process, but also allowed my content to be repurposed by the folks in the marketing and training departments. The greatest difficulty I faced when first starting out was being able to break out of the mold as a
“mere writer”. What I mean by this is not
out of one’s job as a tech writer altogether
to break up other people’s
limited perception of who a tech writer is, and what a tech writercan do.By the time I became a tech writer, I was also fairly adept at business in general. I struggled withgetting upper management to include me in key meetings so that I could contribute not only as a writer, but as a solid business voice within the company.My fellow writers have argued with me on this point, saying that this is beyond the general scopeof what a technical writer does. Perhaps technically their argument is valid. However, if you can
walk through the front door of a company offering more than what they expected, they’re more
likely to take your skills as a pleasant surprise
and thus they’re more likely to hang on to you
when the going gets rough. T
here have been few companies I’ve worked for that didn’t welcome
an intelligently honestinsider perspective, from someone who could put ideas into a well-written plan that could beimplemented and measured. What kind of person can do this well? A tech writer.
TWIA: What software programs or other technology do you use on a regular basis?
Depending on what company you work for, and how mature their contentdevelopment systems are, you will see variety in the tools being used.Surprisingly I am still using Microsoft Word, which only costs a couple hundred dollars. A few projects back while working for a different company, I used a component content managementsystem (CCMS) that cost tens of thousands of dollars to develop, implement, and maintain.For companies that like to take the middle road on tech writing authoring tools, I find myself using Adobe FrameMaker for docs, and Captivate or similar tools for training content delivery.
TWIA: Could you please mention some of your most important work/publications? John Meléndez:
I believe the most important work I have done for myself as a technical writer was not done while being a technical writer. Does this s
ound strange? I’ll explain.
As time goes on, you will find yourself developing confidence not only as a technical writer, butperhaps as another kind of writer, too. I know a few tech writers who started off as hard-coretech geeks devoted to scribbling out their trade. However, as they grew and matured, I saw themdoing other cool things. Some of them have gone on to becoming creative writers
writers of that kind. By developing themselves off-hours, they showed up on the clock at work much happier than ever, and they were able to contribute more energetically and creatively than they ever had before.
Here’s an example of a tech writer who ha
s turned herself into one of the most creatively abstract writers in our time: Amy Tan, the writer of
The Joy Luck Club.
She started off as a tech writer! While I am not yet a book writer, I make a point to self-publish using whatever platforms are outthere. I retain a portfolio on Scribd.com so that I can show off my tech work to prospective