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From Pharmacy Technician to Technical Writer Hopeful
May 23, 2016
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By Lisa Parys, STC Carolina Student Member

Lisa Parys
Lisa Parys
The first moment I read about technical writing, I was hooked. I remember thinking, "I could do that!" It sounded like the perfect career choice. When reading technical manuals and other documents I often thought about how to make the instructions more digestible. Other times I marvelled about how easy the writer made it for me to follow the instructions.

Ever since then, I have been trying to get myself there. Technical writing will give me the chance to finally make a good salary from my writing. I would no longer need to struggle just to have the privilege of doing something that I enjoy — creating. I'd love to be able to make someone's life easier, even if just for one day. If readers don't know who I am but understand the information I am conveying, I will have done the best job possible. I want to make them feel like they are good at something that they never thought they'd even be able to begin.

I love the idea of starting with bits of information; an image here, a quote there, and even a dash of statistics to give a complete picture to my intended audience, whomever they may be.
In college, I majored in communication studies with a concentration in journalism. Late in my college experience, I changed my focus after discovering that journalism wasn't for me. I had no interest in attending city council meetings, let alone writing about them. Maybe some of you can relate.

After college, I got a part-time job working for a nonprofit as an administrative assistant. I wrote their newsletter and fine-tuned stories of sponsored girls, so that they read better to American readers. I also responded to letters that the foundation received, arranged for the organization’s founder to be interviewed on a local radio station, and even traveled to India to see the work for myself.

I moved to a job in a pharmacy for an HMO that I didn’t think would last for more than a year or two. The benefits were good, which made it hard to leave. My extended stay there turned out to be beneficial. I learned a lot about prescription drugs and insurance. As a front-line staff member, I honed my skills in explaining these concepts to many patients, who didn’t understand why one medication cost so much more than another. This helped me learn about explaining technical content to relative novices.

On the advice of a family friend, I moved to North Carolina in the hopes that I could go back to school and transition in technical communication. When I arrived here, I took a job at a local grocery store and later got a job in the pharmacy as well, but as a technician this time.

After establishing residency here, I also enrolled at ECU. I am now working towards a graduate certificate in Professional Communications. I now see how my background in both pharmacy and nonprofit work has given me a good foundation in relating to customers and explaining how systems work. I think this will be an asset to my future employers as I seek to find a technical writing position.

I have already learned a lot about responding to the questions people ask, as well as the ones they’re afraid to ask.

My path into this field is not a traditional one. It isn’t the direct route that I had originally hoped for, but I wouldn’t have done it much differently, given the chance. I have learned so much more than I probably would have otherwise, and I believe that this is what will set me apart from the rest.

In the future I want to remain open to many different opportunities within technical communication. However, I think my future will probably lie somewhere within two possibilities: either using my background in pharmacy to write medical documents, or working with companies to develop documents that audiences in countries around the world will appreciate. Fortunately, I know the classes in my Master's Certificate will prepare me for my future as a technical communicator.Then I can use my experience to help others in the same way that members of this group, such as Christina Mayr, have done for me.

Lisa Parys can be reached at lparys3 at gmail dot com. Read more articles by LISA PARYS. End of article.

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