BITS and Pieces

Get global. Get ahead.

Akash Dubey

Director- Technical Publications iManage and Member of the International Advisory Board of TWIN

For two years now, BnP has religiously been featuring the tcwold India Conference that is held annually in Bengaluru and that has established itself as the prime learning platform for technical writers, content creators and translators in the country. And it’s about time we know more about this one-of-its-kind international conference that has played such a pivotal role in shaping the language industry in India.

We are getting candid this month with Mr Akash Dubey, Member of the International Advisory Board of TWIN and the man behind the success of tcworld India.

So what exactly is tcworld India?

It is the Indian version of the tcworld conference held in Germany, which is the largest conference for technical writers and translators in the world. Some 4000 people have been attending the tcworld conferences in Germany. Though not just as big yet, the USP of tcworld India is that it is the only international conference for language professionals in the country with participants coming from all parts of the world like Austria, Ukraine, Korea, etc. It is organised jointly by tekom (Germany) and TWIN.

Could you tell us a little more about TWIN?

TWIN, (Technical Writers of India), is the largest and the oldest community for technical writers in the country. We currently have more than 20,000 members. TWIN first started in 1998 as a mailing list. People subscribed to the mailing list and it became very popular as TWIN was the only place where people could find out about technical writing jobs and could post queries and get answers. TWIN has been growing in its scope and we now have our own website with five to seven thousand loyal users.

So were you a part of TWIN right from the world go?

No, I wasn’t a part of TWIN from Day 1. The mailing list was started by Gurudutt Kamath in 1998 and was then handed over to Makarand Pandit (both of whom have incidentally been guest writers for BnP). I got involved 10 years back and have been working on various initiatives from technical writers ever since.

What would you say about technical writing as a career prospect?

I believe that Indians are quick learners of technology and we are inherently bestowed with analytical skills. Couple this with good communication skills in English and you have the makings of a good technical writer. And the greatest advantage of technical writing is that you don’t need to be an engineering graduate. You need to be able to marry your passion for technology and your language skills. It can also be a very highly paying career option. And it isn’t just a ‘job,’ it’s a full-fledged career.

And the opportunities for Indians are high. In fact, India has the second largest mass of English technical writers in the world after the US. So if we can somehow manage to make sure that every technical writer is good at what he does, we will be able to attract more tech writing jobs to India. And even today, the demand for technical writers is way greater than the supply. So we are always in need of highly competent aspiring technical writers.

So what can be done to bridge this gap?

A lot of people look at things from the outside and crib about the lack of candidates who can be hired. But someone needs to step up and rise to the occasion to change things. And that is exactly what we did. We devised our own training programme and I think it is the most economical training programme not only in India but also in the world. Professionals from the industry train aspiring tech writers. We have already run three successful batches in Bengaluru and plan to start the next one in April.

Do you think that enough people know about this profession to be able to want to be a part of it in the first place?

Maybe not. But we have been creating awareness about it through our own networks. And people are being inspired by the success stories of others before them.

I also asked a similar question to Mak Pandit when I spoke to him last September. How do you think will the continually changing format of content affect the industry in the long run?

We need to embrace this change, to begin with. Because change is how we evolve. We need to adapt to it and tech writers need to change the way they have been writing and sourcing content. It has become increasingly important to source content from various forums. We need to develop systems that can crawl into forums like Facebook and source content according to the keywords. This will help the writer by making his writing more authentic. If we keep up with the changing trends, it is actually quite interesting to deliver.

How important do you think languages are, both Indian and foreign, for tech writers?

Well, knowing Indian languages wasn’t a need so far but we can clearly see a shift in weight towards Indian languages today. So yes, we will benefit professionally. It will also help tech writers understand how translators translate their content and this will help in saving huge costs by keeping terminology consistent and clear. And whether or not one needs multiple languages professionally, being a polyglot never hurts.

As a parting shot, what change would you like to see in the language industry?

I think a lot of people within the industry are not comfortable with technology. We have people with amazing language skills but in today’s day and age, it is impossible to climb the professional ladder without a sound understanding of basic technology. So I would love to see translators and tech writers more at ease with the technology at their disposal.

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.