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Word connect

In today’s volatile business world, organisations are ­becoming extremely conscious of the messages they send out to ­customers. Smart and effective communication has become necessary for any product and service offered to today’s customer by profit-­conscious organisations.

education Updated: Jul 23, 2013 17:16 IST
Mount Royal University

Effective-communication-A-technical-writer-transforms-technical-information-into-a-simple-and-lucid-message

The lowdown

In today’s volatile business world, organisations are ­becoming extremely conscious of the messages they send out to ­customers. Smart and effective communication has become necessary for any product and service offered to today’s customer by profit-­conscious organisations. And this has contributed to the ­prominence of the profession of technical writing. A ­technical writer transforms technical information into a simple and lucid message so that the users can comprehend the ­information and eventually use the product or the service it refers to. The ­profession has evolved fast in recent years. Earlier, a ­technical writer was a shared resource across multiple teams or departments and was given tasks like last-minute ­spelling checks. However, today, ­he/she is an integral part of every ­communication-intensive activity within an organisation. The work involves product ­documentation (like putting together user guides and online help files, ­administrator guides, data sheets, release notes, etc). The writer has to author, publish and manage all project-specific ­deliverables (like analyses documents, design documents, training documents, etc). A technical writer can also be engaged in another critical area like sales and marketing where he/she has to author, design and publish business proposals, case studies, white papers, and other client-facing collaterals.

Clockwork
The documentation process may take two-six months, depending on size of the document and complexity of the content. Technical writers have to work on various ­documents at various stages of ­documentation cycle simultaneously. An average day of a technical writer could be something like this:
6.30am: Reach office
10am: Check all the documentation issues recorded in an issue tracker
10.30am: Discussions with ­programmers or quality team, depending on the relevance of the issue
11.30am: Prepare the draft ­information on the authoring tool
1.30pm: Lunch
2.30pm: Get content reviewed and published
3.30pm: Attend meetings and ­training sessions
6pm: Leave for home

The ­payoff
Remuneration varies across industry and is quite competitive with other professions. A professional with less than a year’s experience can earn Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 18,000 a month. A writer with five-nine years of ­experience can easily earn more than Rs. 7 lakhs per annum. Writing managers earn close to Rs. 20 lakhs per annum

Skills/TRAITS
* Strong verbal and written ­communication skills, a penchant for writing, an eye for detail
* Basic to expert level language editing skills
* Formatting and designing skills
* Knowledge of authoring and design software like Lotus Symphony, MS Office, Adobe Technical Communication Suite, etc and content management tools such as FileNet, Author IT, Documentum, etc
* Programming language skills like C, C++, Java will also help. Certain job roles will require knowledge of specific ­applications and tools like Databases, ERP, CAD, etc in the IT industry
* Ability to work in a team, stick to deadlines, take ownership
* Knowledge of the industry domain

Getting there
Unlike other ­professions, you do not require any specific qualification, degree or ­certificate — you can be a graduate in humanities, or ­engineering. What counts is your ability to ­communicate ­information about technology to your audience, your command over the language, and your ­understanding of the ­delivery ­medium. New tools and standards have come out in the market. Today, candidates with knowledge of ­content management tools, specific programming ­languages and ­applications are more likely to get jobs as ­technical writers. Many ­companies are not interested in spending money to train candidates. They may ask for experienced ­candidates or trained freshers. It is estimated that the demand is at least two times more than the ­supply. Thus, there is ample scope for making a ­successful ­long-term career in this field

Institutes and URLs
* Technowrites Academy, Pune;
www.technowrites.com
* University of Calicut, Thenhipalam;
www.universityofcalicut.info
* Documentation Research and Training Centre, Bangalore;
drtc.isibang.ac.in/DRTC
* British Columbia Institute of Technology, Canada;
www.bcit.ca/study/programs/6425acert
* Mount Royal University, Canada;
www.mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/ContinuingEducation/communications/technicalwriting/

Pros and cons
* One can diversify into ­advertising and journalism
* You can learn new things about different products
* Highly competitive field
* Late working hours during ­documentation release

Being a technical writer is about learning new technologies, being creative with tools, using various media for communication and getting paid for enjoying your job --- Makarand Pandit, ­managing director and CEO at ­Technowrites, Pune