Stairway to Technical Writing

At the outset, I echo the former US President, Barack Obama: Yes, we can!

You can, I can, and we all can become a technical writer. Question is : are we passionate about technical writing? if affirmative, then we are on the same space.

When I was planning to start my career as a technical writer, like most of you, I too had lot of questions. At that point of time, I had to fall on Google or refer some list serves for the materials. So, I had decided that when I become a full-fledged technical writer, I would share my experiences of how to be one and land up with a technical writing job.

Success brought a great deal of responsibilities. This article of mine is a part of my responsibilities to the Technical Writing profession, which I love and proud to be a member.  I advise you to consider the article as a reference. Go through it again and again if you do not understand it the first time.  These are my views expressed in form of and I appreciate if couple of the writers could share me pointers for this article.

“ A single step and a giant leap for mankind.”

The above quote has been aptly true for mankind’s adventure. It holds true for Technical Writing tryst too. Congrats on taking your first step! Well done!

Technical Writing is a very rewarding and at the same times a competitive career. You need to be an enthusiast and a keen team player to rise to the top-level, always be proactive, open to take any challenges and a go-getter in every word. I presume lot of questions come across your mind.

  • How do I take the first initiative?
  • Where do I apply for jobs?
  • To whom should I get in touch?
  • Do I need a technical writing certification?
  • How are the coaching centers?

First things first:

Develop an interest in technology
This is the primary skill to me , when I interview a budding technical writer. Does he or she have a knack for technology? Ofcourse, you can develop an interest but do you equally have the interest to write on technology?  It is essential for technical writers to read a hell lot of articles on technology.

I can think of magazines such as PCQuest, Dataquest, Digiti and so on, which help you to develop a sense of understanding of how technical articles are written. I often tell freshers to read these magazines and get a sense of understanding of technical topics.

I come from India, and it is no excuse, but English language is not my mother tongue. I studied in a Catholic school and it helps to pick up nuances of writing quite quickly. But it does not mean, people from vernacular medium are lesser in anyway. It is brought to my attention in the corporate and individuals training that I conduct, people from convent pick up things a bit quicker but again, I may be wrong. It is merely a perception.

We are a nation comprising of several union territories and states, and each of the regions has their own dialects, food habits and so on. But we are also professionals. And as professionals, we can do an excellent job in technical writing like our our counterparts in the various regions of the world.

I throw the following questions during an interview:

  • What do you think technical writing is? (don’t give a book answer)
  • What do you think technical writers do?
  • Why do you want to become technical writers?

These questions help me to understand the candidate a bit better. 60-65% candidate feels that the profession offers stability, growth and healthy work-life balance. There is a certain contingent for whom technical writing offers superior privileges and perks compared to other Information Technology jobs. From the study we conducted, we found, on an average, a fresher, straight from a college/university in India, with a BE in Computer Science, gets 15-18k per month while a technical writer earns 20k+.

Anyway, the moot question is what is technical writing? We are here to write on a technical topic in a simple and easy-to-understand language. The more interested you are in technology, the better it is. I can cite a few instances where clients have requested us to serve them specialized profiles. For example: if you are going to document high-power electrical systems and machinery, clients expect us to give them BE (Electrical or Electronics) profiles. Then an organization which is day-in-day out analyze and write on Aviation products wants an writer with an Aeronautical Engineering degree.

Earning a Technical Writing Certification
It is a debatable subject and various writers have got mixed responses on it. I founded a company that provides services: managed capability development & training, talent management & staffing, and IT consulting.  It is incorrect, on my part, to push one for a tech writing certification. However, I feel, a technical writing certification maybe helpful if you are considering to upgrade your skills under the guidance of an able mentor.

I will share a few observations here:

Being an experienced professional, I was looking for a training or a course that will add some knowledge.” (Technical Writing professional with 4+ years of experience)

While I do have a few years’ worth of writing experience, from what I’ve read so far, technical writing seems like a different ball game altogether. Nevertheless, I wish to learn the ropes of the trade, and so, I request your guidance on the same.” (Technical Writing enthusiast)

I am a technical illustrator having one and a half years of experience in Alten India Pvt Ltd. I am looking for a good opportunity in technical writing or content writing. Please contact me if you could help me in this matter.

I am interested in learning cloud writing. Need more information about this. Also need your suggestions.

You go through each of the above inquiries and they tell you a something. Definitely, someone seeks guidance in the form of a training or a skill that helps facilitation. If you are looking for new job, then you must have researched the most sought skills which you need to get trained. Or if you want to continue in the same company, please look how you can take the documentation to next level. For example, instead of PDF, HTML outputs, if you can provide video based training or interactive animated training. Nowadays, AI, even chat bots are also in vogue. In these lines, you can ask for customized training from the trainers. It will be mutually beneficial if all of your organization members get trained at once. In few companies, the company bears the training costs.

The objective of a training program is to teach you how to do the job and not to get a job.

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