Author Topic: Curious about career change to technical writing  (Read 1690 times)

kayteemacbee

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Curious about career change to technical writing
« on: July 27, 2019, 08:52:45 AM »
In light of a recent post of mine which deals with earning more, I'm wondering if anyone can weigh in on the topic of technical writing. I saw it mentioned here for someone else, and I've started to apply for remote technical writer positions. Now I have questions :)

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?

2. What makes a good technical writer?

3. What might make a newer writer stand out in the job application process?

4. Bonus question, Has anyone worked in this role for a company they loved? I'm seeking companies with a good work culture and remote options.


To give context, I have a BS in computer science/software engineering, but I'd prefer not to be an engineer at this point. I'm an excellent writer with a good deal of experience in journalism, social media writing, and writing copy for training manuals, catalogs, and website blogs. Currently, I'm in a shipping manager role that's a bit mind-numbing and roughly 40k annually.

Thanks guys, input is always appreciated!
« Last Edit: July 27, 2019, 09:00:01 AM by kayteemacbee »

Cranky

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2019, 05:38:24 AM »
Would you move?

A family member works for Epic Systems as a technical writer and likes it very much. They are always hiring, but you have to move to Wisconsin.

kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2019, 07:40:25 AM »
Would you move?

A family member works for Epic Systems as a technical writer and likes it very much. They are always hiring, but you have to move to Wisconsin.

Hi! I would move, but we are specifically looking to move to Washington's state to be around family. What is your family member's background? Essentially I'm trying to figure out if I need to have engineering experience to get picked up for a role like this. My cousin said her company (oil & gas industry) only hires formal chemical engineers. Thanks!

Parizade

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2019, 09:20:52 AM »
My BS is in Scientific and Technical Communications, I worked as a technical/science writer for 15 years before moving into business analysis (which also requires writing skills).

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?
I loved the job security, there was always a demand for good technical writers and the pay was decent. You also get to work with other people who love writing, lots of people working on novels in their spare time.

2. What makes a good technical writer?
Writing skills aside, I always felt more like a translator and ambassador between customers, business people, and technology people. You need to be able to listen carefully and demonstrate understanding and empathy for your sources and audiences. Your background in engineering will give you credibility with the technology sources/audiences, but you should also be able to talk with and listen to the business executive who is marketing the product or the janitor who will be using the product you are writing about. Soft skills are important in communication careers.

3. What might make a newer writer stand out in the job application process?
The software degree will be a big plus if you plan to write about computers/software and it will give you an edge. You will need to show that you have some experience/training in communication so emphasize that in your resume. Join STC, it looks good on the resume and they will help you with networking, job search, and contnuing education.
https://www.stc.org/

4. Bonus question, Has anyone worked in this role for a company they loved? I'm seeking companies with a good work culture and remote options.[/b]

Before FIRE I worked for Optum (a UHG company) and loved it

kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2019, 10:21:00 AM »
My BS is in Scientific and Technical Communications, I worked as a technical/science writer for 15 years before moving into business analysis (which also requires writing skills).

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?
I loved the job security, there was always a demand for good technical writers and the pay was decent. You also get to work with other people who love writing, lots of people working on novels in their spare time.

2. What makes a good technical writer?
Writing skills aside, I always felt more like a translator and ambassador between customers, business people, and technology people. You need to be able to listen carefully and demonstrate understanding and empathy for your sources and audiences. Your background in engineering will give you credibility with the technology sources/audiences, but you should also be able to talk with and listen to the business executive who is marketing the product or the janitor who will be using the product you are writing about. Soft skills are important in communication careers.

3. What might make a newer writer stand out in the job application process?
The software degree will be a big plus if you plan to write about computers/software and it will give you an edge. You will need to show that you have some experience/training in communication so emphasize that in your resume. Join STC, it looks good on the resume and they will help you with networking, job search, and contnuing education.
https://www.stc.org/

4. Bonus question, Has anyone worked in this role for a company they loved? I'm seeking companies with a good work culture and remote options.[/b]

Before FIRE I worked for Optum (a UHG company) and loved it

Thank you for this thorough response. It makes me excited to hear other people's perspectives about this role, and from what you said, I feel like it will be a great fit. I've always been a tech-y extrovert, so this really energizes me for a job search!

misshathaway

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2019, 10:34:00 AM »

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?

Used to. I did user manuals for medical billing software. I had a degree is Psychology and interest in technology. It put me ahead of the end user in terms of understanding the tech, but still close enough to the end user to explain in a way that they could understand. I liked it because I was uniquely suited to it.

But I worked almost exclusively with developers and eventually wanted to do it rather than write about it. Programming was more fun than technical writing for me.

kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2019, 01:16:38 PM »

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?

Used to. I did user manuals for medical billing software. I had a degree is Psychology and interest in technology. It put me ahead of the end user in terms of understanding the tech, but still close enough to the end user to explain in a way that they could understand. I liked it because I was uniquely suited to it.

But I worked almost exclusively with developers and eventually wanted to do it rather than write about it. Programming was more fun than technical writing for me.

Thanks! it seems like there are diverse backgrounds and it doesn't have to be as specific as I'd thought. I think my path may pan out similarly to yours, but writing is something I can do to earn more right away, while I brush up on my programming skills :)

Cranky

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2019, 07:04:32 AM »
Would you move?

A family member works for Epic Systems as a technical writer and likes it very much. They are always hiring, but you have to move to Wisconsin.

Hi! I would move, but we are specifically looking to move to Washington's state to be around family. What is your family member's background? Essentially I'm trying to figure out if I need to have engineering experience to get picked up for a role like this. My cousin said her company (oil & gas industry) only hires formal chemical engineers. Thanks!

My family member has an undergrad degree in English, and a graduate degree in theology, and *they* recruited her.

kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2019, 08:37:14 AM »
Would you move?

A family member works for Epic Systems as a technical writer and likes it very much. They are always hiring, but you have to move to Wisconsin.

Hi! I would move, but we are specifically looking to move to Washington's state to be around family. What is your family member's background? Essentially I'm trying to figure out if I need to have engineering experience to get picked up for a role like this. My cousin said her company (oil & gas industry) only hires formal chemical engineers. Thanks!

My family member has an undergrad degree in English, and a graduate degree in theology, and *they* recruited her.

Wow! Good for her, that really encourages me to try this field out.

Jtrey17

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2019, 01:46:02 PM »
Would you move?

A family member works for Epic Systems as a technical writer and likes it very much. They are always hiring, but you have to move to Wisconsin.

Iím a tech writer in Wisconsin. Where is Epic Systems?

Jtrey17

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2019, 01:51:07 PM »
In light of a recent post of mine which deals with earning more, I'm wondering if anyone can weigh in on the topic of technical writing. I saw it mentioned here for someone else, and I've started to apply for remote technical writer positions. Now I have questions :)

1. Does anyone here work in this field? If so, can you share some highlights about what you love, what you hate, and your personal background?
Iíve been a tech writer at Fortune 50 healthcare company for 17 years. I love working full-time remotely. I hate explaining what I do and feeling judged by a lot of people.

2. What makes a good technical writer? Patience when your SME cannot communicate effectively. Being able to prioritize.

3. What might make a newer writer stand out in the job application process? In my world itís someone who can also effectively manage projects. Think Lean Leader or PMP certs.

4. Bonus question, Has anyone worked in this role for a company they loved? I'm seeking companies with a good work culture and remote options.
yes PM me for the company I work for.

To give context, I have a BS in computer science/software engineering, but I'd prefer not to be an engineer at this point. I'm an excellent writer with a good deal of experience in journalism, social media writing, and writing copy for training manuals, catalogs, and website blogs. Currently, I'm in a shipping manager role that's a bit mind-numbing and roughly 40k annually. I make $80k

Thanks guys, input is always appreciated!

RollingGreen

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2019, 07:06:16 PM »
I work currently as a grant writer for a nonprofit organization. I do love it, but I applied a few years ago (before the grant writing job) for technical writer positions at SeaCorp and SAIC, which are large companies that contract with the navy base around the Newport, RI area. I have heard great things about those companies and the benefits they offer.

I'm happy where I am now, especially with my proximity to work, but I think I would have liked that field. You probably have a leg-up over me with an engineering background. Again, if you're willing to move, they are often hiring at those, and other, companies in this area.

I would still love to do some work on the side (tech writing included,) and working remotely in a grant writing or tech writing capacity would be great for extra income. Still need to search ...

daizy744

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2019, 09:21:02 PM »
I'm a technical writer in the medical software field. Been doing software technical writing for 20 years now. You sound like you'd be a great fit for the role. There is a great demand for API technical writers, which usually seek out people with programming background. If you have a portfolio to show potential employers, that's a good thing. Although you may be asked to do a writing test. Check out the Write The Docs slack group. There are daily postings for jobs and it's a great place to learn and ask questions.

I have a writing background. I'm an introvert, and I work 100% from home. So that is why I stay where I currently work. :) What I enjoy about the role is distilling complex information into something simple and well organized. What I hate are typical software development things, like last minute changes that nobody tells you about in a release that is going out today. LOL.

As others mentioned, a good technical writer must advocate for end users and give them the information they need, in a format that suits them. You need to be good at asking programmers/testers/project managers questions, and the right questions (ie what questions would a user have about what you're documenting).
Also, be consistent in how you write. There's also a growing demand for multimedia/video version of content development.

Good luck with your career change!


kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2019, 11:49:33 AM »
I'm a technical writer in the medical software field. Been doing software technical writing for 20 years now. You sound like you'd be a great fit for the role. There is a great demand for API technical writers, which usually seek out people with programming background. If you have a portfolio to show potential employers, that's a good thing. Although you may be asked to do a writing test. Check out the Write The Docs slack group. There are daily postings for jobs and it's a great place to learn and ask questions.

I have a writing background. I'm an introvert, and I work 100% from home. So that is why I stay where I currently work. :) What I enjoy about the role is distilling complex information into something simple and well organized. What I hate are typical software development things, like last minute changes that nobody tells you about in a release that is going out today. LOL.

As others mentioned, a good technical writer must advocate for end users and give them the information they need, in a format that suits them. You need to be good at asking programmers/testers/project managers questions, and the right questions (ie what questions would a user have about what you're documenting).
Also, be consistent in how you write. There's also a growing demand for multimedia/video version of content development.

Good luck with your career change!

I also love working from home, and after doing so for the better part of a decade, I couldn't see going back into an office being a good lifestyle fit anymore :o)
This is good information, and it makes me confident in my choice - thanks for the notes and recommendations!


kayteemacbee

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Re: Curious about career change to technical writing
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2019, 11:52:30 AM »
I work currently as a grant writer for a nonprofit organization. I do love it, but I applied a few years ago (before the grant writing job) for technical writer positions at SeaCorp and SAIC, which are large companies that contract with the navy base around the Newport, RI area. I have heard great things about those companies and the benefits they offer.

I'm happy where I am now, especially with my proximity to work, but I think I would have liked that field. You probably have a leg-up over me with an engineering background. Again, if you're willing to move, they are often hiring at those, and other, companies in this area.

I would still love to do some work on the side (tech writing included,) and working remotely in a grant writing or tech writing capacity would be great for extra income. Still need to search ...

I hope you're able to find side work that suits you. It's just a matter of sticking with the search, I'm confident you'll find a good match eventually! Moving is eventually on the horizon, but in the meantime I'm hoping to beef up my portfolio and learn the ropes, perhaps in a remote contract position. Thanks for the input! :)