Bangalore, 10 Oct, 2013: Writing the technical way
Technical writing involves compiling technical information into simple and easily comprehensible language. A quick search on naukri.com for technical writing jobs throws up a list of 23,330 in cities across India, for positions ranging from entry-level authors to senior management. Clearly, the field is booming. The demand for skilled authors seems only to be going up. And this is, in part, the result of how easily accessible this field is.
Who can be a technical writer?
Graduates of any stream—Science, Commerce, Arts, Engineering, Medicine, and Law, to name a few—can find a place in the industry with ease. Science and Engineering students come with an understanding of technology; Commerce students with business knowledge; Arts students with an understanding of language and writing. Each of these capabilities represent one of a collection of skills required to succeed in technical writing.
For a woman restarting her career after a break, technical writing offers tremendous flexibility. With part time, full time, work from home, and freelancing options, technical writing represents a unique way to balance multiple responsibilities without fear of neglecting any. Home based technical writer is even a suggested keyword on job sites, a clear indication of how deeply this flexibility has permeated the industry.
For someone shifting their career after anywhere from five to twenty years of experience, technical writing represents a unique way to harness knowledge and experience gathered. With technical writing having found a place in every industry—across Aerospace and Defense, IT, BFSI, telecommunications, manufacturing, and more—experience within and exposure to any field of business is instantly and immediately relevant, something that no other career offers.
Irrespective of your background experience, you can get into technical writing, or instructional design—which involves creating training material, from classroom training to e-learning—or business communication—which involves working with corporate communication for both an internal and external audience, covering websites, blogs, case studies, white papers, and more.
Positions and remuneration
Some of the positions that you can hold in the industry include technical writer, multimedia content developer, web content developer, copywriter, instructional designer, courseware developer, instructional designer, technical editors, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and knowledge managers. For a fresher, starting salaries are an average of 3 lakhs per annum, while the salary for 10+ years of experience can go up to 20 lakhs.
According to a survey Report (2011 – 2012) 77% of today’s companies require and produce technical documentation. 23% are dependent on Technical Communication outsourcing for their documentation requirements. Over 60% of today’s companies do not have a separate department for Technical Communication, indicating a decentralized team structure. Implementation of a centralized information management system can result in savings of nearly USD 2-6 million per annum, for a company with a turnover between USD 20 and 30 million. 36% of organizations in the Technical Communications industry focus on Content Management, while 34% focus on Technical Writing. 86% of companies are convinced that single sourcing is important and are willing to incorporate single sourcing systems in their organizations.
Microsoft Word, Adobe Frame Maker and Adobe Robo Help continue to lead the industry as preferred authoring environments with 14%, 17% and 16% of the market share respectively. However, 15% of market share is dominated by XML-based tools, indicating a growing market for XML-based products.
Tips to get started
If you’re interested in the profession, but aren’t sure of how to get started, here are a few tips to help you begin.
* Enjoy writing: The profession is, after all, technical writing. If you don’t enjoy writing, you’re unlikely to succeed. If you’re the kind of person who derives pleasure from taking a blank sheet of paper and turning it into something useful and meaningful, you may very well be thinking about the right job.
* Don’t shy away from technology: It may seem strange to mention, in the age of smart phones and tablets and watches that work as mobile phones, but you also need to be willing to wrestle with technology. You may often find yourself writing about some new and exciting technology, that hasn’t been done before—and if you’re intimidated by that, you might be in for a hard time. If you equate technology with fun, though, and want to learn more about the advances that are being made every single day in software and hardware, you might want to seriously consider technical writing as a career.
* Make patience a habit: Technical writing is about assembling information from a variety of sources—the technology that you’re writing about and people who know it, built it, and have worked with it. Both the technology and the people might very well cause you the occasional bout of frustration. With the right frame of mind, though, and a willingness to pursue your goal, you can learn the right features and ask the right questions, and make sure that you get exactly what you need.
* Never stop reading: You can read pretty much anything: technical journals, classical literature, popular fiction, even comic books! Everything you read will, whether you realise it or not, teach you a little more about the art of writing itself and, unconsciously, help you imbibe the nuances of the craft that other writers have spent lifetimes perfecting. There’s plenty of great reading material out there, so get the most out of all of it.
* Always question everything: A key aspect of technical writing is a profound and insatiable curiosity—the need to understand how something works and why something works the way it does. While the constant questioning is likely to be a source of great frustration for virtually everyone around you, the amount you’ll learn from the questioning can’t be understated.
* Embrace every opportunity to learn: While this is true of any job, technical writing allows you the rare opportunity to learn something new on a regular basis. Whether you’re blogging for a company, creating content for a website, editing technical manuals, writing policy documents, or simply learning about the next big thing, the opportunities to learn are tremendous. Walk headlong at those opportunities with as much enthusiasm as you can muster, and you’ll not go far wrong. In this one profession, perhaps above most others, no scrap of knowledge that you gain is ever wasted.
(The writer is a tech writing professional.)