December 07, 2000, 4:50 PM — You spent your college days reading Tolstoy, cranking out essays by the dozen, and
writing poetry in your spare time. Now you feel as though the dot-com boom has left you
and your Russian literature degree out in the cold.
But Silicon Valley needs more than code warriors: it needs people to explain its
creations to the general public. For every new piece of software created, someone has
to announce it to the press, create sales brochures, generate a manual, or write about
why it's better than the competition's.
Not just tech manuals
Needless to say, there is a huge demand for technical manuals. Contrary to popular
belief, most of these are not written by engineers. Professional writers, many of whom
have liberal arts backgrounds, create them. In fact, the general school of thought is
that it is better for engineers not to create them.
"I think the way people consume and absorb and understand information is not
necessarily the way an engineer goes about designing and producing a product," said
Nola Armijo, the CEO of JONA Group, a San Francisco public relations firm catering to
high-tech clients. If engineers do the publicity, she said, "the reader is likely to be
"It takes an engineer to say, 'Here's how it works.' But it takes a very good writer
to get the point across."
Where the jobs are
The IT industry presents plenty of opportunities for liberal arts graduates,
particularly on the content side. Three of the biggest areas are as follows:
- Technical trade publications. The world has more tech
trades than any other type of trade magazine. Besides the general-interest trades,
there are specialized publications for almost every segment of the technology
- Public relations firms. A growing number of PR firms specialize
in high-tech clients. They need people to create press releases, press kits, product
data sheets, and all of the other material that high-tech firms use to sell their
- High-tech companies. Companies that create software and
hardware to drive the IT world are staffed largely by techies. Those employees may be
able to create the most ingenious piece of technology in the world, but most of them do
not have the time or the inclination to write text meant for public