“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”
– Helen Keller
It seems to me that the benefits of building a strong professional community should be obvious. And yet, I see many who seem to prefer to “go it alone” rather than reach out and join/build a strong community and so, I’ll start this series on Building a Technical Writing Community with an overview of just some of the many benefits that are gained by investing time and effort into this endeavor.
For the Individual
For the Community
- Source of knowledge and expertise
- Share information about current salaries and accepted work conditions
- Help resolve problems at work
- Gain a consensus (the most popular or common way to tackle a problem, phrase, UI issue etc.
- Get updates on new trends
- Learn about new vendors and applications
- Create greater awareness about the industry and field
- Increase professional respect
- Build international ties with other communities
- Provide networking opportunities
- Help your company gain attention
- Attract international speakers
- Share information about local events with others
Why Should Community Be Important to You
The simple answer is for all of the benefits listed above – in both columns. As a thriving community, you have “professional protection”. This means that your work conditions will be considered professional and reasonable because they are measured against the conditions, salaries and treatment others in your field are receiving. What is the going rate for salaries in your community? How does it compare to that of other communities?
The only way to find out is to be in touch, to be part of the community. So, in this post, I’ll give some personal reasons why I believe being part of a vibrant, growing technical writing community has benefitted me. I hope these reasons resonate with you and in turn, you decide to become (more) involved!
How Community Has Benefitted Me
The best way that I can explain why community is important is to give a personal example. Let’s start at the beginning. When I first began working in the industry, my manager handed me a new application. It was called RoboHelp and the documentation was quite awful.
Almost immediately, I hit problems that weren’t readily resolved by reading the documentation. So I searched and found an online community of help authoring experts. I began asking questions and quickly got answers.
Answers from international experts
Local and international recognition of my growing expertise with RoboHelp
Very quickly and more easily than I would have thought possible, I created a decent online document. This impressed my manager AND helped me gain international friends. So grateful for the help that I got, I began trying to answer questions when I could.
Within a short while, I was answering more questions than I was asking, and gaining recognition as a RoboHelp expert.
Some months later, the creators of RoboHelp reached out and asked me to be a RoboHelp MVP. I was tasked with doing what I was already doing – answering questions, and offered free software.
Eventually, that turned into additional financial benefits such as attending and presenting at conferences in Europe and Asia, projects with local and international companies to produce (or consult on) help authoring projects.
Free software, paid technical writing projects, consultation opportunities, and the chance to attend international conferences
I also chose to be involved with two global technical writing organizations. Through these organizations, I gained the knowledge necessary to begin hosting a local conference in Israel that has gained international speakers and attendance.
Much of what I have accomplished over the last 20+ years as a technical writer began with my interest in growing my connections with local and international professionals and aligning myself with them by working to grow both our local community and its connections to international experts.
This series will continue with practical guidelines for how you can help grow your local technical writing community and the benefits you and the community can gain through these efforts.