Tech Comm Café: Sept. 13 recap; next meeting Oct. 11

Tech Comm Café: Sept. 13 recap; next meeting Oct. 11

Our first online Tech Comm Café was a great success. The Vancouver-area and Vancouver Island groups, separated by 110 kilometres and the Strait of Georgia, met jointly online on Sept. 13. We had an excellent turnout and a lively discussion that extended half an hour beyond the scheduled time, ending only when the host had to leave.

Who’s who: We began with introductions, and discovered a broad range of work situations — full-time, part-time, contract, salaried, at home, in corporate offices. Outside of work, hobbies included music, hiking, taking the family to the beach, cycling, cooking, martial arts, dog training, knitting, and trying new vegan restaurants.

Typical week: We discussed the chapter’s survey of local technical writers, which asked about a typical work week. As you might have guessed, technical writers spend only a fraction of their time writing:

Editing 13 hours per week
Writing 9
Planning/organizing 5
Formatting 4
Attending meetings 3.5
Research 3
Setting up software tools 1.5
Interviewing subject-matter experts 1


The survey also revealed that half of the respondents are happy with their current content delivery method, the other half would like to change. One-third work with documents that need to be translated, two-thirds don’t.

Source control: Every situation is different and every company has its own preferred tools and methods. The choice depends on the number of topics or documents, number of authors, frequency of revisions, and whether the text needs to be translated, among other things.

Working remotely: Some employers are happy to let you do so, free from office distractions. Others want you on-site to attend daily scrums or work with confidential data or specialized equipment. One writer had been forced to choose between relocating to a new office or leaving the company; working off-site wasn’t an option. New writers can learn a lot working face to face with SMEs and fellow writers but might prefer to work remotely later in their career. An advantage of working from home: you may be able to claim part of your workspace as a business expense (check with an accountant or Canada Revenue Agency for details). A disadvantage: remote workers are often the first to be let go during company budget cuts. Maintain frequent contact with your unseen colleagues to avoid being overlooked.

We also touched on job-hunting techniques, portfolios, job titles, and alternate careers before we ran out of time. We’ll have a lot to talk about at the next meeting. (Vancouver area: details below. Vancouver Island: date to be announced.)


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, Oct. 11, 2017

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

Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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.