||The Willamette Galley
A Bi-Monthly Newsletter
Volume 4, Issue 3, July 2001
Agency Corner: The Pendulum Will Swing
By Mark Ace
Repeat after me: Technology is a cyclical business. Those of us ancient enough to have been in
tech-related businesses for a while know that the tech business follows cycles. Boom times are followed
by bust times. Well we had a great run-up, and now the tech economy is in hangover mode. We expected
to see a bit of a rebound by summer, but now the conventional wisdom is for a Q4 pick up.
The economy is not dead, just sluggish. And believe it or not, there is work in other businesses
besides technology companies. Of course, for technical communicators, almost all writing work is somehow
tied to software development. But software is still being developed in other businesses besides Web-based businesses.
Here are some trends we have seen recently in the local market.
- In a down economy, companies need to do more with less, especially in the wake of layoffs.
So training becomes more important, as companies reinvest in their key employees. Training design
and delivery seems to be a little more active these days.
- Health care seems to be somewhat immune from recession. People still get sick and want to feel better.
We have seen a little more activity from health companies, even software companies based on health
applications. But unfortunately, most of the big health care companies are headquartered somewhere other
than Portland, so it still has the effect of limiting local techcomm employment.
- Manufacturing seems to be holding up all right, and we have developed some local writing and
training related projects in that category. While the entire economy is sluggish, it seems that it is
only businesses with the dreaded Web-based business model that have been branded with the scarlet letter.
What skills are still in demand?
- Instructional design. Many technical communicators have added this skill to their portfolio.
- Technical marketing communications. Smart companies know they have to sell extra hard in a tight
economy, so there continues to be investment in well-written data sheets, Web sites, white papers, and more.
- Content repurposing. Since everyone is trying to do more with less, the holy grail of 'write once,
publish many' continues to be attractive. In that light, it seems useful to understand basic concepts of XML.
- Competence and good cheer. There's no discounting the value of someone who likes to roll up their
sleeves and willingly take on the hard tasks. Make sure you leave a trail of satisfied customers and
coworkers, even if you're coming from a layoff situation. Your references are you best tool for getting your next assignment.
Mark Ace is the owner of Ace Communications, Inc., a company devoted to staffing, training, and
technical communication project services. The company provides on-site and off-site temporary contractors,
employee search services, and contract-to-hire placements of technical communicators primarily to
high-technology companies. In addition, the Ace Communications, Inc. staff includes skilled writers,
editors, Web developers, and other professionals who provide outsourced services to clients nationally.
Formed in 1992 in Portland, Oregon, Ace Communications is Portland's largest agency dedicated to
technical communications. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or online at www.ace1.com.
||Mission Statement: Designing the future of technical communication.
Copyright © 2001 Willamette Valley Chapter. All rights reserved.
Revised: July 2001
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