Matt's Case of the Mid-Level TW Blues

Subject: Matt's Case of the Mid-Level TW Blues
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 17:57:59 -0700

Matt Danda wrote that, after 4 1/2 years of experience as a technical
writer, he now thinks he's ready for a management position. Unless he's
actually been entrusted with being given some signature and hiring
authority, I'd have to wholeheartedly disagree with this statement of

I also happen to disagree that Matt's peaked after only 4 1/2 years as a
technical writer. If anything, he's just getting started as one. In
terms of "keeping up the challenge," he may well be ready to go back to
school and pick up on some technical or engineering classes as well as
start working on earning a certificate in tech pubs management.

After I'd been a technical writer for six years, I woke up one day to
the realization that I was going to have to transition from the defense
side of Silicon Valley (the truly high-tech side) to the
computer/commercial high-tech side of the Valley. This was not an easy
transition, given the disdain the two sides of the Valley looked at each
other in the waning days of the Cold War.

In a nutshell, the defense side saw the commercial side as being
disorganized and downright sloppy in their business practices. The
commercial side, of course, saw the defense side as a bunch of complete
ignoramuses when it came to understanding concepts like Time-to-Market
and First-to-Market. And so it went. :D

The first big challenge I faced was in demilitarizing my resume. At the
time, this included my involvement on documentation projects supporting
both strategic and tactical weapons systems. As the defense side was
also in the middle of missing out on the personal computer revolution
(the major contractors of the day were buying into Wang mainframe
publishing systems!), I also realized I had to upgrade my skills set big
time, which also wasn't easy! This was my second major challenge.

Both of these challenges showed up at the same time in my life: around
the first two years of my marriage, truly an awful time for such things
to show up. But show up they do. In spades.

By 1990, I'd somehow made the transition. I'd been a technical writer
of 9 years experience by then, felt very comfortable using both a
Windows-based PC and a Mac. I'd even managed to buy a Mac SE for working
on my corporate documentation projects at home if I needed to.
Sometimes, I did. I've been grateful for the investment I'd made in my
future as a technical writer and now know I need to continue making that
level of investment. It takes that level of commitment to make that
level of investment.

I don't think Matt really understands what lays in front of the rest of
his technical writing career just yet. But I think if he concentrates
on being with one company for a few years (about 3 or 4 years) and not
focus on job-hopping in the name of making more money, he might find his
skills will actually be better than they are now.

Bottom line: Do what you love. The money will follow (After 17 years,
the money's finally found me. It's amazing what continuing to plug away
at the career will do for your cash flow.).

George Mena, Tech Writing Consultant
(with special thanks and prayers of gratitude to Lew Jr., Art Jr.,
Brian, Charlie, Don, Loran, Dewey and Catfish, wherever you are.)

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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