balance-burnout Why technical communication

What motivates you to work in the technical communication field?

Why did you "get into" technical writing or technical editing? Everyone has a story about how they entered the field. We asked our community to share their journey with us.

Seth Kenlon shares his journey:

I'm reminded of why tech education is important every time I look at the man page of, for example, nslookup

Here's its syntax:

nslookup [-option] [name | -] [server]

Given that it's a command meant to query a name server, you might be confused by the notation [name | -] and [server]. Maybe it's a coincidence that together they form the phrase "name server", or maybe not? Are they two separate things in this context? Hopefully you already know, because the man page uses "name," "server," and "host" seemingly interchangeably.

The nslookup man page is just one example. There's an argument that this kind of documentation is serving a valid purpose: It reminds someone who mostly knows how to use the command and just needs a reminder of the specifics. Whether that's the best use of online documentation or not, it exposes the need for more documentation.

People need to be able to learn how to use technology, because without users technology is pointless. I try to bridge the gap between the people who already know how to use a tool and those who don't yet.

Robin Bland adds:

Technical writing is just something that I love doing. Find a career doing what you love.

Jim Hall approached tech comm from IT leadership:

My journey with technical writing started early in my career. My first job was managing Unix systems at a small company. My supervisor was an excellent mentor and she helped me learn the value of documentation. Your value to an organization increases tenfold if you can describe what you do so others can understand it.

I carried her advice throughout my career. When I served as a campus CIO in higher ed, I decided to enter a graduate degree program in technical and scientific communication. Earning my Master's in technical communication helped me in my leadership role; a large part of leadership is writing strategic plans, crafting positioning statements, and writing information briefs for the top executives and board.

I started a consulting company a few years ago, and now I leverage my technical writing skills in new ways. As an independent consultant, you do a bit of everything. I write my own workbooks, create my training slides and handout materials, and update my website content.