Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions

Subject: Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions
From: Rick Lippincott <rjl6955 -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2015 16:55:03 -0400

Craig:

Been reading through the thread, I'll toss in a couple of other points
that I think have been overlooked.

First, you asked if it is worthwhile to get the licenses for
FrameMaker and some of the other tools. While I agree with those who
say that having a good writing sample is more important than having
experience with the tools, let's be clear that the tool experience is
useful too. Word is nice, but FrameMaker is one of the most commonly
used writing tools in the profession. It doesn't get discussed as
often on this forum, but then again I notice the most common context
of Word discussions here is "How do I solve this problem?" So, yes, go
for the student license while you can.

I will get back to tools in a moment.

I think you're going to find your best opportunities are going to be
in the defense industry, and I base that not only on your Navy
experience but also the guess that you've likely now have or recently
have held a security clearance of at least Secret. If you have one
that is current (or at least unexpired), this gives you a leg up on a
lot of possible job openings. There's even a website out there that
lists job openings that require clearances, and tech writing jobs are
often on it.

In addition to the big-name DoD contractors, you will find opportunity
in organizations that include program office activity. Often the
program offices have final control over manuals for specific systems.
You may find yourself getting source data from the prime contractors,
and turning it into the manuals. L-3, Jacobs, ManTech, Oasis, and
Engility are all avenues of opportunity.

You also understand things like the DoD system of QA on the manuals,
which is an advantage. Don't know if you've discovered this yet, but
the entire concept of validation/verification is virtually unknown in
the commercial world. (Another common thread on this forum is "How do
I get my SME's to give me good feedback?") I think there are two
reasons for this. One is that simple staffing: you've got to have a
writing team of at least ten people to support enough activity for one
QA person dedicated to tech manual testing, you'll find that in most
companies the tech writing staff is five or less.

By the way, although it depends on your MOS, my guess is that you're
going to find greater opportunity working on hardware manuals than
software. There is a great need for writers who can do this. And,
having done both, I think that hardware is way more fun.

Now, back to tools. Because you're probably going to find your best
opportunities in defense, what you really need to do is find out what
tools are used there. Although it's been a couple of years since I
last worked DoD systems, they were (and so far as I can tell still
are) big on XML. Arbortext is (or at least was) the tool of choice.

While I absolutely concur that having a writing sample is more
important than having a software license, your best move is to
leverage your experience working with DoD systems and requirements.
Your background plus the certificate will beat someone with the same
certificate and a stack of Adobe certifications.

Finally, best thing you can do is network. This list is a good place,
but being able to actually face to face meet people in the profession
and mingle is also a good idea. You never know when you're going to
connect with the person who knows a person who has a job opening just
for you. As I've already managed to offend all the Word advocates and
probably half the software writers as well, I might as well jump in
whole hog. Join the STC (there is a student rate), find the local
chapter, and go meet people. You will find a lot of good advice from
the people there. Feel free to say "Some guy named Rick Lippincott
from the New England Chapter told me to join." (Look at that, you've
got a networking opportunity already.)

Good luck! Feel free to contact me privately if you have questions.

--Rick Lippincott
"I explain things."
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions: From: Chris Morton
Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions: From: Tony Chung
Re: Future Tech Writer with Software Questions: From: Chris Morton

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