Tech Comm Café: July 13 recap; next meeting Aug. 10

Tech Comm Café: July 13 recap; next meeting Aug. 10

The Tech Comm Café met on July 13, 2016, for an informative discussion of work-related dilemmas. It was great to see experienced, working technical writers brainstorming to generate fresh ideas.

Skill levels: How do employers and writers define junior, intermediate, and senior writers? Generally, junior writers have less than two years of experience, intermediates have two to five, and seniors from six to over 30 years. However, it depends. If a brand-new technical writer has taken many hours of training on a required software tool, are they less “junior” than the person who’s been a writer for 18 months but has never used that tool? The employer will decide whether your knowledge outweighs your lack of experience, and it’s worth trying for the job or the promotion if you think you can handle it.

Demonstrating value: If an employer is reluctant to hire, promote, or pay more because you don’t have a degree in a specialized field such as science or programming, remind them that technical writers are hired for their skills in researching, interviewing, organizing, and clarifying information, and for their ability to learn new subjects quickly. As outsiders to a technical field, writers see with the fresh eyes of a new user, and can focus on the areas that most need to be documented. Their skills complement those of the subject-matter expert so they can collaborate to create more effective documentation.

Employee loyalty: One writer was wrestling with the question of whether to stay with an employer who will soon be moving to a new location with a much longer commute and difficult transit connections. The employer doesn’t allow flexible hours or telecommuting. The group couldn’t make the decision for her, but offered questions and options to consider. Is the job satisfying, does it pay well, is the employer supportive of the writer’s long-term career goals, is there scope for growth? If the writer leaves this salaried job to work as a contractor, how likely is it that she’ll find steady work to cover her mortgage payments? After less than a year with the company, how much loyalty does she owe them? How will it look on her résumé if she leaves after a short time? The main thing is to realize that she has options and the power to decide, rather than feeling trapped by external forces.

Next meetings: The next Tech Comm Café on the Lower Mainland will take place on August 10; details below. The Vancouver Island Tech Comm Café will meet on October 3, 2016, from 6 to 8 p.m. Watch for details at, or contact admin (at) to be added to the mailing list for one or both locations.


Next Vancouver-Area Tech Comm Café: Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The TCC provides networking opportunities, job leads, answers to work-related dilemmas, and a burst of professional energy to keep you motivated. We discuss technical writing tools and techniques, career planning, portfolios, and anything else related to working as a technical communicator.

We welcome anyone who’s interested in technical communication — contractor, in-house, student, long-time tech writer, STC member, non-member, career-changer, or recruiter. We hope to see you at the next meeting!

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Time: 6:30–8:00 pm Pacific Time

Location: To be announced. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to


  1. Introductions. Take 60 seconds to introduce yourself, your background, current activities. A good chance to try out that new elevator speech.
  2. Announcements and job leads. If you know of an interesting event or a job opening, or you’re looking for work, share it with the group.
  3. Brainstorming Q&A. Ask about a work-related problem and discuss potential solutions.
  4. Speed networking. Spend a few minutes with a new contact, exchange business cards, and discuss your professional backgrounds and go

Heather Sommerville is a senior technical writer and editor with over 20 years of experience delivering clear, concise writing for business and technical audiences. She is an STC Associate Fellow and has served in many volunteer positions with the STC Canada West Coast chapter.