Tech Comm Café: Oct. 12 recap; next meeting Nov. 9

Tech Comm Café: Oct. 12 recap; next meeting Nov. 9

The Tech Comm Café met on October 12 and focused on questions from people who are switching to a technical writing career.

First of all, how do you decide whether to change to a technical writing career when you’re already working full-time in another field? How do you choose between a steady job in your current field, at an intermediate or senior level, and a year or two of studies followed by job-hunting and an entry-level position? The fact that you’re even thinking about a career change is a sign that you’re probably ready to make a move. Talk to people in the field, look into different educational programs, network, volunteer, and research typical skill requirements and pay rates to help you decide the next steps.

What classes should you take? Online or face to face? Full-time or part-time? Do you need a certificate, or can you get started with a couple of courses? We’re fortunate to have a number of colleges and universities in our region that offer many options, so you’ll likely find something that meets your needs.

After you start looking for work as a technical writer, what are the odds of finding a job quickly? The job market can change overnight, and job postings seem to come in waves. It helps to remember that, if someone else is hired for a position you wanted, it’s likely that they’ve created a vacancy — and an opportunity for you — somewhere else.

It’s tempting to take the first job that’s offered, but sometimes it’s good to turn it down if it’s unsuitable. Not only is the employer interviewing you, you’re checking them out as well. Is the job a good fit for you? Does it offer opportunities to learn, to advance, to use all your skills? Do you like the subject area, the co-workers, the managers, the commute? Does it pay well? If you accept a job at a very low rate, you might be stuck in that pay grade for a while. Our skills are valuable — don’t be shy about asking for more. If you accept a rate that’s below the normal range, you’re not only selling yourself short, you’re making it harder for other technical writers to justify their salaries. When you negotiate a higher rate, you’re helping to raise the standard for others in our field as well.


Next Meetings

  • The Vancouver-area (Lower Mainland) Tech Comm Café will meet on November 9; details below. NOTE NEW LOCATION.
  • The Vancouver Island Tech Comm Café will meet early in 2017. Watch for details at, or contact admin (at) and ask to be added to the mailing list.


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!


Next Vancouver-Area Tech Comm Café: Wednesday, November 9, 2016

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to admin (at)

Date: Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Time: 6:30–8:00 pm Pacific Time

Location: Allegro Café, Whole Foods Market, 510 West 8th Avenue at Cambie, Vancouver. The Allegro is the smaller coffee bar on the mezzanine level, with entrance on the Cambie Street side (not the restaurant downstairs in the main store area). Close to Broadway-City Hall Skytrain (Canada Line) and Broadway buses. Pay parking on the street or in the Whole Foods underground parkade, entrance on West 8th Ave.


  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 goals.


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.