Are you thinking of becoming a tech writer? Yeah, this job has a lot of advantages and positive challenges! 💪🏼 However, when considering a career switch, you should also take a look at some drawbacks of a given job. In this article, I’ll try to be as objective as possible and walk you through all the pros and cons of being a technical writer.
Pros of being a tech writer
Let’s start with the positive aspects of this job. Please remember that though I try to be objective, all the advantages below are based on my personal experience. A lot depends on the company you work for and other factors.
International work environment
Many software companies operate globally. That’s why when working as a technical writer for such a company, you have plenty of opportunities to:
- Meet people from around the world.
- Learn about different cultures.
- Travel abroad.
- Practice foreign languages.
All that can enormously broaden your horizons. However, when you consider this career, ask yourself the question of whether you feel good in such an environment. I must admit that I love it. Though it may sometimes be a bit stressful (I’ll never forget my first business trip alone by plane 😅), all my best memories are related to traveling abroad or communicating with coworkers from different counties.
Working in IT
I think it’s fair to say that the IT world is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting industries you can work for. That’s why it provides the opportunity of a stable employment. The demand for people in this industry is huge and still growing.
What’s also related to this advantage is the topic of finances. Although more and more people consider a career in IT, let’s be honest – not all people have the right skills and interests to do jobs related to technology. That’s why the demand for the right people will be still pretty high in the future, which creates a solid ground for salary negotiations.
Working in scrum
Scrum makes your daily work well-organized and predictable. If the company has successfully implemented agile or scrum methodologies, the teams work smoothly and everyone knows what to do and how to plan their tasks.
Possibility of remote or hybrid work
Especially after the pandemic, a lot of companies have opened up for the possibility of a hybrid or remote work. For me, this is a huge advantage, because I’m living on the outskirts of a city and communicating had always been a nightmare for me. Now it feels great that I can work from anywhere I want 😊.
There’s a widespread opinion that people in IT are withdrawn, introverted, and generally nerds. That’s all just a stereotype. I’ve worked in three industries so far – BPO, marketing, and IT – and in my opinion, the ratio of introverted and extroverted people in IT is just the same as everywhere else. As for nerds… they are the most interesting people of all! Especially, if you’re also a nerd 🤓 😆.
There’s one thing you can be always sure of in the world of IT – it is a constant and inevitable change. Sure, it can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. It’s somehow a part of human nature that we aren’t fond of changes. However, I think that this is one of the most exciting things about IT. Everything we – people who work in IT – do, contributes to these changes, so it’s crucial that you are eager to embrace them.
Sounds exciting? It is, but don’t be surprised when you read below about this aspect as a disadvantage. It’s just important to be aware of how one thing can have a positive as well as a negative influence on your daily work.
It’s fair to say that there are not many technical writers on the job market. Especially the good ones. Why is that? I think it’s because this job requires a rare combination of soft and hard skills. If you’re a developer, people can forgive you if you’re a little bit shy or withdrawn. For technical writers, however, being able to communicate in an efficient way is an extremely important part of their job. As for the hard skills, tech writers must also have an unusual mix of language and technical skills, which not very often goes together.
Cons of being a tech writer
Similarly to advantages, please bear in mind that all these disadvantages below are based on my personal experience.
I also want to stress that the situations I describe in this section may or may not occur and some of them are purely hypothetical. Moreover, remember that they don’t result from anyone’s bad intentions and for most of them the best remedy is patience and good attitute.
While it can be exciting to work in a dynamically changing environment, it also poses some challenges. If a product is developed incrementaly, it can be updated all the time, which means that you will have to update the documentation accordingly. It’s not uncommon that you write something one day and a couple of days later you have to update it.
Changes that you have to get used to may also be related to software that you use in your daily work, the company’s structure and hierarchy, and so on. Basically, if you don’t like changes, this job might be difficult for you.
The position of tech writers
Tech writers’ function in a team is not as obvious as developers, testers, scrum masters, or product owners/managers. That’s why it might happen that your colleagues don’t clearly understand your role or sometimes that your role is underappreciated. This can result in situations, for example, when people forget to invite you to a meeting or include you in an information loop. Basically, all this means that you have to somehow build your strong position and be watchful for problems that might result from underestimating your function.
Asking more than twice
Because IT industry is a very hectic world, your coworkers might often have plenty of tasks on their plates. In many cases, issues related to documentation are often pushed down the priority list. For you, on the other hand, some tasks might be pretty high in your backlog, but completing them requires some input from your coworkers. This can result in situations when you have to ask someone for something not once or twice, but many times 😅. Don’t be discouraged, just be patient 😇.
One tech writer for many teams
There’s a reason why recruiters write in job offers “good at multitasking and prioritizing”. In many companies one tech writer is assigned to a couple of agile teams or a team of tech writers documents for all teams. In both these setups, you have to be well-organized and agile. Let’s be honest: it might be a bit stressful, especially if every team develops a different product.
Additionally, this may cause some problems with a sense of belonging to a team. I sometimes say that being in every team means that you are actually in none of them. Although there are some advantages (for example, participating in many social binding activities 😅 🍽), it may be difficult especially for people who are used to being a part of a team. Of course, I want to stress once more, that it all depends on the company you work for and in many cases, this might not be a problem at all.
Struggle with shyness
Being a tech writer requires communicating with many people on a daily basis. If you are a shy person (like me), working in this job might come with a constant battle with your shyness and introvertism. However, if you’re ready to learn to be more open and less shy, this might be a great opportunity for your personal growth.
Working under time pressure
Software releases are often very stressful. On a release day, the Murphy’s law that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” is frequently true. This means that you, as a tech writer, might sometimes need to work under time pressure and prioritize your tasks so that the most important goals are achieved.
“It just doesn’t work”
Documenting software, especially in an agile environment, means that you have to work with products that are not yet finished. This means that, for example, there might be plenty of bugs or you have to do some additional things to even use this software before the official release. Sometimes things just don’t work and you have to ask for someone’s help. Remember that there’s nothing wrong in asking for help and it doesn’t mean that you are stupid or something. Quite on the contrary, if something doesn’t work for you, this might mean that you’ve come across a bug that has to be reported and fixed.
Not obvious career path
Some people treat tech writing or testing as a back door to becoming a developer. I’ll be honest with you: usually there are no shortcuts. Programming is not a piece of cake and you can’t learn it without an enormous amount of learning and hard work. However, if you want to become a tester, especially a manual tester, tech writing can be a good place to start.
Ready to become a tech writer?
Are you ready to become a tech writer after reading this article? Great! Now read about the steps that you can take to embark on this exciting journey.
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