Work update

Sun Nov 1, 2015

I blog about work very sparely, and I think most people would agree that saying too much can lead into dangerous territory. So, I tend to avoid it unless I have something general to say that doesn’t touch on any work projects. But I would be remiss in my blogging duties not to mention that I have a new job.

I started working as a technical writer at Vtech seven years ago - here’s a post I wrote when I first got the job, and another I wrote about a month in.

Vtech has been very good to me and the people there are great, but last month the time came for me to move on. I worked on some great projects and enjoyed becoming a somewhat accomplished User Interface designer. My last project was a touchscreen phone which I designed from scratch - largely on my own. Now that I’m no longer working there, perhaps I’ll write a post sometime about it.

Anyway, wanting to work closer to home, and learn some new skills, I accepted a job as the sole technical writer at Kongsberg Mesotech. They’re a subsidiary of Kongsberg, a major defence contractor for Norway and a high-tech company with a 200-year old history. I had to go through security clearance and sign an NDA, so I definitely won’t be talking about their projects here either, but I can say that I’m working primarily with underwater sonar systems.

I’m really liking it. The commute is a dream compared to the absolute grind I had before. And I still get to go on my thrice-weekly runs - this time off-street on the portion of the Trans-Canada Trail that runs through Port Coquitlam.

When I started at Vtech, they’d never had a technical writer before, so it took a while to integrate myself into the product development cycle. My new company has also never had a technical writer before, but this time, I come armed with lots of experience and confidence (cause y’all know I’m a good writer, right? RIGHT?).

The senior information developer in Norway has been very supportive and indeed, the documentation team has a ton of resources, such as style guides, templates, etc. I especially appreciate the international support here because I got absolutely no support from the Hong Kong documentation team at Vtech (that isn’t good or bad - it’s just the way it was - hence the pleasant surprise).

In fact, I will be flying to Norway for a two-week training session before the end of the year. It will be hard to be away from my family for so long, but am happy to be making face-to-face contact with the Norway team and learning valuable skills to boot.

What skills though? This might get a bit technical, so if you’re not a fellow technical writer, you can probably stop reading.

I’ll be migrating all legacy documentation to single-sourced structured DITA authoring. The XML editor I’ll be using is Arbortext. I don’t have much practical experience with DITA. Although, DITA was so hot in the technical writer world a few years back, so I did research into implementing it at Vtech. Ultimately, I decided the time investment and practical application wasn’t worth it. This time, I hope things go better - and I will have more training and support of course.

Interestingly, Kongsberg uses the Simplified Technical English (STE) standard from the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD). I have to say though, that their guidelines do not bleed over at all into user interface design because their website is absolutely horrid.

So, a steep learning curve, but lots of structure in place, which is fantastic. Additional areas I could push for training is photography and 3D modelling because the resources for manual illustrations aren’t so great. But I have enough on my plate for now - and that’s all you could ask for in your job, really - to be happily occupied. I do love my job and sometimes a change is just what you need to re-energize your career.

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