This month we welcomed a smaller group for coffee and chat. Absentees were, presumably, either lounging on local beaches or holidaying in distant lands. However, the suggestion to skip the August meeting because of anticipated low attendance was met with horrified cries of “Of course not!” So, check below for details of that meeting.
Two people switching to technical writing from another career were concerned about their lack of experience. We reminded them that even if you haven’t had “Technical Writer” as a job title, if you’ve earned a living as a journalist, or a teacher, or documenting your own software code, to name a few examples, you have experience in technical communication and can show samples of that work to potential employers to prove you can do the job.
One person had applied for a job and been asked to complete a writing test, a common requirement that can take a few hours but also demonstrate your ability to write on demand and tailor your sample to a specific employer. However, an 18-hour test is far too long! Some even wondered whether that employer was taking advantage of applicants to acquire free content a few pages at a time. To avoid this, you could offer to submit a shorter sample, or ask to be paid for the work, or look into who owns the copyright on unpaid work.
We discussed a survey of technical writers currently being conducted by a Concordia University professor in partnership with the STC. One question asked responders to indicate the types of technologies they use at work, from a list of no fewer than 21 possibilities. New writers who want to know which tools are most in demand in today’s job market have a long list to choose from! It will be interesting to see the responses, to be published in Intercom.
We discussed the pros and cons of online classes and agreed that they have their advantages. However, in online text conversations, we’ve all had the experience of composing pithy questions and brilliant rejoinders, only to find that the conversation has changed direction in the time it took to type them. People felt that occasional online meetings are convenient but they prefer face-to-face contact. One person had recently seen a study showing that words make up only 7% of communication; tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language and facial expression, 55%. Do you agree? Come to a meeting, online or in person, to discuss it.
The Tech Comm Café 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, August 8
If you plan to attend, please RSVP.
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.
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.