Technical Writing Abroad?

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Rebekah in Plano, Texas

65 months ago

Hello all,

I'm curious if anyone has any advice about working abroad as a technical writer. I currently work as a technical writer, have around 2 years' experience, and have a Master's degree in Technical Communications.

I'd like to relocate abroad, but I only hold a U.S. passport and have heard it's tough (especially in this economy) to get jobs in Europe and elsewhere with only a U.S. citizenship. Nearly all of the online job sites require you to hold an EU passport (for Europe jobs) or already have your work visa lined up (for most other countries).

At the same time, though, I've heard that in many countries, American IT professionals can often get work permits because there is a shortage of IT professionals. Is this true? And as a technical writer working in a software development environment, am I also considered an "IT professional"?

I've explored individual STC country and region sites, but the jobs there seem mostly outdated or require citizenship. I haven't had much luck either with trying to understand immigration laws for "highly skilled migrants" (the category I think I would most likely fit under).

Is there anyone out there who has worked abroad as a tech writer and might have any advice as to how I might go about finding a English-language tech writer job overseas? I would be happy with pretty much anywhere in western Europe (particularly France, Belgium, or Italy), but I am also open to Asia and Latin America. Actually, I'm pretty much open to anywhere except Iraq, Afghanistan, or "combat zones." :)

Thanks in advance for ANY advice!

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Melissa Hudson in Augusta, Georgia

65 months ago

Rebekah,

Depending on your financial needs, you might consider work with government agencies with offices overseas. Contract work that requires renewal every two years may not require a change of citizenship.

Of course, companies like Northrop Grumman and IBM frequently list opportunities for technical writers and, again, by working for a multinational that has offices overseas you may be able to market yourself as a skilled American.

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Robert Meyer in Innsbruck, Austria

65 months ago

Rebekah, this is just a comment. Can preface anyth I don't have a master's degree in Techical Writing, but I do have about 14 years of experience in the field. I could have written your question 3 years ago before we moved back to Sweden, as I was very interested in working in Europe again (I had lived here from 81-93, but not worked as a technical writer). After this, I was in the US where I got my experience. I will cut to the chase. I have an EU passport and could be considered an IT professional--but forget about the "American IT professionals can get work permits" deal. Technical writing is the low-end. If you had high, high SAP skills, or data security skills, or the like...some company might think it worthwhile because they absolutely CAN'T find that skill in the home population. I have been working in Austria for two years and sent resumes all over Europe with out much success, even with an EU passport. Companies will always hire the home-country people here, from my experience. There are a wealth of Technical writing jobs on offer, but there seems also to be a lot of competition. The one thing that a lot of companies here seem to REALLY expect is you have a degree in some discipline (engineering)--and just do technical writing for the love of it i.e. a deeper understanding of a field AND THEN training or experience in writing. "Native English-language speaker" might impress someone, but, from my experience, the person with the degree in the field (even if they are terrible writers) will get the nod. And if the degree is from a school in that country...Perfect! The idea we were sold on in the US is that technical writers don't necessarily have to be degree holders in a field to be effective (or hireable). That really isn't the case in Europe. They don't buy it. And, from my miserable experience, don't even bother with Sweden. They are racist know-it-alls--you won't even get a look. Other questions: e-mail: robert.meyer@biocrates.com

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James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois

65 months ago

Robert, You wrote: "The idea we were sold on in the US is that technical writers don't necessarily have to be degree holders in a field to be effective (or hireable)." Actually in the US, it used to be that a person was technical and was assigned or chose to specialize in technical writing. It was considered easier to teach a technical person to become a technical writer than to teach a writer to become a technical writer.

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Alizzabeth SaintJohn in New York, New York

65 months ago

James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois said: Robert, You wrote: "The idea we were sold on in the US is that technical writers don't necessarily have to be degree holders in a field to be effective (or hireable)." Actually in the US, it used to be that a person was technical and was assigned or chose to specialize in technical writing. It was considered easier to teach a technical person to become a technical writer than to teach a writer to become a technical writer.

Here, Here. Thank you both James and Robert. I am of the same opinion on two statements. First, it is easy for nonAmericans to get work permits in the US, but Americans, unless working for an overseas office of a multinational corporation, find it almost impossible to work overseas. May I also share comments that were confidentially shared with me? Most overseas corporations stereotype the American worker as being inferior: their education, professional ethics and behavior... just their overall attitude.

Second, I have seen better work produced and explained by technical writers who come from a technical background than an excellent writer. I know PhD's who brazenly admit that they do not understand a thing about what they are writing!

I think all the other comments and advice about how to seek overseas work is sound and part of my experience. I have noticed many Indian nationals operating in the following way: The "corporate" company is based in India. They have "staff" located in different regions who research and place other consultants in local or overseas projects. This provides any of their consultants, who are willing to travel, the ease and opportunity to bounce from country to country.

It is a good idea. So why don't we all get together and do the same thing? I have peers and connections in Europe...

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James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois

65 months ago

Alizzabeth. I notice that you are from New York City and it reminded me that I got my best technical writing education with a technical publishing company in New York City called Miles-Samuelson (miles-samuelson.com). Because you have reminded me of the company, I was prompted to send an email to the President, Irv Sachs who was my Manager and Mentor.

Most of the writing I did was for avionics and test equipment. Here is where I learned to never write what I did not understand. We worked from materials that engineers sent to us and was expected to figure things out. When I didn't understand something, I had to research it which could include contacting the off-site engineers, or consult with my peers.

I did a stint as a Technical Instructor and Technical Training Writer for an overseas airline in the middle-east. It was an interesting experience because the airplanes were American and American technicians were preferred. Otherwise, I don't know what it would have been.

I did some substituting for ESL teachers while overseas. Later after returning to the States, I became certified. I notice that there are ads for ESL teachers in many overseas locations. No doubt many who are technical writers might find it an option if they wish to work overseas.

James Barakaat

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Alizzabeth SaintJohn in New York, New York

65 months ago

James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois said: Alizzabeth. I notice that you are from New York City and it reminded me that I got my best technical writing education with a technical publishing company in New York City called Miles-Samuelson (miles-samuelson.com). Because you have reminded me of the company, I was prompted to send an email to the President, Irv Sachs who was my Manager and Mentor.

Most of the writing I did was for avionics and test equipment. Here is where I learned to never write what I did not understand. We worked from materials that engineers sent to us and was expected to figure things out. When I didn't understand something, I had to research it which could include contacting the off-site engineers, or consult with my peers.

I did a stint as a Technical Instructor and Technical Training Writer for an overseas airline in the middle-east. It was an interesting experience because the airplanes were American and American technicians were preferred. Otherwise, I don't know what it would have been.

I did some substituting for ESL teachers while overseas. Later after returning to the States, I became certified. I notice that there are ads for ESL teachers in many overseas locations. No doubt many who are technical writers might find it an option if they wish to work overseas.

James Barakaat

James, again I find your comments both helpful and insightful. I have been thinking for some time to get certified in TESOL or ESL. There are several respected programs that offer certification and work. Which program were you able to consult from (and of course, placed overseas)without certification?

That was good advice. Thank you.

Alizzabeth Saint John

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Alizzabeth SaintJohn in New York, New York

65 months ago

James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois said: Alizzabeth. I notice that you are from New York City and it reminded me that I got my best technical writing education with a technical publishing company in New York City called Miles-Samuelson (miles-samuelson.com). Because you have reminded me of the company, I was prompted to send an email to the President, Irv Sachs who was my Manager and Mentor.

Most of the writing I did was for avionics and test equipment. Here is where I learned to never write what I did not understand. We worked from materials that engineers sent to us and was expected to figure things out. When I didn't understand something, I had to research it which could include contacting the off-site engineers, or consult with my peers.

I did a stint as a Technical Instructor and Technical Training Writer for an overseas airline in the middle-east. It was an interesting experience because the airplanes were American and American technicians were preferred. Otherwise, I don't know what it would have been.

I did some substituting for ESL teachers while overseas. Later after returning to the States, I became certified. I notice that there are ads for ESL teachers in many overseas locations. No doubt many who are technical writers might find it an option if they wish to work overseas.

James Barakaat

James, there is a consulting position which meets your background exactly. Please email robertgaetano@technisource.com. They have been having problems finding someone with avionics technical writing. Let me know how you make out.

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James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois

65 months ago

Alizzabeth: I did not have certification when overseas. I was a Technical Instructor and Technical Training Writer at the time. I happened to have a friend who was an ESL instructor with an emergency who asked me to substitute for him. The materials used were simple enough that I had no problems since I was working with students who used English as a Second Language anyway.

Thanks for the contact for Technisource. I believe that most of the Avionics writers are with Miles-Samuelson and Northrup-Grumman in your area. I am now involved with online teaching and online instructional design with a university. It is a growing field that has caused me to stop taking technical writing projects.

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Alizzabeth SaintJohn in New York, New York

65 months ago

James,

Yes. You have to go with the flow of the industry. Insructional Design,User Experience and Usability specialties are in demand if you can pickup a little more formal training.

I am certain your threads will provide information for quite a few writers on the forum.

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Mike S. in Northridge, California

61 months ago

James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois said: Alizzabeth. I notice that you are from New York City and it reminded me that I got my best technical writing education with a technical publishing company in New York City called Miles-Samuelson (miles-samuelson.com). Because you have reminded me of the company, I was prompted to send an email to the President, Irv Sachs who was my Manager and Mentor.

Most of the writing I did was for avionics and test equipment. Here is where I learned to never write what I did not understand. We worked from materials that engineers sent to us and was expected to figure things out. When I didn't understand something, I had to research it which could include contacting the off-site engineers, or consult with my peers.

I did a stint as a Technical Instructor and Technical Training Writer for an overseas airline in the middle-east. It was an interesting experience because the airplanes were American and American technicians were preferred. Otherwise, I don't know what it would have been.

I did some substituting for ESL teachers while overseas. Later after returning to the States, I became certified. I notice that there are ads for ESL teachers in many overseas locations. No doubt many who are technical writers might find it an option if they wish to work overseas.

James Barakaat

James,

I am about to loose my position as technical writer (avionics) to an outsourced Indian company. I am thinking about retiring/working in SE Asia. I would also like to know if you found some leads for techincal writers in that area. My background is 25 years as a system engineer mainly communications networks and about 5 years tech writing full time.
Thanks for your time.

Mike S.

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James Barakaat in Chicago, Illinois

59 months ago

Mike,

I don't know anything about working as a technical writer in SE Asia but I do know that they are looking for those who can teach English. You can use any search engine to find companies that are looking for English teachers.

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Gary in Alexandria, Virginia

58 months ago

Mike,

If you want to work in Japan and/or Korea, check out this company: Kurdyla and Associates. The corporate Web site is www.kurdyla.com/english/aboutuseng.htm. If you do choose to teach ESL in SE Asis, try to avoid the ESL mills. There are too many of them. From my experience in Korea, the YBM chain is OK. However, the Kurdyla group works basically with corporate clients. You will get the chance to both teach and write. Check them out. I worked for the company for a couple of years and had the opportunity to work with most major corporations in both countries. Good luck!

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Ramesh in Madras, India

55 months ago

How to apply techical writer job in overseas.

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GraduatingSoon in Bridgewater, New Jersey

53 months ago

I just have to say about the posts from Robert, James, and Alizzabeth: thank you :)
Your comments are truly insightful

I will be graduating with a BA in English and have been looking into ESL/EFL, content writing, and technical writing as possible fields of interest.

Going into college, I originally intended to pursue an English major to become a high school teacher, but soon after discovered I could travel and still expect to survive if I taught EFL abroad. They pay pretty well for people with English degrees and at least 2 years teaching experience, but they are also reasonably generous to native English speakers regardless of degree -- at least from what I've heard.
I had since put those plans on hold to discover other outlets for English majors...

This thread has reassured me that I would not be missing out if I pursued an interest in EFL since I don't think i'd enjoy constantly having to study technical work.

My university actually provides a technical writing certificate however they don't allow non-science/computer majors to apply for that cert.
From this thread I can understand why:
Technical people who write well are more in demand than good writers who understand basic technical concepts.

I've also been hearing a lot about instructional design lately...I'll look into it and actually James Barakat, if you could give me some insight into what working in that field is like, i'd be pretty grateful :)

Thanks!

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edl in Saint Louis, Missouri

2 months ago

Unless you have substantiated facts that back up your statement: " Most overseas corporations stereotype the American worker as being inferior: their education, professional ethics and behavior... just their overall attitude." It's really just a bigoted comment in general. This is said in the U.S. about Indian workers and others, as well. I wouldn't take this kind of comment seriously. In fact, considering that the U.S. is considered to have the best higher education institutions in the world and why so many foreign students come here to attend college, it's even more biased.

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edl in Saint Louis, Missouri

2 months ago

Alizzabeth SaintJohn in New York, New York said: May I also share comments that were confidentially shared with me? Most overseas corporations stereotype the American worker as being inferior: their education , professional ethics and behavior... just their overall attitude.[QUOTE]

Unless you have actual written statements that you can quote to back up your statement: "Most overseas corporations stereotype the American worker as being inferior: their education, professional ethics and behavior... just their overall attitude." It's really just a bigoted comment in general. Any writer worth their salt knows that. I'm also curious why you would want to network with any American worker if you are willing to post this kind of comment? Promoting these kinds of regional stereotypes are unprofessional and unfounded. If you are representative of Technisource, I am glad to know of it. I will steer clear of them in general.

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