Interview with a Technical Writer

This is a true story as told to DiversityJobs, where you can find career interviews for the job you’ve been looking at and available positions in your desired field.

I am a Technical Writer who works in the IT industry. I have about five years experience in this position.

I write technical documentation, white papers, software training materials and other items, such as presentation documents, for others. My work entails writing for the IT industry, mostly about software and web-based applications. A common misconception is that Technical Writers are not as bright as software engineers and programmers. The fact is, Technical Writers are more intelligent in some ways, particularly when it comes to mastery of the English language and writing skills. However, the IT industry favors the skills of developers and programmers. The IT industry is notoriously biased toward technical individuals and away from those who are not as technically skilled.

My job satisfaction would be rated about an 8 on a 10 point scale. I love the work, however, the pay could be better. With more money, the job satisfaction rating would be a 10. I am pretty enthusiastic about what I do. However, to enhance my enthusiasm, about $20k more per year would surely do it – only if I were able to do exactly what I do now. I would not be happy if the job changed just to account for more compensation.

The job of Technical Writer moves me and stirs my heart. I wake up every day ready to work – with very few exceptions. For example, if I have worked for 10 days straight with no day off, Day 11 might be a little challenging. For the most part, though, I love every day of what I do. I believe this job is my “sweet spot” in life.

My situation is fairly common for those in the Technical writing field. My roommate is also a Tech. Writer and we basically operate in the same way and enjoy what we do.

I began writing as an English minor in college. My major was Psychology but I seemed to have a penchant for writing. I thoroughly enjoyed writing and did well with my papers for all classes. I think I always knew that I would be writing full time at some point in life. I would not change anything with regards to the path I took to get here. I feel I am right where I am supposed to be.

This job taught me how to deal with criticism about my work without internalizing it and taking it personally. As a writer, you will have your work critiqued – either by editors, stakeholders or by other clients. You just need to develop a thick skin, not dread being edited and use critiques as useful devices to hone your skills. The first few editors I had taught me how to accept constructive criticism and use it to make my writing better. The emotional reaction to critiques eventually gave way to welcoming a second or third set of eyes for my work.

The single most important lesson I learned when leaving school and entering the work world was just how hard you have to work! College was great and I loved the academic experience. However, when I started working in the “real world,” I witnessed people who would work 12 or more hours per day – something I never even dreamed was possible, much less do-able. Now, I do it myself on a regular basis.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me in this job is an ongoing occurrence. It is the discovery of new software and devices that I explore on my own and end up adopting. I have found very useful web-based tools and other sites that have enriched my life, both professionally and personally.

What makes me get up every day to do what I do is that I get great feedback from those for whom I write. I am evaluated on a regular basis and usually am evaluated at the highest possible scores. That makes it fun! Being good at what you do makes it a blast to do.

Challenges that I face revolve around incomplete instructions or the inability to make a stakeholder or editor happy. When you just cannot “get” what someone wants in a content piece, or you believe you have made every change that an editor has requested but they are still not happy, this is a challenge and may be quite frustrating at times.

My job is not very stressful at all. I usually hit deadlines with plenty of time to spare, so I rarely feel like I am behind the eight ball. I feel that I maintain a healthy work-life balance in what I do.

The salary range for Technical Writer is a wide range. A Tech. Writer may start at $25k or $30k per year. However, depending on the niche, this salary could range upward to around $75k or more. I am happy with my salary range and I definitely live within my means.

I usually take a week off every year for a vacation. A week is plenty of time. After that, I begin to miss working.

To get hired in the Technical Writing field, you should have a Bachelor’s degree with some experience in a Technical industry. The degree is to ensure that your vocabulary is where it should be and the technical experience introduces you to the unique terms and communication styles in the IT industry.

I would tell a friend inquiring about what I do that if they have a penchant for writing, and some sort of technical background, to try it! The field is great for some people, and it really drives others crazy. I helped to train my roommate who absolutely loves what she does. She is a natural writer and I could tell early on that she would be great in this field. She is very good in the field and she enjoys it very much.

If I could write my own ticket, I would continue being a Technical Writer. However, I would ask to make about $20k more per year. In five years, I hope to be doing exactly what I am doing now. I may try editing, at some point. I believe I may like that line of work, as well.


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