In September’s spotlight, we feature Catherine Girczyc, a senior technical writer who also pursues creative work, writing for television and prose markets. She is currently working as a senior technical writer for Western Union Business Solutions, producing software manuals and HTML5 responsive online help for phone, tablet and browser use. Catherine is also a long term member of our west coast chapter.
Me: What was the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Catherine: The first time I was able to do online help, not an article in print. I was working on HTML5 in Flare.
Me: If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first started in the field, what advice would you give yourself?
Catherine: Pay attention to that HTML stuff because it is going to be big.
Me: What aspect has kept you working in the field for as long as you have?
Catherine: Various aspects. It’s a job, not quite a gig. It provides a good job and interesting work. I’m always trying new software, critiquing it, viewing it as a user. There is a lot more to it than just writing.
Me: Why did you decide to become a technical writer/communicator?
Catherine: I fell into it because my husband was a computer engineering professor. I started editing his theses, as well as the theses of his students. We started a company and I was in charge of editing and rewriting our company reports. I learned that I had a skill that was viable. After that I left the field to write for film. I came back to technical writing after taking a university program that brought me up to speed.
Me: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the field?
Catherine: Since the field doesn’t really fall under one category, corporations don’t really know how to treat you. They tend to undervalue technical writers.
Me: What do you do when you get “writers block” or aren’t sure exactly how you want to start writing something?
Catherine: I start by making rough notes, figuring out how to approach the item I’m working on and what I need to learn to do so. I meet with people working for to find those answers. I move on to something that can be done quickly, like how to change your password. If all else fails, I go for coffee, clear my head, and sit down to start again.
Me: What do you like to do outside of your career? Interesting hobbies or pastimes?
Catherine: Raise my child. Swim. Knit. Yoga. Write creatively.
Me: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Catherine: Always a writer. Sometimes an actor, though I was writing plays while acting. For a while I wanted to be a geologist, because of my father.