Constantly Satisfying Your Natural Curiosity

This is Part 2 of a 2-part blog.

In my last post, I waxed lyrical about the virtues of Technical Writers, compared to technology journalists and engineers. I said that a writer embedded in a company has the opportunity to take part in the development of amazing new technologies, end-to-end. That is truly cool. But there is another level that tests a technical writer's mettle and turns good writers into great writers.

I recently had the opportunity to work in a number of companies as a consulting writer and I came to an interesting realization. In-house writers have the luxury of learning their company's technology over time. In-house writers have the opportunity to create relationships with engineers, managers, and SMEs of all sorts. A short-term consulting writer has none of that. For example, I was sent to update a user guide in a company that wrote database software for System Administrators. I had just over half a day to learn the software, interview the SME, and write the updates to the document. It sounds sort of impossible, but in fact, it was exhilarating. I was firing on all cylinders. I was tuned in like never before. It was a tough assignment because the technology was, at first, unfamiliar, But I used all of my experience, knowledge, and curiosity to make it work. The document was a success.

The short deadline at the database company was a more extreme example, but anyone who has done technical writing consulting will understand the euphoric feeling of doing a great job under such conditions.

I used to think that consultant writers were those who couldn't find a "real job". How very, very wrong I was. There is a special skill set required to provide quality documentation under tight constraints, one that is far less pronounced in the in-house writer's world. Consultant writers need to be fast and accurate, tech-savvy in a multitude of fields, and excellent communicators.

While it's true that a consultant writer might not have the opportunity to take part in the entire development cycle of an amazing new technology, they are often exposed to a wide variety of technologies, keeping them on their toes while constantly satisfying their natural curiosity.

One cannot say whether in-house writers (who have a comprehensive and holistic approach) are better writers than consultants (who are, by definition, fast learners and great communicators). But if I was a hiring manager for a writing position, I would place a high value on a consultant writer's experience.

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  1. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.


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