In our last blog post, which you can find here: https://www.stvy.fi/2020/10/01/palkkatutkimus-2020-jotain-uutta-jotain-vanhaa/, we discovered that nearly everything is business as usual in Finnish technical communication. One thing has changed, however: we finally have some newcomers to the field.
Today, we’ll talk to one of them – Johanna Vanhatapio – about what it was like to start working as a technical writer in the middle of a pandemic.
Johanna’s educational background is the same as for most Finnish tech writers: she has an MA in English, with minors in technical communication, linguistics, and psychology. She is also a qualified English teacher. So how did she end up working in tech comms?
Johanna: When I first saw the job ad for a Documentation Engineer, I thought they would be looking for someone with a degree in science, perhaps software engineering. After some encouragement from a tech writing friend, I decided to apply anyway. A few days later, I got a phone call which turned into an interview.
The recruitment process turned out to be pretty intensive, with the initial interview followed by a technical task and further interviews. In the end, Johanna received a job offer which she accepted, and has now been with the company for about 10 months.
Johanna’s job entails updating the user guides of the company’s software products, in addition to creating tutorial videos. Did the job ad match the contents of the job?
Johanna: The ad didn’t really discuss the job in detail, but it did mention that excellent English skills would be needed, along with some technical skills. So yes, I suppose the job ad did describe the job accurately.
How about those technical skills?
Johanna: I have done some very basic level courses in computer science and have a general interest in information technology. For my job description, it would been good to know more about 3D graphics tools such as Blender and Maya. During the past months I have spent quite a lot of time learning about 3D graphics, which I find rather interesting. There is a learning curve of course, it’s challenging – but I learn new things everyday, and so far it’s been manageable.
Like most tech writers, Johanna’s working community is both multidisciplinary and international. She works with software engineers, graphics designers, UX designers, and other tech writers. Has this been easy or difficult in an online setup?
Johanna: I don’t think working from home has caused any major problems. Having good communications skills is especially important these days to ensure smooth collaboration with your colleagues. Teamwork and intercultural skills are also very important. And you need to be mindful of the time differences! Otherwise you could end up working really weird hours.
So any tips or hints for anyone looking for a career in tech comms?
Johanna: When you apply for a job in a new field where you have no prior experience, I think it’s useful to stress that you’re a quick learner and not afraid to take on a challenge. It’s also good if you can give an example of a situation where you successfully learned a new skill. You can also focus on the more general working life skills, such as your social skills, how easily you adapt to various new working environments or situations — recruiters are always looking for people who will get on with their colleagues and are pleasant to work with. Do your research on the company – what are their key values, for example? Don’t be afraid to market yourself, spelling out why they should hire you.
That’s a challenge right there: first knowing exactly what your key skills are and then being able to voice them to the recruiters!