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Light My Fire: How I Became a Technical Writer
2012, Q2 (July 10, 2012)
By Greg Thompson, Carolina Chapter Member

Greg Thompson
Greg Thompson
It’s amazing how Jack Daniels and The Doors can influence one’s career choices.

My career in technical writing began one late night in my parents' family room with a bottle Jack Daniels, The Doors' first album—yes, an “album,” not a CD or MP3—and two college engineer friends who spoke and wrote limited English.

After about the fifth shot, my esteemed engineering buddies announced that they were taking a class called “Technical Writing” as part of their undergraduate requirements. They knew I liked to write as part of my History studies, so they asked me if I could help them edit their papers.

I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to take the class. I was looking for a way to support myself after college doing some sort of professional writing.

I was looking for a way to support myself after college doing some sort of professional writing, so I took a Technical Writing class in college.

Right after college, I was able to get an internship at Xerox through a friend of mine (not a Doors fan nor a drinker of Jack, but he was good man) in their Printing Systems division. Their technical writing department not only had graphic designers but also had typesetters.

We would edit our paper documents using pencils and erasers and then give the documents to the typesetters for the final composition tasks. With the advent of desktop publishing, the typesetters and the and the graphic designers eventually went hasta la vista, baby and their work become ours.

This change was the first of many technological changes that affected how I would do my job. If it weren’t for the STC Special Interest Groups (SIGs), seminars, and annual meetings, there is no way that I would have been able to keep up with the exponential changes that have occurred in the tech writing world, the tools we use, and the technological domains I have written about.

Greg Thompson can be reached at rencon at gmail dot com. End of article.

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