Re: Tech Writing a Growing Field?

Subject: Re: Tech Writing a Growing Field?
From: Troy Klukewich <tklukewich -at- sbcglobal -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2007 08:47:37 -0700 (PDT)

I second Gene's observation. As a hiring manager, I've seen two distinct groups of writers: 1) the wordsmiths and 2) the domain experts.

For some technical writer positions, writers are essentially expected to take pre-existing material and "make it pretty," ensure it conforms to some set of technical writing standards, and package it in documentation deliverables like online Help or a book. This kind of writing is now particularly vulnerable to off-shoring.

After moving to goal-oriented structured documentation and XML in my last company, I noticed that some writers did not have the analytical skills required to design goal oriented documentation beyond the mechanics of the UI. They had to acquire domain knowledge of the product and have a deeper understanding of the outputs the customers generated with the product. The product was just a means to an end: accomplishing customer goals.

I have seen an increase in the need for analytical skills, which is not so easy to offshore in a cookie-cutter content shop.

If I were to make one suggestion to career-oriented writers now: learn the mechanics of technical writing, sure, but focus on your desired domain expertise. Having domain expertise in one or more areas will readily separate you from the greater number of wordsmiths.

As a writer, I've been lucky. I started my career in on-site ERP implementations, which forced domain expertise and identification of customer goals upfront. Projects that did not successfully identify and transmit customer goals were well-documented failures.

I've been able to maintain that enterprise focus and domain knowledge through the years and it has done me well.


----- Original Message ----
From: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Sent: Monday, April 2, 2007 1:18:54 PM
Subject: Re: Tech Writing a Growing Field?


If you're a current or former engineer who can write,
a writer with a secondary technical background or
a writer with a nontechnical background but years of
experience documenting a particular industry or
technology, IMO prospects for future growth look
pretty good, but I think the days of hiring
people with unspecialized writing skills and spoon-
feeding them technical input are unlikely to return.
What that means as far as "our profession" growing
or not I couldn't say, because I don't know how the
current "numbers" divide up between these categories.

Gene Kim-Eng

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