Best Christmas Gift I Received—Got Technical Writer Job After Two Months in California

It is interesting how a small step can lead one in a new direction—in this case, from public relations writer to technical writer and more!

When I moved to California from Boston, after only two months, I landed a technical writing and editing job—Christmas week!

I interviewed with a placement agency. Then I met the client—an environmental engineering consulting firm. Showing my writing samples impressed my interviewer, who was the hiring manager. She brightened up when I showed her a position paper I wrote—my closest sample of technical writing in my portfolio—which I wrote as a public relations writer at an insurance company on a technical issue. That position paper was the piece that convinced my hiring manager to hire me.

I worked there for six years writing and editing technical reports and proposals. In the last three years, I wrote only proposals—sometimes for two days straight (yes, 48 hours in the office). One time, ours and adjacent business buildings lost power so another technical writer and I spent the weekend putting together a proposal on laptops—without WIFI!

Another time, another technical writer had to get a proposal to Yucaipa, CAby 5 p.m.—more than 60 miles away! At 2 p.m., the courier says that he is leaving because he can not guarantee delivery to Yucaipaby 5 p.m. So the other technical writer and I grab the keys to a company car without signing out for it, get on the freeway, into the carpool lane going 20 mph, on a Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend! We get to Yucaipa at 4:50 p.m., which had few sidewalks or people, arrive at the client’s building, with an empty parking lot, and notice an employee going out the back door. We convince him to p-l-e-a-s-e just get the time stamp on the proposalbefore 5 p.m., which he did at seeing desperation across our faces.

Another time, just before I was laid off, I coordinated a team of engineers, scientists, planners, a graphics designer, a word processor together with the project manager to produce our first desktop-published proposal and our largest proposal ever from that office—the process took 14 straight days of 10- to 12-hour days.

So after that project and more than 200 fast-track proposals, Standard Forms (SF) 254/255, and statements of qualifications in the previous three years, plus numerous reports like feasibility studies—I was relieved to be laid off!

One day in the following week, I went to meet, get a photo with, and get a book autographed by, the author Dean Koontz—one of my favorite authors and a great way to start a week free of deadlines!

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Developing Intranet Site Navigation and Content

A technical writer coworker, Rose Pfeiffer, convinced our manager to let us replace a basic intranet site (black Times New Roman font on a white background)! The division, department, and other links all had the same hierarchy. So, she and I planned the navigation and the content, hired a graphic designer for graphic elements, and coordinated closely with IT.

What provoked this project was that there was no central resource for engineering documents—some were on one of two network drives, some were on the “Intranet” and were hard-to-find, and some were on CDs in an employee’s desk who was no longer working there! She and I obtained all of the source documents, and, going forward, put only PDFs on the Intranet. The Technical Publications group would own the current versions of documents and would put up content (single-sourcing)—ending the confusion and ensuring when a customer asked for current documents, everyone knew where to find them.

How I Went from Technical Writer to Marketing Writer

At a middleware company (between hardware and software), I was hired as a contract technical writer and hired on staff seven months later. Eventually, I was also asked to write technical content in marketing vehicles, like datasheets, newsletters, and brochures. I enjoyed both styles of writing: learning to write for multiple audiences learning how to use our products and the engineering code showing how our products are developed, plus writing to diverse audiences, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), why they should buy our products.

I found it interesting to learn how to “capture” the images of the products but also its features and benefits. I enjoyed using my creativity; for example, we usually had about five booths (at COMDEX) so I used Adobe PageMaker (now In Design) to design and write eight different demo instruction “cheat sheets” on launching the product(s), plus features and benefits for our products at all the booths, which would fold into 8ths’ on an 8-1/2” x 11” page to fit in a shirt pocket.

Welcome to My Blog!

January 31, 2011

I set this blog up last week after already having set up my website a few years ago. I appreciate Len Poche’s help , whom I know from the Orange Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and Experience Unlimited, Irvine (a nonprofit, no-fee job-search organization), where I volunteer as a Trainer.

Combining my technical, marketing, and public relations writing expertise with my website development, and training and university instruction background, my goals for this blog are to: help others in a discussion of our shared professions and share my job-searching experiences with others. I am conducting my own job search for staff, contracting, and free-lance opportunities using one or more of my skill sets mentioned above. I have worked on-staff and as a contractor and a free-lancer.

Anyone who knows me, knows I like helping people, and can especially focus quickly on the resources appropriate for the job searches of a diversity of professionals, from the business to the nonprofit and government sectors and from entry- and C-level management to technical staff, but also if they’re in discovery phase. I’ve also taught many on “How to Apply for Federal Jobs”, which I’ve converted to a PDF, and about how, currently, the nonprofit sector is outdistancing the business sector with job openings.

I’ll also be developing a Twitter account, later this week, after reading a book, “How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Other Social Networks”.

Here’s a link back to my website:, plus a link to my LinkedIn Profile:

I welcome blogs you want to suggest, especially if they are by and about job-searchers. Please feel free to leave comments on this post and let me know if I can help you.

Hello world!

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