A Programmer in Technical Writer’s Clothing

I worked for Microsoft in Redmond, WA for a little over four years, first as a contractor and then as a full-time employee. Although I enjoyed my time there, I don’t regret moving back to New York State. The three of us, my husband, my son, and I, missed our family here on the East Coast. Also, by moving back, my son had a chance to get to know his grandfather much better than he would have if we had stayed.

A close-up of my Microsoft Ship-It Award.
My Microsoft Ship-It Award

This is my Microsoft Ship-It award. You can’t see it by looking at this picture, but there are small stickers that run up the sides listing the projects that included my work. During the time that I worked at Microsoft, my documentation was included with Windows Server 2003, Visual Studio .Net/.Net Framework 7.0, Windows XP, SQL Server 2000, and Microsoft Office 2003.

Sometimes I curse the fact that I was so anxious to work for Microsoft that I switched from being a Programmer to being a full-time Technical Writer. Although my job title was “Programming Writer” I found it impossible to move back into programming when we returned. When I actually managed to get an interview, I had to listen to, “You can’t have kept your programming skills up to date. After all, you were a writer for (fill in the number) years.”

Despite the fact that the code I wrote during the time I was at Microsoft was the stuff that developers all over the world cut and paste into their applications, hiring managers dismissed my programming skills out of hand. Even now, when I have a BS in IT with a concentration in software development and a GPA of 3.92, I have a hard time getting anyone to take me seriously.

It seems as though the contract that I just completed at BNP Paribas was a fluke. I have been applying for programming positions at other firms since last October and am getting little to no response. Now that short 7 months at BNP is coming back to bite me in just the opposite way. I had a call the other day about a contract position as a technical writer, and was told that since I’d been a developer for the past 7 months, the client wouldn’t be interested in me.

Give me a break! I am a good programmer. While I was at Microsoft, I wrote code in C++, Visual Basic 6.0, J++, JScript (Microsoft’s version of JavaScript) and VBScript for ADO, OLE DB, and ODBC. When the .Net Framework was released, I wrote C# and VB .Net code for ADO .Net and along the way, I also wrote sample code for Microsoft XML.

I have taught myself BASIC, C, C++, Pascal, Assembly Language, Visual Basic (for DOS and Windows), Visual Basic .NET, C#, Java, Python, and those are the ones I can remember. I also know HTML 5, CSS 3, and have learned to use several of the popular frameworks such as AngularJS, Bootstrap, KnockoutJS, and a little bit of NodeJS.

As a writer I have written API documentation, how-to articles, requirements, design specifications, implementation guides, and context-sensitive help. When I created my own games, I did everything from design to code to graphics and documentation. I was an FTE at Microsft and a contract-employee at Google. Take a look at my resume, if you want to know the details.

I am good at what I do and I am not one of those people who sees that something needs to be done and says, “That’s not my job.” I pitch in. If you’re interested, and you are located in Manhattan, Hoboken, or Jersey City. Or if you have a telecommute position for a technical writer or a programmer, please contact me.

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