Imagine this scenario: You buy or use a new electronic product or service, but something doesn't work for you or you don't understand the steps.
What is the first thing you do? Yes, you would pull out the quick-start guide and see what you need.
The question is, have you ever wondered who made this quick guide? Who is responsible for ensuring that critical information is communicated clearly, concisely, and easily understood? This is the task of Technical Writers.
"So, what does a technical writer...do...exactly?"
It’s a question we've heard from friends, family, and strangers many times throughout our writing careers. As far as I can tell, there's no question. It's writing - that's pretty technical. It’s right there in the name, but the details remain fuzzy to most.
There is a saying that technical writers are a rare breed. Professional technical writers are consumer advocates, researchers, and testers, who are aware of the consumer's needs, preferences, and behaviours, in a way that many others aren't. Technical writers describe products and services in a way that target audiences can understand. To put it in another way, they translate the technical language of engineers, SMEs, and manufacturers into terms that the target audience can understand. They can chunk a long and complicated procedure into bite-sized and easy-to-understand steps. They help set proper expectations so end-users understand both what a new product can do and, perhaps more importantly, what it cannot do.
Is It Only About Writing User Guides?
This is, without a doubt, the most serious fallacy of all. As technology advances, technical writing has evolved to encompass all documentation of complex technical processes such as technical reports, executive summaries, briefs, emails, policy, online support articles, training materials, product descriptions, reference guides, and internal documents for coders/API developers.
The process and outcomes of technical writing are unique, and the responsibilities of technical writers extend beyond writing. They must comprehend the entire project, from high-level goals to implementation complexities.
In software documentation, technical writers play a huge role. They explain how to use a program or service by writing:
- Documentation that specifies the expectations for the software being developed.
- Architecture documentation defines the high-level architecture of the software system created.
- Technical documentation for software developers, which might include software code documentation, algorithms, or APIs.
- End-user documentation is user guides or manuals that assist the users of a particular system.
- FAQs, Online Help, and Video Tutorials.
Technical Writer Career Path
Several questions might go through the mind of a technical writer when considering their career path. Will I still be the same person I am now, or can I develop?
Get rid of all vague and unclear questions and start with a clear one. What should I do now, and how do I proceed?
Depending on your interests, your career progression may vary.
The technical writer's career path is like a "system development life cycle"
. The journey to becoming a technical writer can be made direct by completing a university education and then applying directly for a technical writing job after graduation. This path, however, is taken by a minority of technical writers.
A Technical Writing Course can pave the way for your static career, no matter what your technical background is. An apprenticeship in technical writing might be your best option for a fast track to a technical writing career. During your apprenticeship, you can apply different techniques and methods to an actual project to learn technical writing from your mentor. Once you have this experience, you can turn it into a paid technical writing position.
The ideal situation would be for a person to go directly from technical writing training to working as a technical writer. For many people, that world doesn't exist at all. The difference begins with your level of education. This can also be divided into two main categories, as illustrated in this diagram:
- Degrees related to technical writing
When employers hire technical writers, they look for applicants with relevant certifications in the field, including communications, information technology, computer engineering, industrial engineering, and technical background.
- Degrees not related to technical writing
Your degree doesn't necessarily have to be related to communications, information technology, or computer engineering to become a technical writer. It's common for professional-technical writers to have college/university degrees in non-technical fields such as business management, agriculture, veterinary medicine, law, etc.
Another divergence in the path to becoming a technical writer is your work experience, your experience as a technical writer, and your training will open new horizons for you in this field. Technical writing training and a bit of experience can put you on the right track to being a professional technical writer. As a technical writer, you will gain experience in using words and language to effectively communicate with an audience by working on a variety of projects. This is a distinct advantage when seeking a promotion.
Technical Writers' Occupational Hierarchy
Upon gaining experience as a Junior Technical Writer, you can advance to the role of Senior Technical Writer, handling a variety of complex projects and working with a team of writers. If you want to be a team leader, you can pursue a career in management and leadership. As you improve your management and leadership skills, you can advance in the hierarchy and become the team leader for technical writers. In addition, because they have a very broad understanding of many types of projects, in addition to having very high skills in data collection, they are more likely to be able to move to other departments, such as business analysis.
Where Is The Need for Technical Writers?
Technical writing holds a strong foothold in many industries, where it plays a crucial role. It has become increasingly popular in recent years. Technical writing is typically associated with specialized areas of software that require extensive documentation, such as user manuals, instruction manuals, or reference manuals. Consequently, most technical writing jobs are associated with software companies. However, technical writing is also used in other fields such as Healthcare, Aerospace, Electronics, Finance, and Automotive.
Design Your Own Technical Writing Career Path.
Finally, we realize that this is what technical writers bring to the table. They are not only an important member of your team, but they also add value to your products and services by providing proper documentation, solid proposals, and detailed comments. Additionally, they can switch roles and assist in different departments. It doesn't matter what degree they have; they just need experience and the ability to develop and strengthen their writing skills. There's no right or wrong way to become a technical writer; you will be challenged with some tracks that seem challenging, and you'll make mistakes, but you'll be on the right track in the end.
Technical Writing Team
- Anas Abu Khaled
- Shatha Barakat
- Rana Ali Alakhras