A Career in Technical Writing: Amanda

Bullet Points Third-party personnel recruiters work with companies that are searching for one or more employees. Third-party recruiters work on a commission basis, with the commission typically amounting to about 20 to 25 percent of the employee’s first-year salary. Third party recruiters are put in the delicate position of having to reconcile two sets of interests, those of the company and those of the candidate. In most cases, the interests of the company win out because the company is the one that pays the recruiter. Third party recruiters often have specialties, such as finding executives or technical employees. They may … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Amanda

A Career in Technical Writing: Bright Lights, Big City

Bullet Points Megacorporation is a term popularized by the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson. It denotes a multi-national corporation that has become so large that in many cases it is its own customer or even its own government. Megacorporations often come complete with their own military. These companies are considered to be fictional, but the company I worked at had a U.S. Army base in its parking lot, so I will let you be the judge. Cubicle farm is a term popularized by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. It describes an enormous room partitioned off by low fabric walls that … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Bright Lights, Big City

A Career in Technical Writing: By the time I get to Phoenix

Bullet Points The more relaxed you are, the better a job interview tends to go Subject knowledge is great, but tools skills help you land jobs A service level agreement (SLA) is a document that describes the performance criteria a provider promises to meet while delivering a service. The Next Interview I drove to Phoenix to interview for a contract at a company that specialized in providing computer services and training. This company was a major player in the services field, but the place was decidedly less fancy than the one that had flown me into Dallas. The corporate location … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: By the time I get to Phoenix

A Career in Technical Writing: Beach Time

Bullet Points Beach time and bench time refer to paid or unpaid time off between consulting contracts When you are a contractor, it is best to take initiative and find other options no matter how much you trust your recruiter Never trust a company to have your best interests in mind The Waiting Game I did not expect to be without a new position for as long as I was. Because I was still employed by my contract agency, I was still being paid, even though I wasn’t doing any work. Some companies call this beach time. Other companies call … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Beach Time

A Career in Technical Writing: End of Part One

End games concludes the first part of my series on a career in technical writing. The journey so far has taken us from my beginning as an outsider looking for his first job in the career through to the end of my first contract assignment. This seems like a good point to ask, “How am I doing?” Do you still like the structure (bullet points, article. further reading, questions)? Are they making the articles too long or do they add to the value? Would you rather just hear the tale? Were you expecting something different? Some people may have expected … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: End of Part One

A Career in Technical Writing: End games

Bullet Points Sometimes all your work can be erased by a business decision Companies will never pay technical writers as well as programmers Take pride in your work, even if it never quite comes out the way you want it to On your last day, shake everyone’s hand and smile The final push As my year contract at PHPS edged towards its conclusion, I felt as if I was working at an entirely different company than the one I had started with. The contractors I had begun my job with were long gone. The manager I had started with, and … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: End games

A Career in Technical Writing: Reversals

Bullet Points Adjusting to corporate life can be difficult, especially if you have a tendency to curse A cubicle is a terrible place to receive a lecture The best way through a work crisis is to do your job well The one constant when it comes to managers is change A visit from Ted It was at about the tenth month when my mouth got me in trouble. I had said the wrong word about the wrong person at the wrong meeting. This brought a visit from my supervisor Ted, a falsely optimistic alpha-male who had threatened to fire me … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Reversals

A Career in Technical Writing: Last Contractor Standing

Bullet Points Many people turn contract positions into full-time opportunities Contractors are often treated much differently than employees Corporate environments continually change and evolve Mergers usually create radical changes within a company When the going gets tough, the people with options leave A good technical writer knows to choose words carefully The good times Despite the problems with organization and equipment, PHPS was actually a pretty pleasant place to work for most of my stay. The flat management structure didn’t provide much direction, but it also allowed me a certain degree of freedom to experiment and learn. I had quite … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Last Contractor Standing

A Career in Technical Writing: Workaround

Bullet Points A workaround is a procedure designed to overcome a shortcoming of a program or piece of equipment. Sometimes the tools dictate the format of your work Projects tend to go better if you have a plan (believe it or not) Take the time to talk to the people on your project Beating the system Workarounds are common in the world of technical writing. They are the clever little solutions that you come up with because the program won’t do what you need it to do (hack is another term for this). In many cases, a workaround is needed … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Workaround

A Career in Technical Writing: Life as a newbie

Bullet points Struggling to make the wrong tool work for a job can add months to a project FrameMaker is good for long technical documents PageMaker is good for sending a newsletter to your Aunt Fanny Sometimes the most important thing a technical writer can do is gather information When expectations are sufficiently low, it’s easy to be a star Meet your Maker I wish I could say I got off to a running start and quickly proved my value at my new job, but this is about my real career, not my resume. Life at PHPS did not begin … Continue reading A Career in Technical Writing: Life as a newbie