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Career Connections: Technical Writer

6 minutes

(Describer) Beside four different-size different-color circles connected by lines, titles: Career Connections – Technical Writer.

My name is Kelly Metcalf. I'm a project manager and technical writer at O'Neil and Associates. We do product support-- repair, diagnosis, operation, training. Any process that a company feels they need to communicate to their customers or their employees, that's where we become involved. I author various types of instructions for any original equipment manufacturer, O.E.M.'s. I'll interface with the client, see what their needs are, and then we author the corresponding instructions. We've authored everything from a blender to a military vehicle. We're trying to provide a satisfying experience for the end user that enables them to quickly and efficiently repair the equipment they're working on. There is a very enjoyable aspect to this job, where you're constantly-- bleeding-edge technology. You're learning about new equipment that many people don't even know exists. We service both the defense and commercial industries, and one rewarding aspect of servicing those industries is getting feedback that the instructions that you wrote helped someone that may be in a war-torn country who's in dire need of fixing their vehicle and getting back to safety. Or when you hear from a manufacturing plant that's losing money for every second that their equipment is down, and you helped get that equipment back up and running. We'll receive raw engineering data. We will thoroughly evaluate that data and identify what's pertinent to the end user and make that information easy to read and easy to use. Our workshop enables us to have the customer also provide the equipment. We actually physically tear down, which ensures the accuracy of the content. Physically doing a task, as opposed to simulating it, ensures that we author accurate instructions. It's a procedure we call "validation and verification."

(Describer) In the workshop, he takes photos of a machine and works at a laptop.

It's the same torque, isn't it? Between the MH50 and the-- As project manager, I'm also responsible for identifying the scope of projects, developing plans and schedules, meeting deadlines. But there will be three ongoing panel reviews.

(Describer) He speaks in a meeting.

They'll be kind of milestone-based. I also have a team of four technical writers. I'm responsible for their training and making sure they're the best they can be. There are technical writing certifications and degrees, but it's very hard to supplement hands-on experience and specialized skill trade training. What is easier to train in is grammar and writing style. So we look for someone that has that hands-on experience, and we train them on the writing aspect. My family owned what was probably the largest dump trucking company in the Dayton metro area. At a young age, I was involved in that business, and not only did it pique my interest in transportation and internal combustion engines, it also gave me insight into the employee-employer dynamic and how people can work together and accomplish goals. I loved creative writing and math, so this field suited what I was interested in in high school. I graduated high school and entered the workforce. Being from a family-owned business that was in the transportation industry, the transition was easy. I've received certifications in diesel repair and diagnosis, HVAC systems. These classes were put on by truck manufacturers and paid for by my employers. I was a diesel tech for eight years. So I was looking for work that was more challenging, but also less physically demanding. I saw a posting for a technical writing job that required experience in diesel engine diagnosis, but also required strong computer skills. These were areas I was strong in, and it was a perfect fit for me. What I enjoy about this job is that there aren't many "typical" days. Most days, I'll meet early in the morning with my team to plan the day. Then I'll review our project plan and schedule, make sure that we're on task. Then I'll be in our workshop tearing down equipment and pitching in on the authoring aspect. Good communication skills are key, but if you like to learn how things work, this work's ideal for you. When I was a diesel technician, one frustrating aspect was I felt there was a low ceiling. The work was redundant. I was doing the same tasks repeatedly. Now, getting out of bed is easy. There's always a new challenge, and if I rise to it, I'll be rewarded here and know I accomplished something and take pride in that work.

(Describer) Titles: For more information, visit OhioMeansJobs.com. CET, Think TV, Public Media Connect. Copyright 2015. Funding to purchase and make this educational program accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Department of Education by telephone at 1-800-USA-LEARN, or online at www.ed.gov.

Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

PH:1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB: www.ed.gov.

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Listen to a technical writer describe how his background as a diesel engine technician evolved into his current job. As a writer and project manager for a product support documentation company, he authors manuals for equipment manufacturing. Part of the "Career Connections" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Career Connections
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 3
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 4
5 minutes
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Career Connections
Episode 5
5 minutes
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Career Connections
Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Career Connections
Episode 8
7 minutes
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Career Connections
Episode 9
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Career Connections
Episode 10
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