My Career Path: Strict Technical Writing

How I Got From Corporate Tech Writing to Freelance Content Writing Part 1

I have been working as a writer in the IT industry for the last 5 years. Tech writing, marketing, social media marketing, PR — I’ve done it all working for one of the biggest and oldest software development companies in Ukraine. I am thankful to each of these experiences for giving me unique skills and knowledge that contributed to my personal style of writing. Now that I am a freelance content writer, I want to share the story of how I got here in a series of posts “My Career Path”: Strict Technical Writing, Lovely Marketing, Vigorous PR and Liberating Freelance Writing. The first one is about my tech writing days, so grab some popcorn and let’s go.

(BTW, there will soon be an article on Informaze about the peculiarities of different kinds of content I’ve written working in different departments, so stay tuned!)

Tech Writing

It’s 2012. I was a 5-year student about to start writing my diploma and part-time working in a language school. Frankly, I was (and still am) a lousy teacher. I had one hour a week that frustrated me. Then one day my co-worker (read: Heaven) said they were looking for a technical writer at the firm she was also working in. I had no idea what that was. But I knew for sure it was better than teaching because it involved writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing and tried to get a remote copywriting job previously but failed miserably every single time.

The CV I sent was hideous, it had no relevant experience whatsoever. Surprisingly, though, I got invited for an interview. I tried to give it my best shot, read lots of manuals and even learned the Microsoft Manual of Style by heart. But that didn’t stop me from failing the test they gave me. I left the building realizing that I won’t get the job, but at least I got a hint of what I’d like to be doing. Soon I received a call that I was rejected. That wasn’t surprising. What struck me more was that two weeks later I was told that I was, in fact, hired. I still don’t know why they changed their minds, but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that I was funny.

When I first saw the office, I was amazed. It all looked so cool, I thought I was working in Google. I’ve never been inside an IT company before and haven’t heard about the perks like billiards or massages in a workplace, so everything seemed terrific to me. Young, silly me.

Like I said, I had no experience in tech writing, so, naturally, my first task was to study the book “Tech Writing 101,” which I have been doing for the first two weeks. It gave me lots of insights and tips on tech writing, though — spoiler alert! — I won’t be given an actual tech writing task for the next year.

Ironically, the first real task for me was to develop a template for internal CVs for the whole company. After studying the topic for a while, I realized how bad my own CV was. I had meetings with different heads of departments, researched tons of CVs online and even read a book on how to write CVs in the IT industry to produce different templates for BAs, QAs, PMs.

What I liked about it: I got to know lots of different people in the company. I learned to write the same thing differently for different purposes. I learned about new technologies and peculiarities of each IT job. I also learned to be concise, direct, persistent, aware of the value of people’s time and to do some research before asking stupid questions.

What I hated about it: The monotony. Sometimes I had to describe the same project for five different people without showing that it was the same project. And the fact that it was my only job for 6 months.

When I was finally assigned my first commercial project, I was very proud of myself. At last, they gave me something real to work on! It was a user guide for a piece of software my company was developing. I was trying to do my best, researching the software’s functions, meeting with developers, creating data for beautiful screenshots, only to see my work completely edited in red by my supervisor. She was strict. I was devastated.

What I liked about it: The feeling that I can finally implement my theoretical knowledge into a real live project. Working with the graphics.

What I hated about it: My murdered enthusiasm (the work wasn’t that bad, actually!)

Not long after this tech writing fiasco, I was transferred to the marketing department for a couple of months. I thought I was doomed, but I was actually blessed. Find out why they called me Vitkapedia, how many people read my documentation and how I wound up writing for the most innovative, progressive and fun department of our company in the next post of the series.