Got an e-mail from a guy graduating early next year. He’s considering Atlanta for a career and Technical Communication for a place to live. Tee Hee. Anyway, I got to rambling. (I’ve changed his name from Michael for his protection, then changed it back). I think my elevator speech is in here somewhere as well…
What skills should a typical entry level technical writer have?
A degree is nice. A degree in English or Computer Science is better. A degree in Technical Communication is primo. There are technical skills such as print and online publication to consider, familiarity with graphics and graphics tools, and the more mystical areas of information design, human-computer interaction, usability, and layout. The following words: Microsoft Word & Visio, RoboHelp & Dreamweaver, FrameMaker & Acrobat on one’s resume typically moves it from the tall stack to the short stack (and they’re searched for in databases constantly!), so I would recommend at least downloading demos, reading books, and producing sample projects in each. Most important, however, are the softer skills you read about in the business success section of your local bookstore. Reliability, verbal communication, project management, office sophistication — from inside your PC to the work team to the department to management, stakeholders, end users, and customers. Voracity. A good sense of humor. A good sense of irony. Respect and empathy for your reader/user.
What companies are hiring Technical Writers?
A great many, from larger organizations (Coke, Cox, Home Depot, IBM, BellSouth, UPS) to smaller (my mom’s friend’s mortgage company). Type “Atlanta” and “Technical Writer” into some of the larger databases, and you’ll find plenty. Some of the more industry-friendly sites can be found at http://www.stcatlanta.org/links.htm#Employment.
What is it like to live in Atlanta? What areas do you recommend living in?
I’d say there’s 5 months of summer, 5 of winter, a month each of spring and fall, and 5 months of summer. It can get hot. There’s a wall of speeding motor vehicles several layers deep surrounding the metro area called I285 you should be aware of. The baseball and football are so-so. I live northwest of the city in an area called Marietta. Much of the work is located in a “W” shape that extends down I75 to the heart of the city and forks back up GA400 (due north) and northeast up I85. You want a lot of house for a little money, look in the serifs of that “W.” Kennessaw, Cherokee, Alpharetta, Cumming. Pricey real estate, lots of society and lots of work await you in Buckhead. If you were to land somewhere along the intersection of GA400 and Hwy92, you’d be in the thick of things.
Any advice on relocating here and being successful in the Technical Writing field? ANYTHING WOULD BE HELPFUL!!
I guess I tackled much of this in number 1 above. As far as relocating goes, I’d say visit some of the industrial and corporate areas down here next time your visiting, and check out the housing in those areas. Maybe go on some interviews and (who knows?) land your first gig and radiate from there. Being successful? Hmmm… I’ve worked with all kinds. Many feel tech writing is their holding pattern, their stopgap or stepping stone to bigger and better things—and it can be that. The successful, I have found, have an identifiable passion for THIS craft, THIS trade. You can tell by what they read, how they spend their breaks and lunch hours. The media they consume. Their willingness to further their own training and exposure out of their own pocket. The kare with witch they compoze and repli to e-maales. And their sense of humor.
I would also like to get involved with the STC-Atlanta chapter not only as a member but to also participate in volunteering. What opportunities are available?
There are plenty: http://www.stcatlanta.org/volunteer.htm And there’s quite simply no better way to grow your network, your sense of the town, or your sense of the market than becoming involved in this chapter.
…I graduate in May 2005. Atlanta is my first choice in towns to relocate to. I often visit there and I believe this is where I will be most comfortable.
Glad to hear it. Next time you’re visiting, why not attend a meeting? http://www.stcatlanta.org/meetings.htm And drop me a line beforehand. We’ll meet. I’ll introduce you around.