Evolving Roles and Desired Qualities for Indian Technical Writers – A Glimpse into the Future
by Gurpreet Singh
Prime Future Roles and Qualities of an Indian Technical Writer – Adaptable, Communication Expert, and Perfect Tool Master
Adaptability will become a necessity and NOT just a desired feature for Indian Technical Writers.
The prime role played by Technical Writers in future will be to become highly adaptable in terms of latest technologies, new tools, and even new cultures.
It was Charles Darwin who once said, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest wins out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”
Adaptation is indeed the prime factor contributing its share to the successful Indian Technical Writing industry. In the golden age of globalization, one cannot stick to a particular standard, language, or technology by personal choice. One has to be versatile enough to adapt to any new technology or guidelines for the sole purpose of producing meaningful content to the users of a particular region.
With strong competition rising from other countries, the day is not very far when the Indian Technical Writing industry will find it very difficult to survive primarily on the adaptability front.
The prime reason for the growth of the Technical Writing industry in India is the major cost difference in living. If Indians can perform the same quality of work, then the cost factor is what determines foreign clients to look for our services. Otherwise, corporates always try to give back to the local society more than anything else. If the cost of Indian Technical Writing services comes even closer to the overseas wages, then Indians will have real problems in getting any work from abroad.
Adaptability is the key to avoid any serious competition because Indian Technical Writers will face tough competition from several countries having similar or even lower living costs. There are many examples that can be put put forward to substantiate this theory.
The average working wages in Ghana – a country facing a civil war, is several times less than the wages of Indian professionals. This makes it even more beneficial to outsource work to Ghana instead of India. A lot of French companies have opened call centers and data entry centers in Ghana, as it provides an approximate 50 percent lower cost even by Indian standards. How long will it be before such small countries will pick up the Technical Writing profession?
China, another country with living costs much less than India, has made a mission to ‘English Literate’ its masses. A rough estimate is that by 2010, nearly 60 percent of its population will be able to speak Queen’s English as fluently as we Indians do. How long will the Chinese be away from making inroads into the Technical Writing profession?
Romania, a country with a large English-speaking population with living costs similar to that of India, has already made a global impact in the area of web-based content and the day is not far when they will seek to repeat this feat in the core Technical Writing industry.
The only way of managing competition from other countries is to become adaptable and to rise up the skill ladder. Because from what I know, Indian Technical Writing is based on three pillars of US, UK, and Canada and if any of these pillars moves away, the whole industry setup here will start shaking. After all, how many Indian Technical Writers work 100 percent for Indian markets and just for the Indian audience?
Good Communication skills are the most desired feature for an Indian Technical Writer, but in the future, it will become an absolute necessity.
As Doug Firebaugh once said, “Communication is really all anyone ever gets paid for ultimately. If you cannot effectively communicate, then you will pay and not get paid.”
Today, the world is not as big as it used to be but has shrunk to a very small radius. Now, it really does not make an inch of a difference to an Indian Technical Writer whether the documentation is written for local or international markets. The outsourcing boom has placed the entire Indian Technical Writing Industry as an outsourcing based industry. But even today, the level of communication skills, both written or spoken, of many Indian Technical Writers is not adequate at the global level.
To face the high tides of tomorrow, we must prepare ourselves to be the best of the best – having excellent communication skills in both verbal and written media. People still don’t know the effect and power of good communication as many companies still lose good projects primarily due to poor communication. The proposals of even good companies are drafted so badly that the work is lost even if the companies are able to perform that work with utmost efficiency.
Even more important aspect of good communication is the localization for proper audience. With words like “prepone”, one can only create confusion in overseas minds as prepone is the product of the Hinglish (Indian English) lingo most of us are subjected to. Therefore, the future Technical Writer will evolve as a linguistic expert strong enough to create different sets of thoughts for different audiences.
In the words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”
Unless we prepare ourselves as a professional society to increase the communication level of our members, we will face real tough times in the near future. The future calls us to have not only good, but also near perfect communication skills.
Perfect Tool Master
Acrobat, PageMaker, Framemaker, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Quark Express, Visio, SnagIT, Robohelp, more and yet more tools.
This list can be easily made long enough to cover an entire page. With the evolution of Indian Technical Writing industry, there is an enormous growth in types and number of tools. Earlier, tools were not available for specific tasks but now the problem arises to choose the best tool out of so many different options available in the market.
With the increase in the number of tools in the market, the prime area of concern for Indian Technical Writers has shifted from “mastering a single tool” to becoming “Proficient” in several tools. The world is full of unique things and our clients happen to belong to that unique clan of people. What appeals to one may actually be disregarded by others, so to be an efficient Technical Writer of global competence, one must become proficient in all tools of the trade so that one can work according to the client needs and not by the tools one is just familiar with.
As new versions of tools are launched at very short intervals, it becomes difficult for the already load-struck Indian Technical Writers to learn even the new functions of the same tool, leave alone learning absolutely new tools. But this negligence of new technology in turn creates problems, as the new technology provides high efficiency, which is the requirement of the future Technical Writing industry.
Therefore, it has become essential for all Indian Technical Writers to become truly the “Perfect of the Perfects” by attaining a high level of proficiency in all kinds of Technical Writing tools available today.
So, as Indian Technical Writing professionals, unless we are more Adaptable, and become Communication Experts and Perfect Tool Masters, we will find it really hard to survive in the highly competitive world where the success and failure are separated by a thin line. In order to face the rising competition, we must act now to climb the skill ladder to remain high above the windy seas of global markets and secure a stable and peaceful place at the earliest.
In the words of Antoine de Saint, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
About the Article
This article originally appeared in Vol 9 (Dec 2004) issue of TechCraft, the monthly newsletter of TWI. It is reprinted here with slight modifications.