Drafter, Designer, Engineer, Technical Writer, Author

I remember reading somewhere many years ago that most people have at least five careers throughout their lifetime. I think I’m beginning my 5th career: Drafter, Designer, Engineer, Technical Writer, and now possibly Author. I make a distinction between Technical Writer and Author, because technical writing is usually a ‘work-for-hire’; the writer seldom gets a ‘by line’ and, as a work-for-hire does not get to keep ownership rights. Whereas, an Author can write on subjects of their choosing and can retain their ownership rights.

As a Drafter, I was a woman in a field that at the time was almost exclusively that of men. Hence, the name ‘draftsman’, which somewhere along in the late ’60’s or maybe ’70’s was changed to the more politically correct ‘Drafter’. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a ‘women’s libber’. I just wanted to do the type of work that I found interesting… and it also paid well. I figured if ‘the guys’ didn’t like it, they could just grow up. The world was changing and they’d better jump on-board or be left behind.

After my first job as a drafter, I removed the word ‘typing’ from my resume. If I didn’t know how to type, then no one would ask me to type! That allowed me to do the job that I was hired to do, which was drawing electrical and mechanical drawings, and not being the department clerk/secretary. In those days, drawings were done manually on paper or mylar, using pencils and pens, respectively.

As a Designer, once again I was usually the only female in the area, but the under currents of ‘unease’ on the part of others was not as great. People were adapting. I designed printed circuit boards, hybrid circuits (the precursor to integrated circuits), and various mechanical chassis and sub-assemblies, mostly for the aerospace and defense industry. Computers had not yet caught up with these areas of engineering, so most of the circuit board work was done manually on mylar, using tape, which was trimmed to size using a razor knife. I was still doing drawings, but now I was determining how the products were designed.

As an Engineer, I began to see more women entering technical fields. Computers were now becoming more prevalent in engineering. I worked mostly in the Reliability and Maintainability test areas. In a couple of cases, I was responsible for testing the reliability of some of the same products that I had originally designed. I also worked as a Manufacturing Engineer. I found I much preferred the Research & Development areas.

It was my experience as a Manufacturing Engineer that lead me into Technical Writing. My first writing task was self-assigned. I had designed several manufacturing processes with the purpose of establishing a more consistent end product. To accomplish the task, I wrote step-by-step work instructions for the manufacturing line. I also sat with the assembly personnel and went through the new procedures and processes. The new processes resulted in an improved product with less products needing rework.

I have spent approximately the last 12-15 years working primarily as a Technical Writer doing everything from procedures and manuals to designing and maintaining complex intranet websites. For the most part, I’ve worked as a consultant, for the last few years under my own company name.

With several years of experience behind me, and the economy in turmoil once again, I’m thinking now might be the appropriate time to make another career shift. This time to my 5th career as a published Author, which should provide a more flexible lifestyle. Retirement? I’d be bored beyond measure! However, a little leisure time would be nice and being able to stay employed on ‘my terms’ would also be nice. Only time will tell.

Bottomline: With the economy being what it is, every person should be open to adapting previous experience and training to the jobs available. You might want to revamp your resume to show how your work experience applies to the jobs that are available.