To What Degree ...

Subject: To What Degree ...
From: Chris Frederick Willis <ChrisOp -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 5 Jun 1994 23:42:04 EDT

I have a BS in Arts and Media with an Illustration Emphasis from
Grand Valley State University. My original career goal was to
write and illustrate children's books, but my first real job out of
college was as the graphic artist half of a tech writer & artist team. We
comprised a very small pubs department in a medium size company, so it was
necessary to wear a lot of hats.

It was during my seven years there that I learned technical writing
and illustration skills, along with invaluable CAD and desktop
publishing experience. You might say it served as an internship of sorts.
Along the way, I supplemented my in-house experience with seminars,
workshops, and trade books and magazines.

I now operate my own small business. I work out of a home office, and hire
subcontractors when necessary. Ironically, it's my writing that seems to be
most in demand, with the DTP being an added bonus. (My degree applies most
when designing and publishing, as a matter of fact.) I seldom get a chance to
illustrate at all any more!

My degree serves as an "in." Nobody has ever asked to see a transcript, and I
don't carry my college work in my portfolio. Indeed, the manuals and
illustrations within my portfolio are of more interest
to prospective clients than any background experience. "Show me what you can
do for me," seems to be the guiding force behind finding work. The degree
seems to equate to a level of commitment and professionalism that can be
expected, rather than an indication of skill level.

Personally, I think that everyone in today's world should have a college
degree. However, when I'm approached by someone who wants to "get into" tech
writing, I tell them to find an in-house job and build a portfolio. I really
feel that's the key to success.

Chris Willis
Media 1 Technical Publishing Services
Nunica, Michigan USA

"Where there's a Willis, there's a Way!"

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