...of a Senior Technical Writer.
I've found it very helpful to be involved with lots of technical
communities. I'm a member of BayChi, the WebGuild, and Silicon Valley
Webgrrls, which I led for nearly two years. I also attend events sponsored
by the Software Development Forum.
Are you self-employed?
No. I prefer to work as a full-time employee at pre-IPO startups.
What is your background?
I had done some freelance journalism and I love to learn new things. In
1994-95, I attended De Anza College under the Nova program and trained to
a Network Admin.
What types of degrees, skills, experiences are
necessary for this field?
Any technical experience helps, because once you have a little, it's easy
get more. For example, if you understand the basics of programming, it's
easier to learn about additional languages. Once you know the basic
terminology, it's easier to learn more and you have the words to ask the
right questions. I've found that degrees are not required if you can
perform, but a technical or writing degree is always welcomed. Skills are
outlined in the section describing 5-7 skills needed for my job.
How did you get started in this field?
I had done some freelance journalism and I love to learn new things. In
1994-95, I attended De Anza College under the Nova program. I trained to
What college (if any) courses have been most helpful for your career?
All my technical courses have been very helpful. I studied to become an NT
Admin, and that helps me write for Administrators.
What are your specific responsibilities?
I produce all technical documentation for our firm. I plan the
set, scope the deliverables, research and gather content, create technical
drawings, select a review team and gather review comments, and prepare the
documents for delivery with the CD and on the web.
Describe a typical workday and workweek.
I work 40-45 every week. In crunch mode, I work 60-80 hours per week.
mode generally lasts a couple of weeks, and occurs every couple of months.
arrive about 10 and leave about 7:30 on most days. I work a bit from home
most weeks, maybe just two or four hours on a good week, all day Saturday
and Sunday and a couple of hours each weekday in crunch mode.
What do you do during a typical day?
I gather info or I write. In the info gathering stage, I review the
engineering documentation and the marketing documentation. I interview the
engineers and marketing team. In writing mode, I churn content, edit
content, create drawings, index content, and do final production editing.
Name 5-7 job skills that are needed for your job.
1. Enjoyment of learning new things
2. Preferring deadline-driven tasks
3. Ability to learn quickly
4. Gather and verify information
5. Ability to write clearly and consistantly
6. Prioritize tasks
7. Work independently and as a team member
Are you in a team oriented position?
Yes. Although I write independently, I am part of the software development
team. I work very closely with engineers, QA, and marketing.
Do you have flextime? Vacation time? Work at home? Telecommute?
I do have flextime. I either come in late (around 10) or early (around
7:30). I've got two weeks of vacation a year, and I generally squeeze in
another week without pay. I occasionaly work from home. When I do, I
telecommute by leaving my email client open and forwarding my office calls
to my home number.
How many hours per week are expected or warranted for peak performance?
In my current position, 40-45 per week on slow weeks, 60-80 in crunch
Are many evenings or weekends required for your job?
When extra hours are required (average of a week a month), I work extra
hours in the morning and on weekends.
How much travel is involved with a job in your field?
Could you give me examples of projects that you are working on?
Currently, I am developing a Programming Guide, a Network Operation Guide,
and an Admin Guide. When I have these whipped into shape a bit, I'll be
developing online help for the Admin Console, the sample Client, and the
Network Admin Console.
Could you describe your work settings? Offices, machinery, resources etc.
At work, I sit in a cubie in the engineering area. I've got a great
with all the software I need to do my job. We have all the standard office
stuff and we have two office staff members-- a real luxury in an early
startup. It means we have someone to order office supplies and pizza.
What personal qualities do you think are necessary for someone to be
successful in this occupation?
I think to succeed you must enjoy your work. It can be very demanding, but
find that sometimes, I am so into it that I don't even notice the time
passing. For example, I like to write, I like to learn new things, I like
challenge, and I think technology will save the world.
What is the major challenge you face at work?
Getting the technical details right. Sometimes, the documentation I work
from is very incomplete. Some needed details may not become obvious until
I've already begun to develop the documentation.
What aspects of your job do you find most rewarding (pros) ?
I love working with bright, interesting people and making cool, new
I hate the pressure when it falls at an inconvenient times. I've worked
a throbbing broken ankle, dreadful colds, and when out of town family was
visiting. The deadline is my friend and my enemy.
Are you confronted with difficult decisions or situations in your
Do you have a lot of interaction with a certain occupation? I.E. media,
What is the Female to Male Ratio in your position/field?
Has the field changed since you first started your career?
Yes. When I started, the web was text-based. It was very exciting to use a
Describe the changes taking place in your field. Project future trends?
Web applications are continuing to grow, and are mimicing tradional
applications. I think the field will continue to grow at a rapid pace. I
expect that sometime in the next two years we'll see a more standard look
and feel for web applications.
It's high. Part of that is dot.coms being aquired, which changes the
workplace and makes startup stock worth cash, and part is the lure of new
challenges and higher wages.
Do you think women avoid technical careers?
Yes. I think the perception is that it's a man's world, and that things
being built that only interest guys. And, I think many women find
daunting because they haven't made the initial investment in learning the
lingo and a few basics.
What do you think can be done to
encourage girls to get more involved in the technology field?
I think it's very helpful for girls to meet women who are involved in
technology, so that they can understand how they can fit into a techncial
career. Girls should be encouraged at an early age, and that encouragement
should be continued and followed with career mentoring as they enter the
Do you believe that women will be in more technical jobs in the future?
Yes. I think we are only at the beginning of the bell curve.
Do you have any advice for women and girls that are interested in going
Don't dawdle! Look at all aspects of technology and find the ones that
interest you. Look for jobs that will use some of your existing skills or
things that you enjoy doing (I always enjoyed writing). Be confident and