RE: Where did you get your feet wet?

Subject: RE: Where did you get your feet wet?
From: "Jones, Donna" <DJones -at- zebra -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2005 09:48:28 -0500

In high school, I envisioned myself a forensic scientist, like Dr. Quincy (that ought to date me!). In college, I started out majoring in Medical Technology because that was about the only program at Michigan Tech (my chosen college--available majors be darned!) that was even close to what I wanted to do. That lasted until the first day of the class that would have taught us to draw blood. The instructor advised us that, if we didn't feel comfortable practicing on others or having others practice on us [shudder], we should seriously consider changing our major. I had no urge to be an experimental pin cushion, so I took her advice. I knew some people in the Scientific and Technical Communication program and thought, "I like to write," so I changed my major to STC. It was a good decision for me.

When I graduated with my B.S. in STC, I took a couple of jobs as a typesetter (a profession that I'm assuming barely exists nowadays). Those got me experience with making things look nice in print. It took me a couple of years to land a job as an assistant editor, and after a few years, I used that experience to move up the ladder into technical writing. With each job, I was able to point to what I had done previously, which helped me get something more challenging each time. I had been out of college for just over 5 years before I was offered my first official position as a "Technical Writer."

If you're looking to get into the technical writing profession, I would say to start small. You don't need a degree, but there are some basic classes (grammar, basic writing, and such) that will definitely help you. Take a few classes and take on whatever little jobs you can that are related in any way to technical communications. That education and experience will eventually build up, and you'll find yourself in demand for more.

Good luck!

Donna L. Jones
Technical Writer II
Zebra Technologies Corp.
Vernon Hills, IL
djones -at- zebra -dot- com

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