Re: How did you get started in tech writing?

Subject: Re: How did you get started in tech writing?
From: John Garison <john -at- garisons -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2008 09:41:23 -0400

I was in college in the late 60s during the height of the Vietnam war.
My father was an engineer, but I knew that was absolutely not for me as
I was never good at anything even remotely mathematical. I started as an
English major and got most of my credits toward that early and ran up
against the math requirement. As a Liberal Arts major, I was allowed to
take a philosophy course in logic as an alternative. I loved it. and
ended up with enough philosophy credits for a second major.

Little did I know it, but parsing out Kant's Epidemiology and such was
very good training for coming to intellectual grips with software
systems: they don't exist in corporeal form, they have certain
behavioral constants, and they're immensely complex. So when I didn't
get drafted and had to look for work I got to one place where I had a
choice between a computer software services company and another company
that made radioactive isotopes for use in medical applications. I took
the physically safer route.

I guess I was good at it. I worked at DEC in the mid-70s and got a great
technical education there documenting operating systems, programming
languages, and systems utilities. I switched to writing for end users
and got an opportunity to teach documentation development at Harvard's
extension school and taught as an ad hoc professor for the next 18
years. I even got the chance to move to new Zealand for a couple of years.

In all this time I've never been unemployed for more than a couple of
weeks, learned a lot, and and met a bunch of nice people. And now I
live in idyllic Vermont, have a beautiful spot in paradise and write for
a company that makes the electronic maps you probably use in your GPS,
phone, or online map service.

Tech Doc been very very good to me.

John G


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