“According to career site Indeed.com, tech writers with DITA skills command an average of 20-40% more in annual income compared to writers without DITA skills”

Tech writing has been evolving rapidly in the last decade with the adoption of structured content tools and topic-based authoring. What was once primarily an authoring role is now many things: author, content manager, editor/reviewer, multi-format publisher, even content strategist. Why? Your content likely supports many facets of the business, including the marketing strategy, human resources, and customer support. It needs to be available in multiple formats, delivered to all kinds of devices, and easily discovered via search.

Your role has evolved.

Some of the driving forces behind this evolution include:

  • Adoption of structured content methodologies
  • Advanced search-ability of all docs with faceted search
  • The content marketing paradigm
  • The need to accommodate many delivery formats including mobile, web, PDF, Portals, Knowledge Bases, Help apps, etc.
  • Understanding of the benefits of reusing content

Your skills need to expand beyond technical writing. Acquiring DITA skills enables you to deliver your content in more valuable ways. It can change your career path for the better, if you want it to change.

Why Change?

Whenever new tools emerge, there is inevitably pushback from those who are comfortable with older tools. Fear of change or appearing inept, the desire to maintain the status quo, nostalgia, and the notion that ‘if it is not broken, why fix it?’ all contribute to this resistance. These reactions are completely understandable. However, they are not a viable career strategy, especially when you are facing a significant change in the nature of a process. Structured content development and management is such a change. It is an order of magnitude improvement over the old way of doing things and it carries significant financial benefits-  that will get the attention of senior management.

Avoiding change could be a negative career choice in a situation like this.

The Good News: Everyone Was a DITA Beginner Once (and most still are)

DITA adoption has been gradual and the majority of career technical writers are just beginning to learn DITA skills. This means that fears of not fulfilling expectations or being a beginner are shared by a large number of your peers, at all levels. Yes, there are the early adopters who embrace and evangelize new technologies and who will seem to be way ahead. Early adopters are typically enthusiasts who want to share their new ideas. Think of them as resources to help you grow your skills. They can help you gradually familiarize yourself with the entire structured content development and management model. And there are potentially significant benefits to adopting this career strategy.

You Know the Pain, Do You Know the Gain?

Acquiring DITA skills can mean tangible career benefits. According to career site Indeed.com, tech writers with DITA skills command an average of 20-40% more in annual income compared to writers without DITA skills. And there are less measurable but potentially greater benefits that go with this. Because DITA adoption is just starting to gain much greater momentum, a DITA-skilled writer can become a DITA Subject Matter Expert within a company that is adopting a structured content strategy. In that scenario the DITA-skilled writer becomes a higher value resource. This can change your career path. Very often titles and roles change, often for the better. Your workload becomes more interesting as content reuse eliminates a large amount of repetitive work. The documentation team can begin to be viewed as a value center rather than a cost center. As understanding of the value of your content grows at the management level, the corresponding value of your team grows. Yes, improved efficiency could mean some writing jobs are lost, but those losses are most likely to come from those who have not embraced new skills.

Embracing the New

Learning new things is seldom a bad thing. Neuroscientists know that this activity improves neuroplasticity, which is a measure of the brain’s ability to adapt quickly. As we age this capability often lessens, unless we continually challenge ourselves. Beyond the career aspect, challenging ourselves, regardless of outcome, is always an improvement over stasis. You won’t know until you jump in. And seriously, the water is not bad!

Want to get another perspective? Hubspot offers a great blog post on developing a career strategy based on your expertise and experience.

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