Software dev veterans give advice at Networking with the Pros | Technical Communication
April 19, 2018

Software dev veterans give advice at Networking with the Pros

By Bailey Herring

Technical writers are employed in a variety of environments, but a majority find work in software development.

These writers need an in-depth understanding of the product they're working on, as well as the ability to communicate nuances and complex details to important stakeholders. Skills like these make these writers an asset to their workplace, and as such they are often the highest paid technical writers.

As a student, landing a position like this can feel faraway and unreachable. At the ETC's Networking with the Pros event on March 29, two industry veterans gave students advice on how to close the distance.

Marshall Culpepper, CEO and co-founder of Kubos and 20-year veteran of Mozilla, says a good technical writer in a software setting is indistinguishable from a quality assurance engineer. On his teams, Culpepper makes sure his technical writers stay informed by keeping them as close to the development process as possible

"The more you understand about a product, the better you can write about it," Culpepper said.

When looking to hire writers for software development, Culpepper's top priority in a candidate is experience. As such, he recommends students new to computer programming look into online coding resources to get some hands-on exposure.

For more experienced students, Culpepper told students to join development communities like TechMill Denton, or other local software development communities, as well as open-source projects.

"Don't be afraid; just get your hands on something. Whatever your end goal is, start now," Culpepper said.

The event's other speaker was Bryan Jones, a web developer and user experience (UX) designer for Santander Consumer USA. Jones obtained his master's degree in technical communication from Texas Tech University, and with Santander he transitioned from technical communication to UX.

In Jones' position, knowledge of the technology is highly valuable. Since he works alongside the marketing department, Jones' intimate understanding of Santander Consumer's products is crucial in communicating the right message.

For the tech comm student interested in working on or alongside a software development team, Jones urged students to take advantage of everything they can. He recalls taking as many classes as he could, and going to events like hackathons whenever he could.

"Don't hesitate, especially when it comes to your degree plan," Jones said.

For students who wish to take their technical communication careers in this direction, both men agree that there is no time like the present to get started.