Olim from a wide variety of professional backgrounds discover second careers in Israel in technical communications. The field attracts teachers and writers who are looking for a more corporate work environment and higher salaries; programmers and techies who prefer to work in a field that leverages their English language skills; and lawyers or other professionals who do not have the time or interest to study for the Israeli exams.
Technical communications covers a wide range of material, some of which is more technical in nature and some of which is more marketing-oriented. Technical writers usually are responsible for writing and editing user manuals and online Help files, and for creating highly technical specification documentation.
The job of a technical writer can also include producing marketing materials. In some companies, technical writers produce brochures, prepare and update web content, edit English language documentation for Israeli staff members, create PowerPoint presentations, and organize trade shows and other promotional events. The specific job description is usually dependent on a variety of factors including company size and age, the type of product that is produced, and whether there is a separate marketing department within the corporate structure.
The Israeli community of technical communicators has developed a number of online resources that can be of tremendous help to job seekers:
- Techshoret is an email list for technical writers in Israel. Jobs are frequently advertised on this list. To subscribe, send an email to: [email protected]
- Yokneam Forum of Technical Writers. This site also includes information for translators, marcom writers and creative writers. See http://www.elephant.org.il. (This site includes a wealth of free resources as well as some services that involve a charge.)
- Tech-Tav Documentation’s blog: http://www.tech-tav.com/blog
Most Israeli employers are looking for technical writing professionals with experience using software packages such as FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. A background in programming is a significant advantage.
As with many fields, most Israeli employers are looking for writers who already have several years of technical writing experience. The first job in the field is the hardest one to find.
Israeli training programs for technical writers are fairly expensive. The critical factor in choosing a program is their success rate vis-à-vis employment. Before selecting a program, make sure that the program’s staff is involved in placing their graduates in permanent technical writing positions.
- Our Best Words (in cooperation with the AACI), phone: 02-656-3369, website: www.ourbestwords.com. Courses meet once a week and are offered in Jerusalem and Beer Sheva. Discounts available for AACI members and individuals who bring their own laptops.
- OnTarget Technical Communication Internship Program, Justine Kornel [email protected] or www.ontargetcommunication.com.
- In Other Words, Eagle Solomon, [email protected] or 04-9814184.
Online training programs cost a fraction of the Israeli programs, but do not assist you with job placement. Here is a selection of available courses:
Agencies and Freelancing
There are several types of documentation agencies: Some agencies charge freelance writers for the service of finding them clients, while others charge the employer for the service of providing them with quality writers.
One of the advantages of technical communications is the wide range of employment arrangements that are available. Some technical writers work on-site in salaried positions. Others work as freelancers from home, an arrangement that is particularly suited to individuals who live far from employment centers or parents who are interested in part-time, flexible work.
Most technical writing positions require you to have conversational Hebrew skills. Though the work itself is in English, most companies will expect you to interact with Israeli programmers and product managers whose English knowledge may be limited as well as to attend staff meetings in Hebrew.
Interview with Paul Schnall, Technical Writer
Please provide us with a brief description of your work.
As a technical writer (TW), I learn all I can about a product, including installation and how it works. I install the product myself, and play around with it to determine what happens when I push button A, switch B, etc.Then, I write the user manual for the product. I usually need to talk to the designers and engineers for details and specifications. I sit in on design review meetings; I am involved with certifications and qualifications. I make a lot of the graphics myself.
My job requires a good eye for detail. With experience, I was eventually able to edit both content and formatting. I can usually decipher the thoughts of an engineer who does not speak English, and rewrite his broken English into proper English.
How did you find your job?
Friends of mine were working as technical writers. My first job I found through a friend. The rest of my jobs I found through networking and headhunters.
What degree should someone making Aliyah come with, in order to break into your field?
Most employers prefer a BA in writing or literature or a BS in engineering or the sciences. While a Bachelor’s degree is probably not essential, it definitely gives you an advantage over the competition.
Do you need Hebrew to work in your field in Israel?
In most places, you do need Hebrew. Your meetings can be in Hebrew.
What are the benefits?
Technical writers receive relatively good pay, once you obtain some experienced. In addition, benefits generally include a pension and Keren Hishtalmut (savings plan), and some companies have ESOP and stock options.
What is the salary range?
Starting salaries for inexperienced writers can be 8,000 NIS/month for full time work. Salaries for over 10 years of experience can be up to 25,000 NIS/month.
What are the upcoming areas of specialty you would recommend?
Online help and single sourcing.
What recommendations can you offer Olim looking to work in this field?
You need to take a good course, and you will be better off in the job market if you complete an internship. Both of these take time and money.