"There is a lot more to being a successful technical writer than meets the eye"

Technical writer Christian Welter recently completed his tekom certificate Expert Level. He reflects on his online learning experience, its challenges and highlights.

Text by Christian Welter


Image: © FreshSplash/istockphoto.com

When I entered into my new profession as a technical writer in 2017, I really didn’t know what to expect. I never thought that working as a technical writer offered so many possibilities.

After first starting the job, I was overwhelmed by our CMS and all the tasks that I was expected to perform as a technical writer. While learning how to operate a CMS is not that hard, getting a hang of relevant EU directives certainly is. I quickly realized that there was a lot more to being a successful technical writer than meets the eye. First and foremost is a proper education. I’m a reasonably humble person who likes to gain substantial knowledge before talking about a subject – and readily admit when I’m wrong. Thus, I embarked on my quest to find the right type of formal education.

Given that I live in a quite remote part of Germany, my preference was for a training program primarily held online. I also wanted to certify myself as quickly as possible so I searched for a program with a duration of preferably less than two years. After thorough research I opted for TCTrainNet.

I registered for the Expert Level certification and chose to do the whole certification in English. I readily embraced the additional linguistic challenge as I wanted to use this opportunity to receive further proof of my knowledge of the English language.

What did I expect from this course? I expected to gain a deeper knowledge about all relevant tasks regarding technical communication. I also expected to get some hands-on tips on how to properly create layouts and step-by-step sequences. Soon I realized though that I had expected too much from this course. This was mainly due to the fact that it was “condensed” to roughly eight hours per week. Given this timeframe there simply isn’t much more that would fit into it.

Surprisingly there were only two other participants in my group. This turned out to be just right though. When you discuss complex matters via web meetings, more people may just create more commotion. Also, we got to know each other quite well, both personally and with regards to our motivations to attend this course.

Overall, I really enjoyed the online course. At first, I was putting myself under way too much pressure trying to keep up with the road map. This was completely unnecessary since the roadmap was way too tightly scheduled according to my trainer. But on the other hand it left me with more than enough time to draft my written reflection.

What really stood out for me in particular was our trainer Stephan. Being a former teacher, you could really see and hear his excitement about teaching people everything about technical documentation. It was such a joy to see someone with so much passion for his craft! I was always looking forward to the monthly GoToMeeting sessions to keep in touch with him and the other participants. No matter what mood each participant was in when entering the room, we always left in good spirits with everyone looking forward to the next session. I also had two additional meetings to discuss different matters, which were also great and very informative.

After all, would I recommend the Expert Course? – YES! You will benefit even though it might not be obvious right from the start. Over time though you will get to know the other participants and the teacher, and you will learn to understand how all the different aspects of the “Integrated Learning Units” are intertwined with each other to form a comprehensive concept for crafting technical documentation. As for my own job, I will try to further incorporate the knowledge into my daily work routine. The next step on my list is to further evaluate authoring tools and also craft a style guide for technical documentation.