Perspicacious Priyadarshi

Thoughts, Observations, Interpretations

4 years ago…

I was posted in Australia, working for the Office of State Revenue under the New South Wales Treasury Department as a Technical Writer. I worked for a couple of projects preparing various software development project documentation. It was during that time Express Computer, a premier technology publication from the house of Indian Express carried a feature with my inputs and quotes  on how the profession of Technical Writing was very much in demand in India. Here’s it:

Demand for tech writers rising Punita Jasrotia/New Delhi

They are the people who turn the complexities of the computer into simplicities on paper. And spurred by growing demand, the tribe of the scribe is increasing.

Technical writers are essential elements of a software development team project. And with the increase in outsourcing work to India, there has been a lot of movement in the technical writers’ space. Recognising the talent and realising the cost-effectiveness of India’s technical writers, many global companies have started outsourcing their work to Indian shores, and many more are planning to set up technical writer teams in India.

Most MNC software giants who have development centres in India now want Indian writers to do the documentation work for their global clients. Since technical writing was traditionally managed by the MNC, this goes to show the importance—in terms of writing and delivery—that Indian technical communicators have gained.Apart from having clients across the globe, MNC software companies also have a number of Indian clients, so it makes sense for them to have a technical writing team in India, which can develop documentation for both Indian as well as global clients. Another advantage is that writers here can interact directly with Indian clients. Besides MNCs, there are Indian companies with development bases outside India, who employ tech writers from India. There are also Indian freelancers, operating from India, who are working for clients outside India. “IT companies, big and small, Indian and transnational, are recruiting tech writers/communicators, instructional designers, documentation specialists, etc,” says Priyadarshi Tripathy, a consultant with HCL Infosystems, who is currently working on a project for a client in Sydney, Australia.

Foreign demand

Strengthening this trend is an increasing demand for Indian technical writers to work abroad on different assignments. Considering that the job profile of a technical communicator is to provide good quality project documentation, which is seen as being as crucial as the solution itself, it becomes imperative to ensure better communication between the writers and the client. Explains Mita Ray Brahma, who heads corporate HRD at Nucleus Software Exports, “In most cases customer requirements are not frozen at the beginning; instead, they keep changing till the implementation/deployment stage. Any change in the software solution must get reflected in the supportive documents. Close interaction between the documentation team and the development team provides quality documentation for the solution.” While the onsite work proves beneficial to the client, it also helps improve the career prospects of a technical writer since it adds to his credentials. Not only does he get exposure to client environments, he also benefits through client interactions. Says Frederick Menezes, a former president of the India chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and senior technical writer with Pune-based Veritas Software, “For most of us in India, travel to foreign lands is always an incentive. Working with foreigners and in different cultures is always an enriching experience.” In some cases, clients ask technical writers to work onsite as they could be looking for solutions more customised to their work cultures. This can mean additional cost for the company or the client. However, companies are of the opinion that the sensitivity and criticality of the project overrides the cost factor. “It may be more cost-effective if we have an onsite development team and an offsite documentation team. However, the cost of incorrect documentation could be much higher than what we save by keeping an offsite documentation team,” Brahma points out. Skills required

In terms of skill sets, the preference is for individuals who have worked with similar domains and technologies as it helps secure an easy fit with the organisation, and causes fewer hiccups in terms of implementation. Training in cross-cultural issues is also suggested for people going to client sites. Says Tripathy, “Apart from basic requisites like strong communication skills, both written and verbal, one criterion would be to understand the intricacies of writing for an international audience. A tech writer is required to possess the ability to understand technology and convey it to the audience in the most appropriate manner. Plus there are specific requirements such as an understanding of programming languages like Java and C++, or applications like SAP and Oracle Finance.” Training may also be required for certain project-specific applications or technologies. For example, if a networking company has taken on a tech writer, training can be given to the writer on basic networking concepts, along with information about the product that the writer will be writing on.

What is significant in all this is the demand graph, which is expected only to rise, thanks to the increasing number of organisations doing outsourced/contractual documentation for clients. What companies need to do now is pay attention to the nurturing of good technical writers; it requires a special combination of skills and attitudes to succeed in this profession, and companies must do all they can to help.

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