Technical Writing, Training, and Documentation Service Provider in Singapore


    How I became a Tech Writer

    As a child, I dreamed of being a pilot, as a young boy I dreamed of being a doctor, but there are dreams that cannot be and storms we cannot weather. 

    I am now a Writer in the business of creating knowledge base, designing information architecture, informing, persuading, and evangelizing users, through engineering blogs, white papers, and product documentationI communicate technical knowledge, arousing the reader's curiosity. The process of learning excites me. I love to research and convey complex information in a simple, understandable, and user-friendly format. I am energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. 




    As a writer, I delve in three worlds - one world where I put myself into the shoes of target readers, gauging their levels of expertise - novice to an expert; the second world where I spend my time researching and interacting with the application; and the third world, where I craft my writing until it's perfect. 

    After a piece of writing has been developed, I make it better, cleaner, and more efficient. I take the engineers' and users' feedback to polish it further and make it the best possible version of itself that it can be.


    Technical Writer
    During my school days, I was a voracious reader. I read comics such as Tintin, Archie, Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Champak, stories from Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, and Reader's digest.

    My goal was to rank among the top students in the class. I performed well in my studies. On rare occasions, my rank slipped below my expectations, but I always bounced back. Life’s biggest goals were finishing exams, scoring well, and traveling to my hometown - Kottayam, an adventurous journey by train for three days and two nights, passing through hills, mountains, rivers, fields, and tunnels. 

    After X, like every student in the science stream, my goal was to be a doctor or an engineer. I let go of all extracurricular activities and focused only on my studies. In XII, most of us had private tuitions on top of what school teachers were already providing. But things didn't work out as per my plans. I did not qualify for an Engineering or Medicine seat. Based on the merit, I enrolled for a bachelor's degree in Science from the M.S. University of Baroda


    While in the first year, I still pursued my dream. I studied for medical entrance while I was doing BSc but because of clashes in the examination dates; I let go of my dream and carried on with a renewed mind. I scored 62% in the first year and expected a similar performance in the second year, but to my dismay; I scored only 52%.

    During the last year of BSc., I wanted to pursue Masters in Computer Applications (MCA), so I started preparing for the entrance test. To qualify for the entrance test, I needed to score at least 60% in the last year, so that the average of the second and third year comes out to be 55%. By God's grace, I scored 62% in the last year. 


    I appeared for the MCA entrance examination in May 1998. It was a miracle from God to see my rank in the top 10. 

    When I attended the first semester classes, the subjects were different from what I had studied until then. The programming languages were foreign to me. The only subjects that I was comfortable, were Maths and Economics. During the first year, I performed badly in programming languages. But from the second year onwards, my grades improved. In the last semesters, I did projects at ABB and Railway Staff College, using Visual Basic and Oracle. It was during that time I was exposed to the 'Internet' and got fascinated with yahoo messenger. I could interact with people across the globe. In the overall three years of the MCA curriculum, I scored first class. Thank God for His mercy!

    During the college days, every student's goal was to get through campus interviews. In the fifth semester, 2001, companies like Amdocs, TCS, Patni, Wipro, MBT hired more than half the class of our MCA graduates. But in the latter part of the year, because of the dotcom bubble burst coupled with the World Trade Center attack, companies canceled or postponed their job offers. It was a blow to those who were given job offer letters. Miraculously, I got into a US-based startup company - Amtel Security Systems. I was interviewed by Suresh Gajwani, the founder when he was on a visit.


    Shortly after I got into the company, I learned that my primary responsibility was not coding but writing product documentation, providing technical support, gathering customer requirements, writing persuasive RFP responses, assisting sales in identifying customer's business requirements, and delivering technically correct solutions, testing, and even issuing purchase orders for controllers and chips. I had hands-on experience with almost everything except coding. I loved the RFID and security products and enjoyed my work there.

    I worked at Amtel for two-and-a-half years, but there was no salary increment. I decided to change the company. By this time, my programming skills got rusted, and I lost my passion for coding. The only option I had was to work as a Testing Engineer or Sales Engineer. While browsing for jobs in newspapers, I came across a post of a Technical Writer that caught my attention. Until then, I was not aware of a post called Technical Writer. 

    I gave two interviews, one with Impetus Technologies for Testing Engineer and another with Zensar Technologies for Technical Writer. I traveled to Ahmedabad to attend the Impetus Technologies interview. Zensar conducted my interview via telephone.

    While I was in Kottayam for a vacation, I got the offer letter from Impetus. After reaching Baroda, I put forth my resignation and joined Impetus, Indore, in Feb 2004 as a Software Testing Engineer. That was the first time I started living independently away from my parents. The company provided hotel accommodation for a week. 


    Cross Roads
    Two weeks later, after joining Impetus, I got the offer from Zensar Technologies, for the post of Technical Writer with a better salary. I was in a dilemma about whether to accept the offer since I was happy with the role of Software Testing Engineer. After much pondering, I decided to go for Zensar's offer that established my career as a Technical Writer, a road not taken by the MCA graduates.

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;
    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,
    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I marked the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way
    I doubted if I should ever come back.
    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference

    At Zensar, I wrote documentation for the UML tool - BluePrint Foundry, created help file (CHM format) using a freeware tool “Cheetah”, and wrote ADDL syntax Programmer’s Guide.

    In Oct 2004, I received an email for a Technical Writing position with Samsung Electronics in South Korea. It was a marvelous opportunity. I boarded a Jet Airways flight from Pune and landed at Bangalore airport just on time, to attend the interview. From there, I took a taxi to the Samsung office. When I entered the meeting room, I was surprised to see a room full of Korean nationalities. The interview went well, but I was not sure of my performance.

    In November 2004, through God's favor, I received a confirmation letter from Samsung about my selection. During the same time, I received another offer from a company in Pune, but I decided to join Samsung Electronics. I resigned from Zensar Technologies on 10th Jan 2004.

    I arrived in S. Korea on 21st Feb 2005. It was one of the coldest days with temperatures below minus 15 degrees. You can read about my experience here http://www.thomasabeesh.com/2012/07/14/memoirs-of-south-korea/. I was with the Flash Management Software group, Memory Division, responsible for creating product documentation and white papers for Samsung's XSR, Whimory, RFS, and TFS4 file systems.



    Memory Division, Samsung Electronics

    The best thing about working in Samsung, Korea was that they provided a fully furnished flat, festival bonuses during Chinese New Year (Feb) and Chuseok Festival (Sep), performance bonus equivalent to 2-3 months salary, year ending completion bonus, two-way flight tickets to your home country, relocation allowance, and zero tax for foreigners with Master's degree and 3+ years of work experience. 
    Samsung Electronics Residence
    A view from my flat in S.Korea
    I enjoyed the weather in Korea especially the snow in winter. Some of the beautiful places I love there are Jeju, Busan, and Seoul. The company provided free training to learn the Korean language.

    When I joined the Memory Division, it was the most profitable division. But in 2009 due to the great recession, the company suffered losses, and the management decided not to renew the contract of foreign engineers. Most of my colleagues opted to work in Samsung India, Bangalore.

    Before the turn of these events, I wanted to work in the UK. So, in October 2008, I applied for the Tier 1 work permit (HSMP) and within a week, it was approved. I could stay in the UK and look for a job without requiring any company to sponsor my work permit. 



    After my contract with Samsung, I went to Cambridge, UK in March 2009. (Click here for pics). 

    But it was an economic recession there too. I stayed with an African family for a monthly rent of 350 pounds. It was through them; I got the chance to attend the African-American Worship service at the City of David Church - one of the most vibrant people I ever met in my life. While staying in the UK for three months, I attended three interviews in Bristol and Cambridge, but with no success. I decided to return to India to continue my career as a technical writer. On June 2nd, 2009, I left Cambridge and came back to my hometown - Kottayam. In mid-June, out of blue, I received an email from a consultancy in Singapore for the post of a technical writer with Savi Technology - A Lockheed Martin Company


    Singapore was never on my radar. I had never dreamed of working there. God's plan was different.

    Singapore
    Singapore
    There were five rounds of telephonic interviews with the Information Development (ID) Manager, Principal Writer, ID Director, Product Manager, and Vice President of Savi, Singapore. By God's favor, the interviews were successful, and I was selected to work in Singapore for Savi Technologies. I was supposed to join on July 15th, 2009 but later I discovered that I could not travel since my passport validity was less than six months. I applied for the tatkal passport in Kochi and got my passport after seven days. It took another one week to get my employment pass from Singapore MoM.  I was provided the flight tickets and two weeks of accommodation at Spottiswood Park, Tanjong Pagar. On July 26, 2009, I arrived in Singapore and joined Savi Technologies. It was my first experience working in an Agile Scrum environment. I wrote SDK Installation Guide, User Guides, Installation Guides for Savi’s SmartChain RFID applications, using  XMetal as a Single-Sourcing tool for generating content in various formats such as Online Help, CHM, and JAR files, and performed quality assurance and usability testing in the process of producing user documentation. 




    Savi Technology Collegues

    After working there for a year, in August 2010, due to the company's financial performance, the US office decided to outsource the development work to the Pune office in India. Nobody expected the closure of operations in Singapore. The employees were given the choice to work in India, but nobody opted for it. In the middle of September, through God's favor, I received two offers, one with Philips Electronics and another with Tagit Pte Ltd, for a one-year contract. I was in a dilemma to choose the company since both offered the same pay package, but I decided to go for Tagit. My responsibilities were to create user guides, installation guides, and training materials for the mobile banking application, Mobeix. 

    In August 2011, history repeated itself. Because of the financial situation, Tagit started cutting staff, and I was laid off. Since I was employed through consultancy, they tried their best to find another client but had no success. Meanwhile, I applied for PEP and got approval within three weeks. I could work for any company in Singapore without requiring any sponsorship.

    In the first week of October 2011, I got an interview call for a technical writing position with PayPal, an eBay company, at Suntec City, Singapore. It was a six months contract position. There were four candidates vying for the same post. On Oct 10, a day before my birthday, I got confirmation about my selection. Praise God. I was responsible to create API documentation for their SOA-based financial instrument services. 

    On February 29, 2012, I received a call from the consultant informing me that my last working day would be on April 16th, 2012. I was taken by surprise since I expected an extension of my contract.

    I started applying for jobs. In the third week of March 2012, I got an interview call from JDSU Test & Measurements Singapore Pte Ltd, a US-based telecom company. I attended the interview and within two weeks, I received confirmation about my selection. All praises to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One thing I know for sure, God can do it again and again when you call Him. After my selection, PayPal wanted to extend my contract for three more months, but it was too late.


    After working at JDSU for three years and two months, the company split into two disparate groups, Viavi Solutions, and Lumentum. Because of the split, it carried a burden of 50 million USD. To manage the expenses, JDSU decided to close the R&D division in Singapore, phase by phase. I was given a month's notice period. The company provided the relocation expenses and three months' salary for the number of years I worked.

    A week before leaving Singapore, I got an interview with NextLabs, through a referral from an ex-colleague. I cleared the first round, which comprised a written test, an interview with a product lead, and with the director. The second round was a telephonic interview with a senior writer in the US. I cleared that and then there was a third round of telephonic interview scheduled on 29th July with the VP of the R&D division from the US. 

    I also had an interview scheduled with another company on 30th July, but my visa was valid until 26th July. I went to ICA Singapore, to extend my visa, but it was denied.

    While in India, I completed the third round of the telephonic interview and submitted three references from my previous company as per the NextLabs HR policy.

    After two weeks, I received confirmation of my selection. The company applied for my Employment Pass, which was approved within a week. Praise God for His favor. After I joined the company on 26th August 2015, I came to know there were other candidates vying for the same post. 


    Life was going smoothlyI was enjoying the workplace, people were cooperative, there were new products coming up that needed constant documentation. We went for occasional team outings and were having fun. In March 2017, we got our salary after a delay of 2 weeks. It was the first sign of financial trouble. During the quarterly all-hands meeting in May, the CEO indicated the possibility of pruning the workforce if the situation didn't improve. On June 7th, when I entered the office, the admin was not in her seat. I came to know she was let off the previous day. At 1 pm, as I was about to go for lunch, the director called me to a meeting room. I was informed that it was my last day in the office. With all the leaves and 2 weeks notice period, my official last day would be July 4th. I would get my salary until July 4th, but I need not come to the office. I was calm. I knew God was in control and something better would turn up. Few other employees were also given the termination letter.

    I started updating my resume on the job sites. I attended 5 interviews in a span of 2 months. Some interviewers gave high hopes as if they were about to hire me the next day, but at the last moment, they backtracked.

    Through a referral, I got confirmation from Xchanging, a DXC Technology company, but they wanted me to move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I gave my consent for relocation and they applied for my EP. Two weeks later, I got an interview offer with Veritas Technologies, in Singapore for a one-year contract via consultancy. They confirmed my selection after a week. I had to renege the Malaysian offer, but it was cordial. I had to leave Singapore as my pass was about to expire. While I was in India, the company applied for my EP on 3rd August. MoM approved the application on 25th, and I joined the company on 30th August.

    At Veritas, my primary responsibility was to create the documentation for the GovTech Singapore, Backup-as-a-Service Cloud project. I visited the GovTech Data Center daily, interacted with stakeholders and engineers to get the doc feedback and project updates. The deadlines were strict as it was a government project.


    GovTech Data Center


    While I was still with Veritas, in Jan 2018, I saw an ad for a technical writing position with Grab. I applied via Linkedin. There were 2 rounds of interviews. In February, I received confirmation about my selection. I submitted my resignation, gave 1 month notice period, and joined Grab in April 2018! Glory to God!

    Grab had just merged with Uber in March 2018. I was the first technical writer to join. In a span of three months, other writers joined. The engineering manager who hired us had worked in Uber, USA. Since Uber had technical writers, he experimented the same by hiring writers at Grab. All the writers were put in different teams. 

     In the initial days, it was a bit chaotic. I was confused as, why we were hired. Our documentation users were product analysts, data scientists, backend engineers, mobile developers within Grab. This was my first experience writing for internal users. In all the previous companies, I wrote for external users. After 6 months, engineers started seeing the value that we brought to their teams. We designed the structure and breathed life into the documentation. We published engineering blogsnewsletters, and technical tutorials in the Google Codelab format

    The office at Marina One was awesome. It was like being on a cruise ship with a sea view all around.

    Life was going smooth until Covid-19 stuck. In March 2020, our team was about to onboard a new Technical Writer. With a view of the looming recession, there was a sudden announcement of a hiring freeze. 

    There were regular town hall meetings via zoom with Grab's founders and HR heads. In May, they gave a hint of layoffs. And in the second week of June, just a few days before the government's decision to lift the lockdown, the management decided to strike the iron while it was hot. A total of about 360 Grabbers were impacted and that included me and another writer. Love this farewell card from Grab colleagues.

    Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13: Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    James 1:9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

    Technical Writers are hired for a reason and for a season. As soon as the company finances head south, there will be layoffs. At such times, God works in a mysterious way. 

    Why Hire Me?

    I am surprised to see advertisements from high-tech companies in Singapore, looking for Technical Writers with just 2 to 3 years of experience. I believe it is because of the cost factor to hire experienced writers with 10+ years of experience.  

    Technical documents are designed to convey information clearly and persuasively but there are no definite, measurable standards to judge. It's possible that writing can be error-free and still not communicate effectively. There are no algorithms for writing. It takes years of experience and mentorship for writers to come out with quality documentation. 

    The key to writing a good document is that it has to be a good experience for both - the writer and the reader. The satisfaction of the writer and the reader are interwoven. 

    Technical Writing is an art and science. We practice our craft to service the reader. We don't expel raw material; we transmute it to provide what the reader needs. Like any art, writing involves collaboration. We cannot produce documentation in silos.

    My Advantage
    • Excellent interpersonal skills
    • Excellent communication skills 
    • IELTS score 8
    • Master of Computer Applications (MCA) and Bachelor of Science (Physics)
    • More than 19 years of writing experience with reputed companies
    • Mentored by Professional Writers and Editors
    • Expertise with documentation tools such as Atlassian Confluence, XMetal Author, Robohelp, Altova XML Spy, Adobe FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Visio
    • Expert in creating product documentation such as User Guides, Installation Guides, Blogs, White Papers, Training Materials, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
    • Worked in Agile Scrum and Waterfall environment
    • Expertise with version control tools such as GIT, Tortoise Subversion, ClearCase, and Snapshot CM
    • If you have questions, or you want to hire me, email me at abeeshthomas@yahoo.com.
    • If you want me to mentor you or assist you in writing technical documentation, contact me at abeeshthomas@yahoo.com.
    • To outsource your writing and documentation projects, visit ThomasEcafe.com, email: info@thomasecafe.com, or call +65-82086393. 

    6 comments:

    1. Hi Abeesh,

      Thats wonderful article to read.

      I am travelling to Korea soon, please let me know your gmail or any contact id.

      Thanks,
      Amrat

      ReplyDelete
    2. Hi Abeesh,

      For cross reference my email id is "piyush.bitspilani@gmail.com".

      Looking forward to hear from you soon.

      Thanks,
      Amrat

      ReplyDelete
    3. Hi Abeesh,

      Nice article! Could you write an article on tips about writing technical documentation for business people.


      Regards,
      Ganesh

      ReplyDelete
    4. Abeesh,
      Thanks for sharing your example. It is a perfect example of a person who found his 'calling' like a water finding its course - through hurdles, crevices and bushes. You are lucky, although i meet many others who find it very difficult. All the best.

      ReplyDelete
    5. Thanks Sanjiv. Each one of us has a calling and our goal is to discover that calling, earlier the better.

      ReplyDelete
    6. Hi Abeesh,
      Nice to be here,
      I am here via my
      hus's blog page
      A well written
      page with lot
      of lovely pics,
      but sad to say
      that i noticed
      something missing here
      A followers button etc etc....
      and this fonts size is small
      and letters in white with a black background will surely give strain to your readers, i am sure due to that people will run away from here, no one wants to spoil their eyes these days though there is a good and well written stuff people won't take risk, i now want to copy these and put it into word pad and then to word file. hi hi hi i am sure that will be a tedious job, so pl. change your font color or the template color
      Best Regards
      Ann and Phil

      ReplyDelete