This month’s Tech Comm Café was a mix of new and old faces and covered a wide range of topics.
Job lead. The meeting started with an interesting job lead put forward by one of our experienced freelancers. According to an article in The Editors’ Weekly, the Canadian government tenders $15 billion to $20 billion a year in contracts to small businesses, including technical communicators. Technical communicators can register on ProServices, the government-wide list of pre-approved contractors, to become eligible for these contracts. This is a huge market and could be a lucrative lead for freelance writers.
Benefits of incorporating. We held a brief debate on the value of incorporating as a technical communicator. No-one present had gone through the process, but the consensus was that incorporating gives you access to a greater number of jobs (some clients and recruiters require it) and provides some tax benefits. The main drawbacks appeared to be the complicated setup and tax processes, the cost, and the fact that most people can succeed without incorporating.
Documenting APIs and the value of knowing how to code. Application Programming Interfaces are ubiquitous in the computer industry these days, and the need for experienced technical communicators who know how to document them is increasing (particularly in a tech hub like Vancouver). However, while this growing field provides great opportunities for technical communicators, it also poses some unique challenges:
However, several resources were put forward as potential solutions to these problems. The API documenting tool Swagger is becoming commonplace in the software documentation industry and provides a simple, standardized way of documenting APIs. Many online and offline resources can provide basic programming knowledge, including Lynda (available free through Vancouver Public Library), EDX, Khan Academy, and BCIT. Some of the attendees suggested that even learning HTML can be an asset, as the structure is similar to programming languages and XML.
Job search strategies and résumés. The final topic of discussion saw participants break into smaller groups to talk about job search strategies and résumé best practices. We discussed the value of internships, ways to highlight the relevance of non-technical writing experience, and an upcoming webinar with a résumé-writing expert.
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, July 11
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to admin (at) stcwestcoast.ca.
Date: July 11, 2018
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.
Brian Weatherby is a Technical Writing student at BCIT, with a background in grant writing and the construction industry.