Breaking into the business

Subject: Breaking into the business
From: Kevin Cahill <kevin -dot- cahill -at- HIT -dot- UIB -dot- NO>
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 20:56:48 +0100

This message contains a number of questions that I have concerning breaking
into the field of technical writing. First, I will briefly introduce myself.

My name is Kevin M. Cahill. I have a B.A. in Biochemistry (1986) from the
University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, I worked for three
years in research laboratories, first for one year as a chemist for Syntex
Corporation
in Palo Alto, CA, and then for two years as a research assistant in the
Dept.of Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco. In 1990,
I returned to school, obtaining a second bachelor's degree in philosophy
from San Francisco State University in 1992. I began graduate studies for
the Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Virginia in the fall of 1992.
Currently, I am on a Fulbright Fellowship in Bergen, Norway, conducting
research at the Wittgenstein Archive. I shall be finished with the
dissertation sometime next fall. I speak nearly fluent German, competent
Spanish, and am currently learning Norwegian. For those who care, my areas
of specialization are Wittgenstein, early analytic philosophy, Logic, Kant,
and Nietzsche.

My interest in the the technical writing profession is mainly two-fold.
First, I have a short-term interest in learning a skill which could tide me
over during the time that I am looking for a tenure track position teaching
philosophy. Naturally, should such a skill allow me to earn extra money
later on while teaching at a university or college, so much the better.
thinking about alternative professions which are interesting, pay
reasonably well, and utilize some or many of the skills that I have
developed in the course of my training. A number of acquaintances of mine
familiar with the field of techinical writing have been encouraging me for
some time to look into it: hence this letter of inquiry.

Having read through a number of job listings for technical writers
recently, I was struck by my current state of unpreparedness, especially in
the area of computers. Naturally, I am willing to learn as many facets of
the trade as possible, especially those which seem most in demand, while I
am continuing work on my dissertation. Nevertheless, I am also particularly
interested in the possibility of finding work, part-time of full, with a
group or company which is willing to take someone on board untrained, the
only guarantee being that I am a hard worker, and have proven writing and
analytical abilities. I do have of course a solid scientific education in
chemistry and the biological sciences as well, which inclines me to think
that I might be particularly suited to enter the field through the
biotechnology industry. I still have an abiding interest in science in
general, and biology in particular, and have kept my knowledge of recent
developments reasonably fresh.

One last issue that I should mention concerns location. Probably the
easiest thing that I could do here is simply to list off those places where
would seriously consider living; that might be helpful to anyone with
information pertaining to a particular region. I should mention that I am
a duel citizen of Ireland and the U.S. This means that I am permitted to
work in any country which is a member of the European Union without needing
to apply for a work visa. Here goes:

-Anywhere in the U.S., but particularly the West Coast, the East Coast, or
Chicago
-Skandinavia, particularly Norway
-The Netherlands
-Germany, or Austria
-Ireland
-Great Britain

>This more or less sums up my background situation. Any help or advice on
>any aspect of breaking into the technical writing business, especially
>regarding gaining needed computer training, would be much appreciated.
>
>Sincerely,
>
>Kevin M. Cahill
>


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