Originally Published: Sunday, 23 July 2000 Author: Melanie Burrett
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_profiles/Job Profiles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Tech writer down under

Jenn Vesperman has been working as Netizen's chief (well, only) technical writer since January of this year. Jenn got her current job because she had met a few people from Netizen socially, as well as on mailing lists. Networking is a good thing.

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Jenn Vesperman has been working as Netizen's chief (well, only) technical writer since January of this year. Jenn got her current job because she had met a few people from Netizen socially, as well as on mailing lists. Networking is a good thing.

Her tasks include writing the sysadmin and developer's bible for the company, product documentation, workbooks for the training courses, trainer's guides, and information for marketing. She also maintains and produces document-generation tools.

Netizen is a company run out of Melbourne, Australia. I think that the dress code is worth a thousand words, never mind a picture; "we expect you to use common sense and wear something appropriate when meeting clients. In the office, all we ask is that you cover those parts of you which modesty (and indecency laws) dictate, and that you don't expose us to liability by wearing anything that's offensive to others or which causes workplace safety issues. In other words, this is pretty much a t-shirt zone. Brightly coloured and interestingly shaved hairstyles are also common."

The company has a fairly wide range of 'specialties', from corporate web development and training to consulting and support contracts for Linux, BSD, and open source software. Public training is also a large part of what they do. If there is room left over in a course spaces are given to people who are involved with non-profit companies at an extemely reduced fee (ie. money for the course manual, and you buy the textbook yourself).

Linux is used for pretty much everything in the office, including the machine that Jenn works on. It seems that Debian is the version-of-choice. A few of the other machines are OpenBSD, and the accounting is done, as Jenn says, on "Certain Proprietary Systems", but we won't get into that, shall we? At home she has a dual boot system. Unfortunately, her favourite games haven't been ported to Linux yet.

What makes Netizen so good to work for is the fact that their relaxed attitude also extends to how, and when, people show up for work. This makes life a little bit easier for Jenn, as she has CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or otherwise known as CFIDS here on the other side of the world). This means that sometimes she has to work slowly and take a lot of rest breaks. As it says under the jobs page: "You should be able to spend approximately half your working hours at our office, or at least enough to keep in touch with other Netizens, but other than that we're pretty happy for you to work when and where you like." Jenn describes the work atmosphere as friendly, supportive, and trusting.

L.C: "What's the worst part of your job?" Jenn: "Tedious-but-necessary documents, like producing a test plan."

L.C:"What's the coolest thing you've gotten to do on this job?" Jenn: "I've only had it for a few months. I'm enjoying writing the training course I'm doing right now -indoctrinating the next generation of programmers into Doing It Well Dammit! (or at least knowing what rules to break)"

So, what everyone is asking is; how DO you get a job as a tech writer? Well, Jenn started off on a good footing with an (almost completed) degree in Informatics from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. (I've also included some links at the end of the article. If you have any others which might be useful, please post them as messages down below...)

Jenn suggests that you learn how to program. Don't worry if you will never be a whiz at it. The point is understanding what you will be writing about. She, herself, knows C, SQL, Miranda, Prolog, and Modula-2. She is currently learning C++, Perl, Python, and likely Scheme so she can edit docbook stylesheets.

She suggests also that you write constantly, and learn how to edit yourself so you sound good. Take writing courses from trained professionals. Get out there and write for Open Source software. You'll get good experience and a place where you can point potential employers to for examples of your work.

Jenn Vesperman jenn@simegen.com www.simegen.com/~jenn

Some useful links: Linuxchix - Where to go for interesting discussions and non-agressive advice. Also good for networking.

Society for Technical Communication -Technical writers, translators, web/intranet page designers, et al.

Techwr-l -Discussion list and online magazine. Best thing is, it's free!

Inkspot Writers Write - Both of these are more general, but good references.

Open Source writing links: Open Source Writers Group The Linux Documentation Project





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