Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Technical Writing

Most of the technical writers in Israel have a mother tongue of English. So, this is clearly a profession of significance to immigrants. I am pleased to introduce this article describing the technical writing profession in Israel, contributed by Lynn Kolber.

Immigrants to Israel have to deal with a multitude of cultural shocks and adjustments, not least of which is finding work in an unfamiliar job market, in a foreign language. Many immigrants struggle to find work in their original professions, and even when they find jobs these are often at a significantly lower level, or very different from the same position abroad. Professionals struggle to adapt to local work conditions. This results in frustration and may lead to the person returning to their country of origin. The technical writing profession offers a unique opportunity to help prevent this potential loss.

Technical writing involves preparing a broad range of documents for companies in the hi-tech, telecom, military, security and bio-tech fields. This means that a candidate’s background in their first career can be an advantage when they are preparing technical documentation. We have employed and placed writers from almost every profession including rabbis, lawyers, engineers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, pilots, cabin crew, psychologists, scientists, social science graduates, linguistic majors, software developers and engineers, teachers, mathematicians, court stenographers, reporters, accountants, and more.

Technical writers convey factual information and prepare a broad range of documents including User Guides, Installation Guides, Maintenance Guides, Administration Guides, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), SDKs (Software Development Kits), Product Descriptions, Technical Datasheets, Product Specifications, Release Notes, and Online Helps. Additional career options in writing include working as a marketing writer or a proposal writer. Technical writing involves documenting facts and does not require much imagination, although there is a creative component including writing introductions, UX/UI reviews, white papers, and so on. If you can make something boring sound interesting, you should perhaps consider a career in marketing writing.

Reva Dykan, Documentation Manager at NICE Systems, when asked about the core key skills that she looks for when recruiting a technical writer, noted: “I think that the best way to learn technical writing is via an internship. I look for someone with strong writing ability and an interest in lifelong learning”. Other skills that are important are organizational and project management skills, knowledge of technology, strong detective skills, assertiveness, people skills, flexibility and the ability to cope with change. An analysis of why 20 writers were fired (not laid off) showed that 19 were fired due to lack of interpersonal skills. Only one was fired because of the quality of their work. The opening line from many recruiting managers and HR staff is “Please find me someone with good interpersonal skills”. About 5% of the technical writing jobs have specific technical requirements, such as a background in engineering, IT support, finance, and so on.

There are several ways to enter the profession. Although some candidates are fortunate enough to be offered a job without any formal training, it is beneficial to take a course or an internship. On an internship, candidates not only undertake theory and tools training, but gain the critical practical experience required in order to seek employment. Several of the hosting companies use the internship as a way to assess the intern as a potential employee.

A question often asked is whether candidates need to speak Hebrew. Conversational Hebrew is a requirement in about 15% of the technical writing jobs. Whereas engineers and developers are usually willing to speak English, lack of fluent Hebrew is often an obstacle when interviewing with the HR person at a prospective employer. An internship provides candidates with the opportunity to work in a company and prove themselves without having to first pass an HR interview or psychometric exam. This also increases their chances of employment.

Salaries for technical writers are competitive. Career path opportunities include developing specialized writing skills in a particular technology or working as a team leader or documentation manager. Technical writing offers immigrants an important opportunity to embark on an interesting career that pays well.

About the Author

This article was written by Lynn Kolber, General Manager, OnTarget Communications, http://www.ontargetcommunication.com/. OnTarget specializes in training and placing technical writers in projects, contracts and fulltime positions. The OTC internship creates “can do” writers who are employable. Graduates of the program are employed at a multitude of hi-tech companies including HP, NICE Systems, Verint Systems, RSA, EMC, RAD, Radvision, Comverse, Amdocs, Precise, RoboGroup, NiceVision, Actimize, NTrig, BMC, StarHome, Logic, dbMotion, Gilat Satellites, Mobixcell, Visonic, SafeNet, and many more.

1 comment: