I hope you enjoyed my last post and it gave you enough of a background towards my purpose for this blog. Continuing on from last week, I have conducted one interview with a local writer in Tucson. I interviewed Mr. Ed Hackett, a free-lance commercial writer with a background in technical writing and other general editing and writing. Mr. Hackett has about twenty years experience in the field. He graduated from The University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in English, specializing in composition and rhetoric. Mr. Hackett has been extremely helpful and gave me a lot of great advice and personal feedback on this career industry and how it functions. I am excited to share the interview and the information I learned from Mr. Hackett, I have also put in red some quotes from Mr. Hackett that I found inspiring.
To begin our interview, I wanted to get more background information on Mr. Hackett, especially what made him want to enter this field:
Question: When you were in school, did you ever think about technical writing as a career or background?
Answer: Mr. Hackett explained that his career in writing was always his original plan, hence his major being English. He originally started the University of Arizona as an engineering major and found his weakness in math, so that was not going to work out. He decided to pursue English because he loved writing and then figured later that technical writing is able to combine his love for both English and Engineering. Mr. Hackett also loves learning “new stuff”. He explained that as a writer, whether it is technical, business or free-lancer, in order to write well you have to read and learn about your topic.
My next question led into an informative and interesting conversation with Mr. Hackett:
Question: For a recent college graduate or any individual, how would you approach entering this field?
Answer: Mr. Hackett stressed the importance of making a portfolio. He stated, any kind of portfolio, experience you could show that demonstrates you can taking anything that is confusing and you can clarify to weed out extra stuff and bring it down to its core elements is a key thing. He stated something that stuck with me, “Technical Writing means you are writing at a 6th grade reading level, the language isn’t challenging it is more of an organization thing.”
Out of college, Hackett interned for a software company as a technical writer; he thinks this internship helped tremendously. He stated that the market is pretty tough right now but companies will give opportunities to students because it gives the company a chance to see if that is what they are looking for. This will also benefit graduates in that they are able to get some work experience. His internship lasted six months before he was hired since his company was growing. Besides the fact that his internship and experience started twenty years ago, there is still some hope!
My next question was directed at finding a common issue and/or obstacle that is faced with entering the writing world:
Question: What is a common issue/obstacle faced with entering the writing field?
Answer: Hackett explained that with Technical Writing, it depends on the industry you decide to work with. If you are working in a consumer software industry, everything is due last week. He explained in more detail that when it takes two weeks to print a book, you can have 10,000 CDs in two days but the book has already been finished. Even though the software isn’t finished the book has to be. Granted time issues and keeping up with information has become easier because of online documentation and technology.
I decided to take the questions in a different direction and focus on what happens when you finally enter the field:
Question: Do you have to do a lot of work on your own to get your name?
Answer: Hackett explained that depending on the industry, most of the time, your name might not even appear on your documentation. Technical Writers are able to get certified in different applications and software that could help them become more credible. Many things you can do on your own, that will cost you money such as classes and certifications, will later help you get better jobs.
Hackett also explained how entering this field means a lot of work and a small amount of luck. There are all kinds of different things out there but most of that is going to depend on your “hustle.” As a free lancer, the amount of work he gets is absolutely dependent to the amount of work of adversitising, selling, etc.
I finished up the interview asking Hackett if he has any advice for any person attempting to enter this field and he said: don’t forget you have a life. His first job meant 80-90 hour weeks as a salary employee and he was defiantly not getting paid enough for how much he was working. He ended our conversation by stating, “you’re the master of your own destiny, make room for you in your life.”
I just want to thank Mr. Hackett for taking the time to speak with me and giving me his honest opinion on these answers. I learned a great deal from him and now feel more confident about my knowledge within this field. In summary, I think what got across as the most important to me was that you have to go as far as you want to, this is not a field where you just magically work your way up, you have to prove yourself and make yourself known.