Becoming a Technical Writer

Subject: Becoming a Technical Writer
From: "M. Dannenberg" <midannen -at- SI -dot- BOSCH -dot- DE>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 16:45:19 +0100

As Eric himself started this little twelve-stepper session, I guess I'll
wade right in:

My name is Mike Dannenberg. I am a technical writer.

The signs were there for all to see, early enough. Even when I was
studying German and English in romantic Heidelberg, I'd be caught
reading Personal Computer World under my desk. I was the first in my
class with an e-mail account and handed in word-processed papers before
most people even understood the concept. And it got worse from there.

The writing was clearly on the wall when I switched degrees to
linguistics and artificial intelligence. The former gave me a solid
understanding of language and communication, while the latter made me
understand the ins and outs of software design and provided me with one
of the sharpest bullshit detectors in the industry. To top it all off, I
then worked as a German teacher for two years.

When I first interviewed for a techwriting job, the people who
interviewed me didn't a very clear idea of what to expect from a
technical writer. That way I managed to sell them on the idea that a
techwriter doesn't necessarily need a techwriting degree, and that
finally sealed my doom.

The moral? (Does the story of one's life have to have a moral? Now,
where's that style guide?) If you have a wide range of interests and
never quite want to become a specialist at anything, if those interests
include information technology as well as art or literature, you're in
grave danger of becoming a technical writer. Having any particular
degree won't save you, it can happen to anyone.

Have a nice weekened everybody,


Mike Dannenberg
midannen -at- si -dot- bosch -dot- de

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