Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What is Your Background?

This is a question that I get asked a lot in my line of work. I’m a contractor at a DoD site that provides IT and Security training/education to the government and military. The majority of people have a laundry list of experience that range from military IT work to the Pentagon. Then there’s me. I’m the technical editor/writer; I make sure that all documents are edited for content and I also work with the Subject Matter Experts to write reports and articles.

My background to back all this up? Well I have an undergrad degree in Anthropology and am working on my Master’s in Geospatial Science. My technical background is in web design, programming, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At my previous jobs I have played multiple rolls but all come back to technical writing. 

After I explain that to people I tend to get the head tilt followed by “So all that and you’re an editor?” My response usually is: yes; I’m a techy who can write, so this job is perfect for me. The reality is though there is no justification. To some this job might not seem glamourous, but to me it is. Not only do I get to use my editing and writing skills to “clean up” all the documents (classified and unclassified), but I get to read all this incredibly cool material from all IT and Security disciplines. I’m never bored with it. Sure there are times where I get frustrated (a lot of times my “grammar lesson” posts on my Facebook are blunders I see at work), but that can be said of any job. 

The follow-up to the “background” question usually is “After you get your Master’s will you get an analyst or more tech-heavy position?” I’m open to that but it’s not what I’m shooting for. Sure I could make a butt-load of money sitting in front of a computer all day developing databases and maps for the NGA or a similar government agency. That though isn’t necessarily what I want. In the end what I want is to be able to use my knowledge of GIS, IT, and Security to write about it. One of the things I pride myself on doing, as a technical writer/editor, is taking these incredibly tech-heavy disciplines and writing about them in a way that anyone can understand. At my job one of the best compliments I received was from the division chief. He pulled me aside one day and said “This is awesome; even now I can understand how to do [this].” 

In the end am I using my undergrad degree? Directly, no. Am I using my Master’s knowledge (and eventually degree)? Directly, no. However, the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way about the tech field, writing, and even how to interact with people has shaped me into the technical writer/editor I am today.


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