Technology evolves – you can’t get bored at work!

27th April 2018

Photograph of Helena Pichler

Helena Pichler
Technical Writer

As a child I wanted to be an astronomer. I figured the universe was the biggest and most important thing you can find; I wanted to explore and study it, to understand it. There were also many amazing things closer to home whose workings I didn’t understand but wanted to find out, such as the TV. It seemed magical to a child, and I really wanted to unravel this magic. I was good at Maths and Physics at school and went on to study Radio Engineering and Technology at University. 

My parents both worked – everyone’s parents worked. I grew up in Eastern Europe, where the social structure was different. Girls never assumed they were any different from boys; we just pursued whatever we were interested in. I found it surprising when I move to the UK that the media talked so much about the lack of women in industries like technology. My mum was a civil engineer and my dad was an economist. My uncle was in radio engineering so my choice of University study was in the family.

I became interested in software development while I was working for an information centre in Kiev. It seemed like a growing industry, so I researched the available roles. Technical writing sounded like something I’d be interested in and could do, so I gave it a go. As it was all so new, there weren’t many people with a lot of experience in technical writing so I was able to get a job. There was a lot to learn, but I enjoyed that. After many years, I still enjoy the work I do – and I am still learning!

Technical writers are responsible for creating user documentation that helps the people using products to make them work. Personally, I never like calling a support centre for help, so I try to make the user manuals good so people can get things working for themselves! The skills that a technical writer needs to develop and use in their work are diverse and include both technical and non-technical (such as language and creativity) ones. You also need to be good at interacting with many teams and role within an organisation, and work on many different projects.

I have two children and never faced any difficulties about choosing to have a family. I returned to work after my maternity leave easily and have been able to adjust my hours to make it work with my husband so we can get the children to and from school. He is a software developer and we discuss our work at home but the kids think it’s boring. They are 8 and 10. I tried to show them how to use a micro:bit but they’re not interested. I suppose I would like them to be interested in science and technology, but I have to remember that those are my things – I must let them find what they enjoy.

My advice to any girls considering a career in technology is to just go for it. It’s a really interesting and rewarding career. You need more than just technical skills too – an analytical mind and being good at problem solving are important, as is creativity. The good thing is that there are a lot of events you can go to now. Some of the big companies offer the chance to try things out so you can discover what might interest you. Many schools run computer clubs and coding clubs for kids are held at local libraries.

I’ve never faced any discrimination at work through being female. There are usually more men than women in software development, but it seems to me that this is simply because fewer women apply for these jobs. If a woman has the right skills for the job, they will hire her. I’m not aware of any pay discrimination in my team, and my husband, a software developer, and I get paid about the same. The salaries in IT and tech tend to be higher than average too, although this is dependent on skills and experience.

Technology is evolving all the time. In my work, we are always adjusting and responding to innovation. For example, visuals are becoming more important in sharing user documentation now, and we also must consider voice instruction as chatbots become more prevalent. I love the evolution; you’d get bored otherwise!