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Subject:Re: Advanced Degrees (warning: long reply) From:Gillian Mcgarvey <Gillian_McGarvey -at- OVID -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 26 Nov 1996 08:39:22 -0400
To: techwr-l @ listserv.okstate.edu
I second Daniel Read's sentiments (below). I have a BA in Political
Science, graduating in the recession of 93 and out of dire need for a
job, took one in Marketing in a computer software company. I hated the
marketing, loved writing and desperately wanted to know how the innerds
of computers and software worked. Against all sorts of prejudice from
engineers for being a woman and a liberal arts major, I trudged ahead in
trying to learn the technical end of things, schmoozing with the techies
and trying to find my way around in DOS! Finally, I quit (marketing,
bah!), travelled, but re-entered the field in marketing, in a software
consulting firm that was so small that I ended up writing the manual and
windows help for one of their modules (bc I was the only one there to do
it). This got me the title (self-proclaimed) of technical writer, and
from there, I got a "real" tech writing job at a larger software company.
My advice to anyone trying to get into technology is to skip the higher
degree and spend the effort getting a foot in the door in the type of
industry in which you want to work. When we look to hire a tech writer
here, we look for someone who has experience in the software development
environment. It is a very peculiar environment and all of the skills
below would add up to someone who would probably do well. We never look
for someone with a certain type of degree. Personality (as in
flexibility, eager to learn quickly, team player), experience and skills
(ability to write clearly, a familiarity with developing online help) are
My advice is to be patient, get a foot in the door, and start learning on
the job. There is SO much to learn in the workplace (about people,
technology, tools, what kind of office environment you feel most
comfortable in, etc.). Be creative, persevere, take night classes to
beef up your technical skills (a class on programming couldn't hurt, a
class on UNIX maybe...) and break in, even if it doesn't happen
overnight. Yes, and luck plays a part, too. But if you prepare enough
and get in there and start mingling with the technology, you will be in
the right position to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.
Whew... Good luck!
<<to be a good TW..
1. An undying interest in learning and curiousity about how things work.
2. An ability to explain, in writing and at the audience's level, what
3. An ability to get along with a variety of people: engineers, clerks,
senior management, programmers, and secretaries.<<<<<
"I would go along with these statements, and add to it a sentiment about
the computer business in general. I have been in the hiring position
many times, and my criteria has always been personality first, experience
second, education third.
To me, the best path to experience in the computer field (if you have
none), is starting as an entry level technician, especially on a Help
Desk. Many of the same qualities required to be a good technician
parallel those of a good technical writer (minus the writing, of course)."