Career Story: Technical Writer For A Software Company

Technical Writer For A Software Company

Job Title: Technical Writer

Type of Company: Software for digital security.

Education: BS, Journalism

Previous Experience: I've worked as a technical writer at various software companies for the past 25 years.

Job Tasks: I perform the following tasks: estimate workload, review technical specifications, attend software development meetings, assign work to writers, write and maintain the writing schedule and define and write "deliverables." Deliverables usually consist of either manuals in .pdf form or HTML documentation that is available online. The documentation describes how to plan, install, and use the software product. I interact with development engineers, QE engineers, project managers, editors, and other writers. As the project leader, I am responsible for making sure that other writers on the project deliver their work on schedule.

The company I work for makes software that is used to protect online resources, such as data used by banks, hospitals, businesses, and so forth. The process is called "identity management"; it makes sure that only authorized people gain access to protected resources. We make something called a "hardware token." The token generates a random number every 60 seconds and an authorized user then enters this number along with his PIN to gain access to the system. This is known as "two-factor authentication," because you need to use something you hold (the token) and something you know (the PIN).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I get to write, organize information, and learn new technology.

The worst part is the bureaucracy, the processes required to get things done. And dealing with management can be very very frustrating. The WORST part is probably that a significant amount of work is going to India, where the writers are not as well trained as they are here. Companies are not doing this on the basis of quality. They want the cheapest writers possible, regardless of quality.

Job Tips: To become a technical writer, you need:
1. Excellent writing skills. Work hard on your writing and take professional writing classes. 2. Love of technology. You have to really like learning new things all the time. You have to enjoy fiddling around with software and figuring things out. 3. A high tolerance for frustration. Everything is not laid out for you. Engineers do not necessarily know what you need when you need it. You need to persevere and at the same time be patient.

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