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Dec 27, 2016
For Technical Writers who want to to enter, survive, and thrive/grow in the field of Technical Writing. Slides presented by Amit Kapoor at the 18th STC India Annual Conference held at Hyderabad in December 2016.
Inking a Harmonious Career and
Managing it Well
~ Amit Kapoor
Associate Director, Content Marketing, Cigniti Technologies
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▪ 3 minutes (or less) blah-blah-ing about self – as suggested
▪ Next 35 minutes: sharing what I learnt over 16 years as I tried to harmoniously ink a career in
the writing industry
▪ 5 minutes of your questions, & my answers
▪ The last 2 minutes will have the emcee try to make head or tail of what I said
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▪ What is needed to harmoniously ink a successful career in the writing industry?
▪ The basic skills that writers must have:
➢to enter the field
▪ And your expectations, some real situations, & how to try to handle the unexpected
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But first, who am I?
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I’M A CONTENT WRITER WHO IS NOT CONTENT, YET.
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PJ KING, WITTY
ANIMAL LOVER (NOT JUST
ARTIST (2 DECADES AGO)
Before We Begin…
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An Accidental Discovery of a Career
How many of you knew about technical writing before opting to become a writer?
Why have you entered this arena?
Are you aware of its upsides & downsides?
How I became a technical writer – sweet sixteen years ago
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Harmoniously Inking a Successful Career in the Writing Industry
First, what is good writing?
Per what I read, and experienced,
“Writing is an activity performed to communicate information in a manner that is understandable &
helps people become productive. if your readers can wisely take a decision or perform a required
action then it is a piece of a well written content.”
While basic English is imperative to enter the technical writing industry, surviving,
managing a career in the field, & thriving (when you get a chance, becoming a
leader,) - is a whole different ball game in itself. Let’s talk about it.
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The Basic Skills that Writers Must Have to Enter the Field
▪ Good English. Not the ‘I can able to did the work’ English.
▪ Ability to comprehend and explain a concept/product in a manner that is easy to
▪ As I read somewhere:
➢“If you don’t care about semicolons and fonts, find another career. If no one has
ever described you as “obsessive” or “picky,” find another career.”
▪ And a college degree – In English studies or journalism, or as the current trend shows –
For marketing content writers, some organizations demand/expect MBA. My take – not
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The Basic Traits that Writers Must Have to Survive
To survive, I feel writers need more of mental/psychological traits apart from the basic
skills required to enter the field. A few pointers:
▪ Curiosity: To find out more about the concept/product. You are the first manual tester
of the product. Test it inside out, document failures, and file bugs – whether in design,
flow, or functioning. You might find an error message that says ‘something has gone
wrong somewhere’. Correct it after you talk to the developer.
▪ Most Important: Practice and improve your ability to interact with developers,
engineers, illustrators, and printers (standees and collaterals). I said it in a previous
session, I repeat – take them out for tea/drinks – and don’t discuss work there. discuss
what interests them. Once back at their desk – ask for information.
This is what will help create the harmony that we are referring to at this
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The Basic Traits to Survive contd.
▪ Good Interviewing And Listening Skills: Google/Read before you ask. The
developers’ time is more important than yours. They feel so. Always. I believe no
question is stupid. But that is within my writing group. For developers, frame your
▪ Patience And Perseverance: Loads of it while you wait for inputs.
▪ Be Humble. Learn from your peers and cross-functional teams, and accept feedback
and criticism. Always helps to grow.
▪ Read The Standards Followed By Organizations For Writing: MSTP and Chicago
Manual of Style, for example.
▪ Focus & Attention To Details: US versus rest of the world English: ‘Z’ Vs. ‘S’; extra
white spaces after full stops, alignment of bullet points, etc.
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The Basic Traits to Survive contd. - Skills
▪ Learn the tools. FrameMaker, Confluence, RoboHelp, Flare, or AuthorIT – or any other.
Shouldn’t take too much time. I believe having no-experience with a tool should not be
a problem. I didn’t know any when I first ventured in the field. Yes, openness of
organizations and luck helps too.
▪ Learn and practice how to create your own graphics. A lot of companies today expect
writers to know Visio, PPT, and even Adobe In-design/Illustrator. Practice in your free
time. Its fun.
▪ Again, do not use words you learnt while preparing for GRE. Keep it simple.
don't use floccinaucinihilipilification to refer to estimating or categorizing something as
worthless. Just say it is worthless.
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The Basic Traits that Writers Must Have to Thrive/Grow
The basic traits that writers must have (to enter the field + to survive) + the ability to:
▪ Own the task. Be responsible: It’s your baby.
▪ Be meticulous. Proofread your work. 3 Rs: Read, Review, Rewrite.
▪ Appreciate good work: A good UI design by graphic designers, a good edit by a peer
▪ Honestly share inputs with peers: With no intention of malice, only to help improve their
writing skills, and the content. As said earlier, your being humble when giving inputs is
paramount, and can pave way for a long, fruitful career.
▪ Provide inputs for improving UI/WEBSITE/TEMPLATES better. Don’t dig for dirt –
suggest improvements. And then be receptive of similar feedback.
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The Basic Traits To Thrive/Grow contd.
▪ Become approachable for everyone. Help colleagues when asked: whether from
HR/IT or the writers team as much as possible, but after taking care of your
deliverables – unless critical.
▪ Say no to a task when it is not possible in the given timeline. Then asking for more
time, and providing what is needed. That said – be prepared to stretch yourself thin at
times to get things moving.
▪ Bargain for better timelines. If only a tad bit – for projects that needed to be
completed yesterday, but the source file is provided today.
▪ Learn to communicate. Don’t be rude, but learn to express your concerns in post-
mortem meetings – not before the task is completed.
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The Basic Traits To Thrive/Grow Contd.
▪ As much as possible, try to have the tasks being performed recorded via emails.
Friendships are good, but at times, people don’t give due credit. Hence, proof is
required. Especially around appraisals. ☺
▪ Learn the art of following up. Be tenacious – don’t let go until you have the required
▪ Proactively identify how you can improve the documentation/templates/flow. Perform
▪ Proactively take training sessions to help improve overall communication in the
organization. This will also convince management of the need of having a good team
▪ Lead without a title, as Robin Sharma says. It matters.
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Some Additional Skills/Traits that will Help
• Be technology-savvy and open to
• Be flexible
• Have a good sense of humour
• Plan well
• Learn soft skills
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SOME ADDITIONAL SKILLS/TRAITS THAT WILL HELP
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Don’t Forget Your Teachers
▪ Some of mine:
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With “content” being the king in today’s information and connection age, technical writers are at an
exciting point in an evolving world.
How may I help you? ☺
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thank you! ☺
for your bricks & bouquets, reach me:
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