Breaking into TW (Side Door)

Subject: Breaking into TW (Side Door)
From: Andy Dugas <adugas -at- NAVIS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 10:51:35 -0800

Some recent postings have wondered about breaking into TW. I think my
personal experience might be instructive.

I came into tech writing from way out of left field. Yes, I was an English
major, but I did not pursue a professional writing job until I was in my
thirties. While living in Brazil, I got into translating and turned out to
be good at it. That lasted for about a year and a half, until I returned to
the US.

Finding a slim market for Port>English translators here, I reframed my
resume to highlight my writing skills, using translations as writing
samples. After all, good translating requires good writing. And raw writing
skills are sorely needed in the marketplace. You just have to look a little

Using this approach, I quickly landed a job as a Marketing Communication
Specialist for a small software company. You know, newsletters, press
releases, product summaries, a little website action - that sort of thing.
The learning curve was pretty steep, but the fact that I possessed the core
skills made it easier. I had to learn Pagemaker, PowerPoint, plus a little
Illustrator and PhotoShop, but fortunately my new job revealed that I had a
knack for basic graphic design and the attendant applications.

About a year and a half later, there was an opening at my company for a
tech writer. I interviewed and got the job. Why? Because 1) I was already
familiar with the company and its products, 2) I had demonstrated the
fundamental skills required (namely tenacity in getting info out of
reticent engineers), and 3) I was a known quantity.

The funny thing is that in all three positions (translator, marcom writer,
tech writer), I have used the same basic set of skills: the ability to take
raw data and put it together in a presentable, informative document, AND
the ability to quickly learn the necessary tools for doing so, whether it's
an app or mark-up language.

Hope this helps.


Andrew Dugas
Technical Writer
Navis Corporation
1616 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94612 USA
Tel: 510 763 5715
Fax: 510 763 2516
email: adugas -at- navis -dot- com

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