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The Adventure of Becoming a Technical Writer
By David King, STC Carolina Chapter Hospitality Coordinator

One week the back of my truck is loaded with concrete blocks and cement for building, the next it's full of pizza on my way to IBM and an STC meeting. Like playing the computer game, "Heroes of Might and Magic," becoming a technical writer has been an adventure.

To become a worthy opponent, I had to build an army of contacts and go back to school. Every day I go out, fight ogres, and find the resources I need to build my army. Each day, there is a constant balance of fight and flight, an immutable trade of wood, coal, ore, mercury and gold for resources such as professional development. At the end of the day, I make certain investments that will provide me with the necessary resources to fortify my kingdom and become a winner. Sometimes I have to make a choice between gold and experience. Experience always looks good on a résumé, but, because of expensive books, software, instruction and the cost of living, I may need to choose gold just to make a living. Reverting back to an old profession temporarily can be a way of choosing gold.

Nearly all interviews resulted from STC contacts

The first technical writing job that was offered me, I refused. Despite the opportunity of experience, I did not feel it was a fair trade. As it turned out, I ended up taking a job that paid more, but was not related to technical writing. As weeks passed, my army was replenished. My knowledge about technical increased. I began to be recommended by new friends for position openings. But I felt like the Karate Kid in the scene where he must white wash his master's fence before the master would train him. When am I going to begin work as a technical writer? In six months, I had a half dozen job interviews. All, with the exception of one, were the result of contacts I made through STC. Joining STC is something like recruiting Rocks, or Phoenixes from the red Tower. They score exceedingly high and their movement is very fast. I find myself constantly using the experience of one job interview to help with the next.

Commanding respect for technical writers

Of the many persons I encountered, one of the most interesting was a communications manager, who, in order to command respect for his profession, has a martial arts "sparring stick" in the corner of his office. I discovered this when he asked me, "How would you handle the difficult SME?" My first response was to disengage him with humor. Then, try to convince him that we were on the same team. If all else failed, I would go to my supervisor. That's when he gleefully disclosed the stick and told me that technical writers, under his watch, were not disrespected. Well, those weren't exactly his words….

Half man, half beast

At a Halloween party of a well-connected RTP consultant, I received a glimpse of how people in the industry viewed my new profession. After I told several people I was a technical writer, the woman's response was "That's an interesting one—half man, half beast." If I had any doubts as to whether I should have worn a costume to the party, they were dispelled. I was, by profession, already wearing one. Every one of those heroes in the game is a freak! End of article.