements analysis, feature planning,
and so on.

For the sake of completeness I mention technical marketing and sales.

Other ideas? Comments on these?

Monica

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