By Lucha Morales
Like many writers in the field, Julie Garrison didn’t plan on becoming a technical writer. Her passion for software and the medical field drove her to earn a degree in Biomedical engineering from Texas A&M.
But a lack of job growth and opportunity left Garrison looking to software development. In the late 90’s, Garrison found work in the oil and gas field before working as a developer for Community Health Computing, which developed laboratory information systems.
“I developed software and later managed the developers,” said Garrison, who now works as a documentation manager for ELM Solutions. “I moved up the ranks in software development.”
But when the opportunity to join a start-up presented itself, Garrison happily accepted.
“I got hired to do everything, “ Garrsion said of Forefront, a start-up based in Houston, where she managed software development operations including documentation, quality assurance and support.
“It was so fun,” she said. “I really loved it.”
But it wasn’t long until Garrison found herself seeking out technical writing positions. In 2006, she joined NetIQ, a Houston-based enterprise software company.
“Because I had been doing the documentation, I sought out writing and documentation,” said Garrison of her early work as a technical writer.
In 2009, Garrison was hired a senior technical writer for ELM Solutions, a company within Wolters Kluwer, which develops legal, tax, insurance and healthcare software applications.
Garrsion’s tenacity and wealth of experience among all the aspects involved with software development helped her shine in her new role.
“I just brought in all of my experience and started doing everything I did at startups in terms of planning, tools and reviews,” she said. “I implemented all that stuff and eventually hired people and got promoted.”
Now, the savvy documentation manager oversees a team of eight writers located in Dallas, Houston and Chennai, India. Housed in ELM’s engineering department, Garrison’s team manages documentation for many of the company’s products.
“There’s a lot of scrum teams and products, “ Garrison said. “I’ve always loved my job and wanted to get up in the morning and go to work.”
Realizing early on the need to connect with others in her field, Garrison joined the Society for Technical Communication in 2006, after joining NetIQ.
“If you’re a serious writer, it makes sense to join a professional organization.” Garrison said. “STC does a tremendous amount for education and skill development.”
From 2012 to 2015, she served as the treasurer for the STC Houston-based chapter.
“It’s a very active chapter, with meetings, workshops, and competitions,” she said. “It’s nice to connect to people in the field.”
“When you know more people in the industry, you can connect with more job opportunities,” she said.
Garrison’s also judged proposals for the STC Summit 2011 for the Management Track and participated in the 2012 Summit, conducting a progressive talk: on using agile scrum techniques to increase productivity. It’s a topic she’s passionate about.
“As a manager, I help influence my team to use the methodology well and be disciplined about how they do it,” she said.” It’s really transformed the role of the technical writer.”
“Our work is as important as the software and testing and we participate in all the sessions,” said Garrison of the way the scrum approach divides time into work sprints and promotes collaboration and flexibility.
Her advice to those thinking about a career in technical writing: “Do your research.”
“There’s so many fields of technical writing,” she said. “There’s oil and gas, marketing and software.”
“Think about the kinds of fields and what the work entails, “ she said. “And then try analyze the things you really like and want to learn against what you find.”
Fun facts & favorites
Favorite App –Google Maps
Favorite STC event – Summit
Favorite Holiday – Thanksgiving
Favorite City – Houston
Interesting Fact – Garrison spends ¾ of her time reading fiction novels.
Hobby – Photography
STC Years – 9
Favorite Food – Mexican
Favorite Restaurant – Fajita Flats
Favorite Software – Adobe Framemaker
Lucha Morales is a graduate student in technical communication at the University of Houston-Downtown. She is also a member of the STC.