Technical Writing Then and Now

DQI Bureau
New Update

I never imagined myself as a technical writer if you ask me. I did not study

to become one, and certainly did not inherit it from my family. Of course, I had

little knowledge about the technical communication profession a few years ago.

About the time I graduated from college in 2001, the technical communication

field began gaining credibility in India, thanks to some laudable efforts from

professional bodies such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and

INTECOM. Opportunities for aspiring technical writers at that time were not



The Road Less Traveled

I clearly remember-my first call for an interview came after two months of

meeting with consultants, placing resumes on various job boards, and calling the

HR departments of various multinational companies. The adverse circumstances did

not leave me with many choices. My entry into becoming a technical communication

professional happened by chance. Who exactly was to be blamed for the

unfavorable conditions? It could have been the outsourcing bust that caught us

unaware or the lack of education, who knows. For most people, it was definitely

a road less traveled.

Six years later, things are looking much brighter and more promising.

Technical writers in India have benefited from the sudden outsourcing surge.

Many companies (especially those with products and services) are on a hiring

spree, which is improving the outlook of the profession. India is now home to

many technical writing activities-learning sessions and informal meetings in

almost every major city; mailing lists and special interest groups; ezines and

newsletters that display written talent; and annual conferences. This trend is

here to last provided products continue to be developed or maintained in India,

and we continue to learn, improve, and demonstrate our skills.

Changing Perspective

A technical communication job today is much more than just writing. Of

course, writing is only one of the common denominators. Many employers take it

for granted that a person can write. They are often more interested in your

technical skills, which will definitely help you secure the job, yet it is

writing that will help you excel at it.


We must constantly remind ourselves that technical writing jobs were not

created in India. To sustain these good times, we must try to predict the future

and the trends that shape it. It is a time for transformation!

Technical writing is not just about learning and writing

about new technologies, domains, product suites, and processes. It is how

you can set business direction, align and motivate others and deliver



Transformation of Writing as a Core Business Function: In many organizations

where technical writers are employed today, writing is seen as a strategic

business function. Making our presence felt requires that we must work harder

towards transforming the profession itself into a core business function. It is

our responsibility to educate product stakeholders about the importance of

hiring technical communicators. However, we are not at that point yet where we

can sit down with them and squeeze documentation into their final project plans.

Call for Leadership: In the context of reduced IT savings, organizations

everywhere are constantly looking at budgets, which are tightly coupled with

resources. The newfound mantra is to increase the profits with lesser work

force. This has a direct implication to our profession as well. We must

continually remind management about the value that we provide the company. How

can we possibly achieve this? For one, we need people with leadership

abilities-managers who do not have to wink at the very mention of costs, who can

create an effective business case and opportunities for technical communicators.

(I am not talking here of return on investments alone, but a person, similar to

a user advocate, who can demonstrate value.)

Does that mean writing is going to align itself with management in the

business? Well, I am convinced it will. You have already witnessed this trend in

the US, where most manufacturing and service-related jobs migrated to cheaper

locations, thus causing layoffs on the pretext of costs. US writers are

confident that technical communication jobs will return. Many of them are taking

on other professional roles as project managers, editors, and so on during this



Indulge in Technology, Innovation, and Business: The next best is to

understand where we are going as a profession. For this, indulge in technology,

innovation, and business. The first step is in being recognized as a part of the

development team. This requires you to be adept at technology. The second is to

make your presence felt on an organizational level, which requires innovation.

You have to make a parallel between a firm's revenue and your contribution to

it, which requires business skills. Try attending meetings with development

teams and help influence their decisions. You have to step out of your cubicles

and understand how the business works. In addition, we waste much of our time on

perishable skills, such as understanding the tools. Our focus should remain on

intellectual skills and how we can capitalize on that.

Time for Change

For those entering this profession, the groundwork has started for you. I am

wary of those who do not belong to the technical communication profession;

people who can be at a large disadvantage in the end. We need to carefully watch

where we go from here. Complacency can reverse the trends at any moment.

Technical writing is not just about learning and writing about new

technologies, domains, product suites, and processes. It is how you can set

business direction, align and motivate others and deliver results.


Rahul Prabhakar

The author is a technical communication professional with Samsung Electronics,
based in Seoul, South Korea