Re: Mid-level TW blues

Subject: Re: Mid-level TW blues
From: Anne McDonough <amcdonou -at- OLF -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 08:33:06 -0400

Hi Matt and everyone. I just joined the list, so be patient if my responses
are long winded! I have been a tech writer for 10 years, starting out working
for Department of Defense contractors in Virginia. Down there, it was a matter
of getting a job at a defense contractor or not having a job, so that's how I
fell into tech writing. Right now, I'm back home in New York, working at my
first official management job (although right now I'm a group of one) at a
financial software development company. (Anyone who wants to be a tech writer
on Long Island, let me know!!) The quote from the recruiter has some merit in
the sense that tech writing is tech writing because it doesn't seem to matter
what you are writing about, the challenges aren't too different. Although,
like every job, it's what you make it. I've been fortunate in working in some
pretty interesting industries. What I find myself getting frustrated about is
office politics, not the job itself. Unfortunately, office politics are a part
of the game.

I've come a long way in terms of responsibilities and things learned. Perhaps
you need to look for a new company that is just starting to grow so you can
"design" your own job. My present company has been around for 6 years and the
new company president realized that after 6 years of concentrating on
development, we need to realize the importance of the documentation that goes
with the software. So I got here at the right time because I am starting the
documentation department and revamping how all documentation is done here.
Plus, I got a serious raise! So, I'm developing templates, building a core
documentation set to deliver with each software version and ensuring the system
is fully documented, dipping into training materials, and learning online
help. When I hire tech writers to work for me, I'd still like to do some
occasional writing to keep my hand in it.

Someone mentioned you should go on vacation or paint. I agree with that.
Whenever I start questioning why I am doing this, I just take some time off and
chill out. I usually discover that it's not the work I'm doing that depresses
me, it's other things in my life or the company I work for. For people in the
defense industry, it's common practice to job hop alot, so real boredom never
had the chance to set in.

Hope this makes sense since it's from someone who has been doing this alittle
longer and is closer to 40 than 30!!! Geez, now THAT'S depressing!!!

Anne McDonough
Open Link Financial

Matt Danda wrote:

> Hey:
> I've been struck by a case of mid-level tech writing blues, and I am
> wondering if any other writers feel the same--or at least are asking
> the same questions about their career direction.
> I am beginning to feel that I have reached a plateau as a technical
> writer, after four-and-a-half years of solid experience with good
> companies, decent projects, and steady raises.
> I read a quote recently from a recruiter who said, "Some tech writers
> with 20 years of experience actually have one year of experience 20
> times." I found this very profound, and as a result I have taken a
> better look at my own career path and the opportunities ahead.
> I am currently interviewing for other jobs because I don't feel that I
> am adequately challenged in my current project. The pay is great, but
> the experience is so-so. Anyway, I have thus far been turned down
> twice by reputable companies due to money. In one case, the company
> laughed at my current rate (thinking I was lying), and the other
> company decided to promote an "associate" tech writer instead,
> presumably at a much lower rate.
> As a new, ambitous, and green tech writer, I jumped at any opportunity
> to increase skills and pay. Now, with almost five years of experience,
> I am not finding as many unique and exciting opportunities. Maybe the
> "been-there, done-that" attitude isn't appropriate, but I was
> certainly caught off-gaurd by being passed over for someone younger
> and cheaper. (I hope this has no correlation to recently awakening to
> the fact that I am closer to 30 than to 21).
> So, when I begin my fifth year as a technical writer, will it simply
> be my first year, for the fifth time? Sure, the product will be
> slightly different, the writing tool a little more advanced, and the
> medium could be online or print or telepathic...but the core
> responsibilities and accountabilities could very well be the same--for
> the fifth time in a row.
> I yearn for a management position, for advancement, for the excitement
> of doing something new and risky. Now that I've broken in to the
> industry and built a great resume, what can I do to keep up the
> challenge?
> Management positions seem to be so rare! I've met lots of team
> leaders, but only a precious few technical writers with real
> management responsibilities. Should I return to school for a masters
> in computer science, or business, or technical writing?
> Does anyone out there ask the same questions? Does anyone have advice?
> Hmm...I recognize the risk in writing this posting as I concurrently
> send resumes to various companies--but hey, I like to take risks
> occasionally.
> Cheers,
> Matt
> ==
> Matthew Danda
> Technical Writer in Software Development
> Orlando, Florida
> _________________________________________________________
> Get your free address at
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==

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