Andrea Enright runs The Boot Factor, a content marketing company that’s been around since 2001.
How long have you been in technical communication as a profession?
I started at a WeddingNetwork.com–which later became ModernBride.com in Denver in 1999, just one year after college graduation. I’m originally from Illinois. Life was good, America was on top and I was being overpaid! After September 11, the dotcom shut down and I started my own copywriting business. I was a contractor for companies like Dex, Qwest, IHS, Great-West Healthcare, Xcel Energy and CIGNA. At age 30, I joined the Peace Corps in Sofia, Bulgaria with my husband and left the country for a few years. When I returned, I formed a virtual agency, providing content marketing (blogs, website content, case studies, branding, email campaigns) for mostly medium-sized, service-based different clients. Part of the reason I started the agency was that I was faced with especially technical topics (Cybersecurity, Single Sign On, beaucoup software) and I either couldn’t wrap my arms around the topics–or didn’t want to. So I reached out to my network. And in that space, demand for a new role was emerging–an individual who could both understand software and tell a story well. I do my best now to either find those people and plug them into my clients or coach them on how to bridge those two disciplines.
What was your first or favorite nonfiction writing project? Describe some of the challenges you faced and successes realized as you completed it.
No idea. I’ve been writing for so many years! I suppose my blog was my favorite. I wrote several hundred pieces while couchsurfing and hitchhiking through the Middle East and South Africa. I’ve also had stuff published on Elephant Journal–all creative non-fiction.
Have you had other professional jobs outside technical communication? Did you learn anything from those jobs that has been useful in your writing career?
I’ve done voice talent for military e-learning modules in Europe. I’ve done some dancing and acting, plenty of writing for Elephant Journal and my pieces have been rejected by lots of magazines you’ve never heard of! A lot of organizing and herd-gathering and facilitating for Planned Parenthood, the Denver Waldorf School, Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. I worked at an NGO in Sofia, Bulgaria in the Peace Corps. A major gem? Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
Writing and relationships are the two biggest passions in my life as they are both about human connection. Even if you’re explaining something technical (like the dryer repairman that arrived at my house today!), I’m going to listen and understand and forgive much easier if he smiled, took off his shoes at the door, and asked me how my day was going. Ya know? Same applies to cross-cultural communication, technical white papers, and most relationships.
What do you feel is the most important skill for a technical communicator?
Brevity. Communicating/connecting with others—graphic designers, SMEs, branding, marketing, your audience.
What is your favorite thing about being a technical communicator?
Favorite thing about writing–I think I’m in love with the power of a story or a message to invoke a feeling.
What tools do you use to do your job?
MS Word, pens, lots of journals, Evernote, Gmail
If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be?
A mediocre actress? karaoke leader? dance instructor? a permanent student getting an MFA?
How do you stay current with issues related to technical communication?
I attended conferences this year . . . . Storytelling Conference in Breck–Camp 9600. Just went to Awaken Your Impact by Rachael Jayne Groover (about speaking), and Denver Startup Week. I listen to creative-based podcasts. I go to writer/art events. I think of writing as a left-brained activity, too. I express myself on other mediums to make sure I’m shifting my perspective.