Re: Why oh why oh why

Subject: Re: Why oh why oh why
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "D. Michael McIntyre" <michael -dot- mcintyre -at- rosegardenmusic -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 12:19:06 -0800

D. Michael McIntyre wrote:

On Thursday 22 February 2007 11:35 pm, Beth Agnew wrote:
I think Nancy is echoing the frustration of many of us, techwriters who
daily see products that do not meet customers' needs. It's frustrating
when we know that there can be improvements; we even tell the powers
that be what improvements to make, and yet we still have to put up with
longstanding issues in products that we rely upon every day.

This is why I love the open source world, and why it pains me so greatly I can't figure out how to make a living in the open source world.

Don't like it? Hack it. Dialogs are especially easy, because you can grep for the text to find the code that needs twiddling.

I wish more people used open source tools for this writing business.

I'm going to go out on a limb and propose something radical: apply directly for work Microsoft. There was a time when this would have been bad advice. True story--when Java first landed, I wore a Java One shirt to Microsoft one day when I was working on a contract there, and as a result had to fend off some pretty hostile flak in the hallways. I wasn't trolling for a reaction, but hadn't anticipated the one that the shirt got, because I'd recently been on a different contract (aviation industry) where there was a lot of interest and a healthy discussion about Java. Anyway, the hostile reaction to Java seemed mickey-mouse to me, but it was bad enough that I braced myself for the knock on the door and a security escort off the premises. It never came, happy to say.

I haven't worked there in years, but I've heard that their attitude towad Linux and open source had moderated, and people have been openly using open source software in their offices, whether out of preference or for competitve analysis I can't say, but probably both. I think MS employees have contributed work on a substantial chunk of Linux and open source code. Whatever, they've always been interested in hiring people with strong software interests and skills, and being an MS gooroo isn't a prerequisite--they might like that you're self-starting and entrepreneurial, as much as your technical experience. They're especially active in hiring people away from competitors (at least, in some areas).

So send them a tech writing resume, underscore your academic accomplishments with langauge arts, dazzle their outsourced HR interviewer with quasi-religious affirmations about documentation and software, take the job if they offer it, try it on for a few months, and send for the family if all goes well. If not, try the same strategy at other major software players--the big companies seem to me to be more flexible and willing to let people learn on the job, and that may be the entry point where you can punch through to the getting-paid side of software tech writing.

Also consider applying to truck manufacturers. It is funny the way some employers will hire someone who knows about their industry's products, even when the job requirements don't have anything to do with that. I've known tech writers who worked for Paccar locally, and while they seem to have frequent boom/bust cycles of hiring and layoffs, the other industries that hire lots of tech writers aren't exactly rock-solid, job-for-life employers either.

My 2k worth,

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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Why oh why oh why: From: Nancy Allison
Re: Why oh why oh why: From: Ned Bedinger
Re: Why oh why oh why: From: Beth Agnew
Re: Why oh why oh why: From: D. Michael McIntyre

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