Can You “Do” Both?
Craig of HelpScribe has an April 2008 post that I found fascinating:
Why We Become Technical Writers
Craig’s post is no longer available on his blog, so check out these two:
Although I posted a comment on how I entered the technical communication field, it’s one-dimensional. My favorite topic is to talk about those of us I call “Hybrids”… that is, professionals who demonstrate proven success in both the training/learning and technical writing fields.
Yes, it’s true: Some of us do both, we love both, and we’re successful in both. To help others who feel the “tug” into both professions, I’ve revised my comment posted at Craig’s blog to capture my “Hybrid” journey.
Craig, I found your message on Techwr-L, and I enjoy hearing the stories of how people started their technical writing careers.
Me? I have been writing and teaching since I was a child. As a volunteer, I started “teaching” when I was in high school, and I come from an extended family of educators. In college, where I majored in Spanish and French, the Engineering Department offered a course in Technical Writing. I completed it with all As. When I approached my professor for her help in starting my technical communication career, she replied:
“You can’t be a technical writer, you’re a humanities major!”
I believed her. Although I lived in an area surrounded by IT companies and government contractors, I limped into financial services after graduating with my B.A. My new managers noticed my writing and training talents. They helped me transition into writing policies and procedures, then into various Training Departments where they mentored me in both instructional design and ILT facilitation skills.
After some time, the Training gigs transitioned into writing print and online documentation for intranets, extranets, and Web-based applications. I felt a tremendous enjoyment with working “on the Web”, so I added some Web development skills (HTML, Dreamweaver) to my tool box. To make a long story short, through blessings and being in the right place at the right time, I am now a happy e-learning designer and developer, and I still use my technical writing skills to create job aids, quick-start guides, manuals, and more.
I love what I do, and taking “the path less traveled” only added to my knowledge, skills, and abilities or achievements. And my clients benefit from my “Hybrid” skills.
One word of advice to “Hybrid” career seekers: follow your heart. Invite learning specialists and technical communicators out for coffee, lunch, or dinner and interview them. Attend local ASTD (now ATD, Association for Talent Development) and STC chapter meetings and ask the members about their jobs.
Stay away from the “anti-Hybrid” nay-sayers who discourage you, and build a personal community of career cheerleaders and supporters. Some of us are born to be “Hybrids”.
If what you read and hear about our professions gets your heart pumping, do everything you can to get your first instructional design and/or technical writer job.
You’ll be so glad you did, and you’ll never look back.
May 2016: Updated URLs.