How did you get started in tech writing?

Subject: How did you get started in tech writing?
From: "Blount, Patricia A" <Patricia -dot- Blount -at- ca -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 11:23:49 -0400


Coming late to the party, as usual...but here's my story.

Like Nancy, I worked as a secretary for many years and HATED it.

Well, actually, let me amend that. I enjoyed the diverse work. What I
hated were the lousy pay, the assumptions that I had no brains and
couldn't handle "real work" and worse, couldn't aspire to anything else.

It all started because I hated nursing school. I dropped out after two
years and had to find work. Since all I could do was type, I spent a few
years as a medical receptionist and then moved on to administrator and
executive secretary roles.

I had no idea what I wanted to be, so I pursued a degree in computers.
This was the late '80's, when computers were still fun. It was a hot
field and I figured a degree in it would guarantee me a well-paying job.

After finishing my studies, I was a fully qualified Computer Operator.
And couldn't find a job. Still a secretary, I returned to school for a
B.S degree, this time in MIS, on my employer's tab.

After I graduated, they refused to give me the opportunity to apply my
recently-degreed skills, so I took them elsewhere.

This was in the late '90s. At this time, computers were on every desk
and email had replaced the interoffice memo. I'd become a PowerPoint and
Word expert by necessity and found myself writing up little cheat sheets
on the most frequently occurring problems the group I supported
encountered on a regular basis. Those little cheat sheets of mine were
soon in demand, as word got out to other groups that "Patty knows why
those pages print in glphys instead of words. Ask her."

Soon, I was distilling task-based instructions for equipment like
digital slide scanners and cameras, the multiline phones in the
conference rooms and even the voice mail system.

When I left that job, my new employer said, "You're not a secretary,
you're a technical writer."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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