New York Technical Writer teaches the ultimate 15-minute yoga class

The most refreshing 15 minutes of the week! Yoga in a meeting room

For the past 8 months, during a very fun and satisfying technical writing contract, I offered a free 15-minute yoga class at lunch time. The participants were my colleagues at the Vancouver-based credit union Coast Capital Savings. This was an adaptation of the 60-minute class I developed for the Society for Technical Communication, following the same principles of being accessible to people of every fitness level, with poses suitable for all of us while wearing office attire, and not requiring any special equipment.

Weather permitting, we did the class in the parking lot, and later on a grassy lawn across the street. When the weather was cool or wet, we did the class in a large meeting room, with lots of windows and light coming in on two sides. When indoors, I encouraged people to kick off their shoes. Outdoors, people often felt more comfortable keeping their shoes on. Sometimes the women did this class in their high heels! How’s that for adaptability!

Over this period of time I perfected a series of poses to loosen all the tension from the neck, shoulders, and upper back. It is mostly standing poses, though when indoors I like to include Cat.

Karen’s 15-minute yoga for the office class
  • Horse (Qigong) – loosens shoulder joints
  • Bear (Qigong) – loosens joints from ankles to shoulders, and softens neck
  • Carnival (Kundalini) – loosens upper back
  • Little wings (Kundalini) – pulverizes remaining tension in upper back
  • Mountain with side bends (Hatha) – uses breath to loosen ribs, open sides
  • Tree (Hatha) – brings balance and resilient strength
  • Cat – a final stretch to open space in the spine and chest

I guarantee that you will feel lighter, looser, rejuvenated, and refreshed after doing these poses! Many times I was amazed at how the tension and pain in my shoulder (which I injured some years ago while working long technical writing days at the computer) vanished from doing this class. The participants—my software developer, subject matter expert, business analyst, user acceptance, business improvement engineer, training, change manager, tester, and quality assurance team mates—also reported feeling benefits such as improved mood and reduced physical tension. But more than the physical results, the benefits of sharing this special time with my colleagues was the most uplifting aspect of this class. I think we all had fun, and that this somewhat unconventional office activity brought us closer together! Namaste.

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New York Technical Writer tells you the top 10 things not to do at an information interview!

As an established technical writer, I occasionally receive requests to grant information interviews to people who are interested in entering the field of technical writing. Teachers in the various technical writing programs around town (Vancouver and environs, including the fantastic program at BCIT in Burnaby) advise their students to seek out these interviews, and I think it’s a great idea.

I recently had the most remarkable experience at an information interview, which has inspired me to write this top ten list of things not to do at an information interview!

  1. Show up at the interview location extremely hung-over, wearing your best wild animal t-shirt.
  2. When you first meet the professional technical writer (that would be me) you have asked to interview, who is probably in a position to hire you or recommend you for a job, say “I’m sorry I look like this, I’ve had hardly any sleep, I’m hung-over, and I can barely talk.” That will make her glad she took a precious half hour out of her Saturday to come and meet with you.
  3. Don’t offer to pay for the writer’s coffee and biscotti. I know you’re probably a starving student and spent all your money on drinks the night before.
  4. Ask in a smarmy voice, “Who else do I need to talk to to get into this field, besides you, of course?”
  5. When advised to join the technical writers’ professional organization, or at least come to their meetings, which cost $5 for students, say you’ve gone to a meeting and didn’t find it that interesting.
  6. When advised to create writing samples for your portfolio, perhaps volunteering for a non-profit organization in order to get some experience, say you don’t want to volunteer because you want to spend all your time playing guitar.
  7. Ask if the professional writer knows Bob Rock. (Just kidding, I made that up.)
  8. Present a copy of your resume, totally covered with ink from someone else’s hand-written comments, and ask the professional writer to look at it.
  9. Remain seated when the professional writer stands to leave. I know, you can barely move.
  10. Be sure to put a typo in the thank-you email you send to the writer six days later.

I hope this will help all you aspiring technical writers feel confident to seek out and conduct information interviews, knowing that the bar is not that high!

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New York Technical Writer’s tips on search engine optimization

For technical writers

It seems that no matter how good our technical writing services are, these days we have to rank well in search engines for our clients to find us. I had a recent exchange with fellow Vancouver-based technical writer Stephen Arthur about the value of being searchable. While potential clients may be more inclined to look for technical writers on a site such as LinkedInmonster.ca, or workopolis.com, and also in the Contractors Directory of the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, I think that it’s also imperative to ensure that clients can find our lovingly crafted websites through conventional search engines.

For technical writing clients

What I say here applies equally well to anyone who has a website and wants people to find your site on the internet. You must be searchable! And findable! So this article gives a few tips.

I tend to focus my efforts on Google, but there are many other search engines that people use. So here is a list to consider checking your site on:

For an unbelievable list of search engines, see the Search Engine Guide.

If your site is new, you’ll have to be patient, as it can take up to 3 weeks for the “robots,” “web bots,” or “crawlers” of the search engines to find your site and glean what’s on it. Google offers Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to assist you. These free tools help you track what Google is finding on your site and get statistics about visitors to your site.

Try this simple trick:

In the Google search box, type site:yourwebsitename.com

This will show you whether Google has indexed your site yet. Indexing means it has found your site and made a list of keyword terms. Webmaster Tools will show you what terms it has found.

Another trick:

In the Google search box, type link:yourwebsitename.com

This will show you the links to your site that Google has found on other websites. This is the number one way to increase your website ranking in search engines. The more sites that link to your site, the more important Google thinks your site must be.

For a final tip, make sure you frequently use terms on your site that you think your clients will search for. The more times a term is used, the more relevant Google will think your site is and the higher it will rank your site if someone searches for those terms.

Happy searching!

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New York Technical Writer celebrates making a difference

Yoga for the officeOn Tuesday, January 19, 2010, I taught a class called Yoga for the Office for the Vancouver chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, a professional organization for technical writers. This is the second time I have taught this course to technical writers, and I developed it to help counter-act the strain on our bodies from working at a computer. Of course this type of yoga is helpful for anyone who works at a computer, not just technical writers! I was inspired to teach this course when I developed the strategic plan for the chapter in May of 2008. As I pondered what I could bring to the chapter in my role as president, the vision that emerged was Making a Difference.

I finished a degree in ecopsychology at Naropa University in 2007, and since then I have been discovering different ways to use what I have learned to serve my people… which includes family, colleagues, and my professional organization, as well as other communities. In the busy city of Vancouver, I think we all belong to multiple communities. And to the community of the planet as a whole.

I believe that many people are concerned about the challenges we are facing as a planet, such as climate change, pollution, social injustice, and economic difficulties. I also believe that people want to make a difference, and do many things in their lives that are making a difference already. So I decided it would be empowering and lively to celebrate the ways we make a difference. This theme still excites me, and it carried me through the challenges I occasionally faced as chapter president for the 2008-2009 term. I believe it has infused our chapter membership of technical writers with enthusiasm about being a part of our STC community.

It has been very inspiring for me to hear of the many different ways our members serve their people: bringing food to people living with HIV or AIDS and their families, street-level outreach for the homeless, dog therapy for palliative care patients, helping friends and family members with child care, and many, many other wonderful contributions. It is not surprising that technical writers are so passionate about service when one considers that we have all chosen a type of work that is service-oriented, helping our clients, companies, and the end users of our documentation to solve their problems. One of the ways that I enjoy contributing is through teaching yoga to people who otherwise might not have an opportunity to experience it.

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