New and longtime technical writers met for the September Tech Comm Café at the Wicklow Pub. Attendees enjoyed the quiet and privacy of the new venue, as well as its food and drinks menu. The relaxed and convivial conversation touched upon the beauty of the sunset, the smell of rain after a drought, learning new languages, long-distance relationships, the preference for coffee or beer, and crowded coffee shops versus quiet pubs at the end of the work day. Technical writing also came up in the conversation several times.
Successful job-finding technique: One participant described a successful job search. Initially unsuccessful at landing a technical writing job, he completed a technical writing program and volunteered as a technical writer. A contact made at his very first visit to a Tech Comm Café led to a paid technical writing contract. This experience led to several job interviews and finally a permanent position as a proposal writer.
Content management tools: Many workplaces rely on Microsoft Word as their most important tool. Sometimes the lack of a content management system leads to inefficiencies and duplication of work. However, adopting a CMS is not always simple. One company made a significant investment in a CMS, only to discover that the system was not well-suited for collaboration between designers and documentarians. A content management consultant can help companies avoid such problems. These consultants analyze the company’s needs and suggest solutions that match those needs. Such advice, however, can itself be a significant expense.
Complexity in technical writing: As the very name of the field suggests, technical writing can involve very complex information. For example, companies hire technical writers to document scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) for tax credit applications and project management needs. As well, API documentation and structured content can be very technical. The recent webinar on structured content was an opportunity to learn more about DITA, an XML data model for authoring and publishing.
Technical writing as plain language translation: Often, technical writers function as translators between technical specialists and non-technical collaborators and users. To that end, some companies include technical writers in design meetings to ensure that the needs of those not versed in technology are considered throughout the development process. Subject-matter experts are useful sources of information. Technical writers should hone their interviewing skills to make full use of SMEs for clarification of technical information.
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: November 13, 2018
If you plan to attend, RSVP.
Date: TUESDAY (new day), November 13, 2018
Time: 6:30–8:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Location: TBD. Any preferences? RSVP with your suggestions. We’re trying new places, looking for somewhere close to transit and free parking where groups of up to 15 people can reserve a table and converse easily over a meal or a beverage.
Rick Georg is a technical writer, editor, and educator. He is currently serving as event planner for the STC Canada West Coast chapter. He holds degrees in journalism, communications, and education. He lives in Vancouver.