President Kreger

A Note from your Incoming President…

by Jeffrey Kreger on August 20, 2013

I promised myself I’d keep this brief, but really, there’s so much to say. I’ve been meaning to write this for over a month now, ever since I officially took office on July 1st. Of course, work and life had other ideas, and placed many obstacles in the way thus delaying this missive before you.

But before I get ahead of myself, I want to sincerely thank you in advance for reading this. If you’re already a STC member, great! If you’re looking for ways to connect with other tech writers in our area, Mazel Tov to you, too! And, if you’re new to tech writing altogether, even better! To all of you, I extend a very warm welcome not only to our exciting industry, but also to our tight-knit and intrepid group, your Los Angeles Chapter.

I especially wish to thank all of our chapter veterans who have worked tirelessly to keep our doors open for so many years. I’m especially grateful to Karen Bergen, Pam Wilkes, and Betsy Suttle. They are truly the patron saints for our chapter, and are always in the trenches on our behalf even after so many years of service. You amaze me.

I tell people this all the time: I learned about tech writing through a certificate program I finished at UCSD Extension; but it was through joining the STC that I launched a career. In fact, every job I’ve landed was a direct result of some sort of participation with our chapter. Whether networking with a colleague at a dinner meeting, following up with a listing on our job board, or chatting with a new friend at one of our lunchtime forums, I’ve found opportunities around every STC corner. Believe me, It’s all there — it’s just matter of showing up, some patience, and a little perseverance.

I don’t know about you, but I really love what I do. I mean, I get paid decent money to write. I create documentation for demanding clients using cutting-edge tools; and for the most part, I get to do it on my own terms. It’s a dream come true. Mind you, I’ve never worked harder in my life doing what I love: there have been been many long days, and even longer nights, trying to make that deadline. There have also been software problems, hardware crashes, network issues, recalcitrant SMEs (who eventually sends a stultifying first draft), and demanding doc managers. I’ve even screamed at Adobe tech support, and cursed InDesign endlessly for making my life so miserable (but I’ve since grown to love InDesign). But you know what? I can’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s tough racket though, this tech writing business. Not sure what it was like 25 years ago or so, but I can tell you that getting a job nowadays is no walk in the park. We really gotta know our stuff. Employers aren’t hiring us on what we may bring later, but on what we bring RIGHT NOW. There seems to be little in terms of on-the-job training for tech writers, and even less in terms of internships, mentoring programs, and the like.

But we now have a wonderful little tool that wasn’t available to us back in the day: the Internet. What might’ve taken weeks or even months, now takes a few hours. Never used FrameMaker or RoboHelp? Find a trial version and play around with each by converting an existing document (that’s truly the best way to learn); Never used Adobe’s Creative Cloud? Sign up for $29/month, subscribe to Lynda.com for $25/month, and hit the town as you learn THE best graphics/DTP/HTML tools; Don’t know about HTML or JavaScript? Check out w3Schools.com (it’s free) where in no time you’ll learn all about tags, objects, and CSS. Don’t even know what API, XML, DITA, or SaaS mean? Do a little Wikipedia research on each, and then check out all the related links. For extra credit, Google a few developer websites to find further info on the latest web technologies. Fascinating stuff!

My point is this: in a lot of ways, we have to be our own instructors and career coaches. As tech writers, we already know how to find the information we need (don’t we?), so put this spirit to good use as you learn new skills. In no time, you’ll be able to talk the talk and, who knows, it may put you in perfect position for that next dream job.

Of course, I’ve found that networking with my fellow tech writers remains THE key ingredient for opportunities, and your Los Angeles Chapter provides many opportunities to connect. We have numerous ways to meet — dinner meetings, lunchtime forums, webinars, council meetings, and more. It’s always a thrill for me to see a new face, and I really hope you take the time to attend one of our upcoming events. Speaking of which, I hear our chapter is coming up on its 60-year anniversary in 2014, which is truly remarkable. I’m sure we’ll plan something fun, so stay tuned!

As always, I’d love to hear from YOU. As I stated earlier, this is our chapter and our mission remains to promote the value that tech writers bring. Feel free to hit me up anytime about any ideas you may have about improving your experience, including suggestions for future events, lunchtime forums (we’d love to add a few more to the L.A. area), council volunteering, mentoring, and whatever else you see fit.

I look forward to serving you in the coming year!

All the best,

Jeff Kreger
latechwriter@gmail.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Jensen August 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Great post, Jeff! You’ve been an exceptional source of helpful advice ever since I joined last April. As you have stated, we must educate ourselves in order to fully understand technical communication. For any other new members, or prospective members, I recommended buying a book or two on how familiarize yourself with tools such as HTML, RoboHelp, Javascript, etc. It’s certainly helping me understand the ins and outs of technical communication.

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Chineary September 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Good Evening. I agree with Nick. There is a lot of great resources here. As someone who is new to this industry, I find all the information out there to be bit overwhelming. It helps to to be guided in the right direction. Thank you.

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