My Technical Writing Journey (Part 3)

Thanks for reading along. If you’re just joining, you’ll want to check out Part 1 and Part 2. When we left off with Part 2, I was about to begin my new job. Since I still work there, and everyone knows I love my job, I guess that spoils the ending of this post, right? 

On October 6, 2008, I started my job as a bright-eyed 22 year old (I turned 23 two days after starting the job and was thrilled that I got a birthday lunch from my department!). I knew from my job interview that this job and this company were both different from my previous one, but I was still a little skeptical of the work I was doing. I felt like I had to prove myself once again, and I was super paranoid and nervous.

Within the first few weeks of work, I was happy. I worked from 8:00 to 4:30 each day and I could go out for lunch if I wanted or eat at my desk. While some of my coworkers at my last job prided themselves on working through lunch every. single. day., my new coworkers and managers encouraged people to take breaks. People were super nice :).

We're techies- we're entitled to be a little weird.

In the first six months of work, I made a lot of friends. I went on a business trip to Virginia and met my amazing coworker, Carol, who I affectionately call my work mommy. Instead of being thrown into a job I didn’t half know how to do, she and my other coworkers trained me pretty well.

Carol also helped me pick a name for this bear. Yep, I made a Build-a-Bear on a business trip :).

In just a few months, I could use all of the software products I wrote for as well as several other tools- and best of all, my coworkers were super nice when I had questions. Being a newbie and naturally inquisitive, I had plenty… 

I also loved what I was doing each day. Okay, so I was writing procedures- but these procedures were helping churches, schools, and non-profit organizations manage data and volunteers, budget for expenses, coordinate events and volunteers, and pay employees. My writing was helping churches and non-profits save time- time they could spend on furthering their ministries or outreach goals.

That felt awesome. Three and a half years later, it still feels awesome.

With that said, here’s what I actually do.

I document enhancement tickets. When something changes in the software, procedures have to change too. Enhancements, or changes to the software, come from client suggestions (they use the software every day, so they usually have ideas on how to make it better), government changes (such as updated tax rates and regulations), and technology changes (updated versions of Windows or software development platforms).

For example, I spent lots of time last year writing instructions to electronically file government tax forms straight from our software, using the data tracked in the software.

I attend meetings– sometimes *lots* of meetings. I write for financial accounting software, and my product’s team meets every morning to discuss what we did the day before, what we plan to do that day, and any obstacles in our way. We also meet weekly to discuss upcoming changes to the software or to government regulations (since I work on financial software, we have to conform to IRS regulations and Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures).

I haven’t been attending as many meetings lately, and it’s nice to have a break, but sometimes the meetings make you feel like a valued team member, and I like that.

I write articles. My department overseas a monthly client newsletter that offers technology tips for the churches, schools, and non-profit organizations we serve, and I occasionally write articles for it. I also edit the newsletter every month and proof it, which involves testing links and making sure everything displays correctly.

I edit. My company has eight technical writers, but no shortage of work. With so many writers producing content, we like to make sure someone else reads and edits it before it goes live to clients, to ensure it’s free of grammatical and sentence-level mistakes. We also have dedicated quality assurance testers who proofread the help to make sure it’s consistent and correct with our products.

I research. Sometimes I read technical writing blogs, websites, and newsletters to learn about what others writers do and think about if we can incorporate their ideas into what we do. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.

I keep up with technology. Working at a software company, you have to be pretty cutting-edge. Software companies almost have to predict what will solve clients’ problems, because employees have to program, test, document, script, and release these features for download so clients have a solution when they even realize there’s an issue.

I study people. Everyone uses software a little differently. It’s sort of like training for a 5K. You have people who can just up and run a 5K whenever, you have those who follow a training plan such as Couch to 5K, and some just walk the 5K and enjoy the scenery and the cause. I bet if you surveyed everyone at a 5K finish line, no two finishers would have the exact same mileage, days off, days running, and cross training- but they all accomplished the same goal, finishing a 5K.

Some tasks are “tried and true”- but we have to figure out which are. It’s interesting to visit churches, schools, and organizations and see how they use our products to meet their needs, but it also helps me decide how to best write information that will be useful to them.

Technical writing definitely wasn’t my first choice career- honestly, writing instruction manuals was pretty low on the totem pole as far as things I aspired to do with my life. After all, I had big dreams of working in the medical field, and we all know how that turned out.

I truly believe God places us where we need to be, where we can best use our talents, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to do what makes us happy for a living. In that sense, I’m *very* lucky. I’m sure the lady who packaged my grocery store cupcake last week never wrote “What I want to do when I grow up” essays about working at Harris Teeter, but her smile showed genuine love for what she does, whether it’s being surrounded by baked goods, having amazing coworkers, or working for a company with good benefits.

ACS Runners Celebrating!

I think everyone’s job satisfaction and purpose in the working world goes far beyond a nameplate, corner office, or job title- it’s something deeper- more than the money you can earn from a degree, a job’s prestige, or going into a field because your parents want you to.

And, I’m thankful every day that I’m able to do what I love and love what I do as a technical writer here at ACS Technologies.

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5 Responses to My Technical Writing Journey (Part 3)

  1. Rebecca says:

    Hey, Amy! 🙂

    I’ve been reading your series on Technical Writing! It’s been emotional, sentimental, entertaining, and a deeper look into how you got into the field and how it’s become one of your biggest passions! You’ve met a lot of great people through this career, and I’m very happy for you.

    Plus, reading these 3-part posts has given me some hope, because I’m still deciding what to do with my life. And I’m not really sure if I chose the right major, because a lot of the “English degree” careers out there that I’ve researched are things that I’m not sure I would be passionate in. Either that, OR nothing is open right now, which makes it frustrating. But someday I hope to have a story like yours… well, except that I want my own happenings in my own story. But I mean, succeeding very well. 🙂

    I guess I’m still wondering WHAT my purpose really is?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Becca!

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure what I’d be passionate about either. I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but each time, I figured out that God had other plans for me. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go for something and hope it works out but know that you’ll be okay in the end if it doesn’t- like the saying goes, leap and the net will appear.

      The week before college graduation, I remember being super worried and talking to someone about it, who told me that good and bad things would happen, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world- I’d get through them all. I believed the person, but still worried- but I was 21, pretty sheltered, and hadn’t been through a lot in life to *know* that that’s the truth. I certainly believe it a lot more 5 years later.

  2. I’m so glad your career journey has a happy ending! I really like what you said about God putting us exactly where we need to be–as a kid, I had so many different ideas about what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I really believe that the job path I’m on now is the right one. Of course, I have no idea the exact direction it will take me, but I’m really excited to see what happens after graduation. It’s kinda scary, but I’m already ready to be out in the working world as a ‘real’ adult!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Enjoy college while you’re there though! I made so many amazing memories in college. I love working in my field, but you have forever to work, college is only a few short years (well, hopefully, some people make college their career, lol).

      I loved college- it truly was some of the best years of my life- but I wouldn’t want to go back because I’d miss having the money and freedom I have now. With that said, I love looking back on the good times, looking at old pictures, and spending time with college friends. The friends I made in college really are my lifelong friends.

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