Re: How did you get started in tech writing?

Subject: Re: How did you get started in tech writing?
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2008 21:00:17 -0700

On Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 6:00 PM, Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net> wrote:
> And, when I did teach, I discovered that I liked writing my teaching
> materials more than I liked being at the head of the room. When someone
> said, "You might try technical writing," I gave it a shot.
> What's your story?

I spent most of my high school and college years preparing
to follow in my father's footsteps as an engineer (during the
60's and 70's, Dad designed most of the electromechanical
components that control the NASA shuttle's robotic arm and
many of today's RPVs). However, it soon became clear that
I was stronger in "the humanities" than I was in math and
science (Dad had always felt that his less-than-perfect
immigrant's grasp of English had held him back, and
determined that this would not be passed on, he put a
stronger emphasis on language skills, which pretty much
turned the traditional stereotype of the Asian-American
student totally upside-down). However, it was also clear that
there wasn't a heck of a lot of money to be made in "the
humanities," so off I went to engineering school anyway.

During college I discovered that there was such a thing as
"technical writing," but also discovered that most companies
hiring writers at the time (a) were in aircraft and/or heavy
manufacturing (the computer and software industries did
not exist at the time), and (b) preferred to hire people with an
engineering background (I think there was also a certain
amount of incredulity in peoples' reactions to the idea of a
Chinese-American *writer*). This resulted in my spending about
15 years after college as an engineer (design, test, system
integration), turning just about every job I took into a de facto
writing job, until I was eventually recruited by one of the new
"high tech" semiconductor startups that had had multiple bad
experiences trying to turn people with English and journalism
degrees into technical writers. My title was "Research Engineer"
and my salary was still in the engineering ranges, but for the
first time since college, documentation was officially my primary
job. When the company went public, I was moved up to manager
and started building my first group, and the rest was/is history.

Gene Kim-Eng

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How did you get started in tech writing?: From: Nancy Allison
Re: How did you get started in tech writing?: From: John Cook

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