[AI] career of a blind technical writer

mukesh jain mukesh.jain57 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 2 08:43:39 EST 2008

  hullo Mr. sanjay, thanks for sharing such a nice article on the
topic of career for our visually challenged persons to evaluate their
writing abilities. this will certainly prove to be a bright sunlight
given to a blossoming flower. i once again express my hearty
appreciation for forwarding such a inspiring topic amongst us. with
warm regards,
v  mukesh jain.

On 2/2/08, Sanjay <ilovecold at gmail.com> wrote:
> (Editor's Note: Some of you may remember Gynger Ingram, a scholarship winner
> in 1986. In 1995, she legally changed her name to facilitate her writing
> career.)
> In 1986, the American Council of the Blind generously awarded me the $1,500
> Floyd Qualls Memorial Scholarship. Subsequently, the Louisiana Council of
> the
> Blind provided an additional $300 to sponsor my trip to the ACB national
> convention in Knoxville, Tenn. to accept the scholarship in person. That was
> 21
> years ago, yet I remain most thankful for the award and the experiences it
> brought me. I used the funds for tuition, textbooks and a large-print
> thermal
> typewriter, an indispensable tool for a visually impaired student in the
> days before laptop computers. As a measure of gratitude, I would like to let
> members know what they got for their investment in my future.
> I went on to graduate summa cum laude from Northwestern State University of
> Louisiana in May 1989, earning a bachelor of arts in English. I then
> proceeded
> to graduate school at Texas A&M University at College Station, earning a
> master of arts in English in August 1991. During my master's program, I
> developed
> an interest in scientific and technical writing that augmented my original
> goal of being an author and university administrator. In the second year of
> my graduate program, I earned a split assistantship, continuing to teach one
> class of freshman composition while also working as a technical writer in
> the university's Supercomputer Center. This role defined the future course
> of my career. Better Communicators
> In today's global work force, one cannot underestimate the value of clear,
> precise communication. In the fall of 1991, I took a teaching position at
> the
> College Station, Texas branch of Blinn College, the oldest community college
> in Texas, which regularly prepares students for advancement to Texas A&M and
> other four-year institutions throughout the state. I taught courses in
> freshman composition, introductory literature and technical writing. My
> department
> head quickly discovered that I possessed an unusual gift for working with
> international students, who often began their course work at the community
> college
> level to improve their language skills before moving on to their advanced
> degree programs. Between 1989 and 1995, I taught over 1,000 American and
> international
> students to be better writers. Over the years, I have heard from many of my
> former students who have taken what they learned and successfully applied it
> to their own careers.
> Interestingly, throughout six years of teaching, I had only one student who
> blatantly took advantage of my low vision. His own peers called his
> treachery
> to my attention and made him apologize to me. Ironically, the culprit was a
> physical therapy major studying to work with disabled people. I took him
> privately
> into the hallway and encouraged him to evaluate more closely his career
> choice. The rest of the semester passed uneventfully.
> A Safer World
> In the summer of 1994, the head of Texas A&M's Department of Nuclear
> Engineering spotted me teaching a technical writing class and remembered me
> from the
> Supercomputer Center. He was considering adding a technical writer to his
> staff pending an upcoming large-scale research project. I took the position
> in
> December 1994, although I continued to teach in the evenings for another
> year. That research project turned out to be the Amarillo National Resource
> Center
> for Plutonium (ANRCP), a program established by the U.S. Department of
> Energy to look into options for disposing of excess weapons- grade plutonium
> from
> the Cold War era. For the next three and a half years, I worked with
> scientists from around the world as they investigated the best options for
> dealing
> with the excess plutonium. My role involved everything from sending e-mail
> reminders about technical meetings to preparing abstracts and progress
> reports
> to serving as the technical editor of a full- length book containing the
> proceedings of a NATO conference on nuclear waste management.
> I also assisted professors in the department with their technical
> publications by typesetting their equations, correcting their English and
> checking galley
> proofs of their articles prior to final publication. I felt particularly
> honored when one of the department's lead professors invited me to serve
> with
> him on the university's Council of Principal Investigators. In fact, he had
> made it clear that he would not accept the CPI's nomination of him as
> secretary
> unless he had my help. In this capacity, I worked with researchers
> throughout the Texas A&M University system by helping coordinate the
> meetings, taking
> the extensive minutes, and streamlining the dissemination of electronic
> information throughout the membership.
> The most rewarding aspect of my position, though, involved helping nuclear
> engineering graduate students prepare their theses and dissertations. Again,
> I strove to impart principles of good writing and clear communication to
> these young professionals who would go on to work at nuclear power plants
> and
> serve as stewards of nuclear arsenals. After all, I reminded them again and
> again, the Chernobyl accident was a direct result of miscommunication.
> By April 1998, the ANRCP investigators had identified vitrification and deep
> burial as the best methods for disposing of excess plutonium. Vitrification
> involves combining the plutonium with a glass-like medium from which
> extraction is extremely difficult. The plutonium/glass material is then
> encapsulated
> in safe containers and buried deep in the earth at a secret location. These
> processes deter future recovery and destructive use of the plutonium. With
> the project at an end, it was time for me to move on with my career.
> A More Sustainable Rio Grande Valley
> During my time with the Department of Nuclear Engineering, I worked on a
> number of proposals, including the original proposal for the ANRCP project.
> I marketed
> this skill across campus, and in May 1998 I joined the Center for Housing
> and Urban Development in the College of Architecture, also at Texas A&M.
> There,
> I worked as a proposal development specialist for the center's nationally
> recognized Colonias Program. Colonias are unincorporated settlements along
> the
> Texas/Mexico border that lack even the most basic infrastructure such as
> paved streets, municipal sewers, telephone service, health care facilities
> and
> so forth. To help the colonias become more sustainable communities, the
> Colonias Program established a series of local community centers to provide
> housing,
> education, health care, senior care, employment and other essential services
> and information to residents. Beneficial as these programs are, they require
> money, and lots of it. While with the center, I helped other Colonias
> Program team members develop proposals to institute helpful programs in
> these needy
> communities.
> Of course, I found the outcomes of my efforts rewarding, but the intensely
> collaborative environment proved quite stressful. The Colonias Program is,
> by
> its nature, a very social entity, whereas I find myself to be a very
> scientific entity, much more effective and productive as an individualist.
> Call me
> odd if you will, but I missed editing technical conference proceedings and
> typesetting equations. Hence, I requested and received a departmental
> transfer
> that brought me full circle back to my days with computers, technical
> abstracts and lots and lots of equations.
> A Cleaner Environment
> After a year with the Colonias Program, I transferred to the Institute for
> Scientific Computation. As a communications specialist, I primarily assisted
> the Institute's director, who was and is by far the most versatile
> scientific professional I have ever had the honor to serve. A mathematician
> at heart,
> he worked extensively within the petroleum industry developing computer
> models to simulate fluid flow through porous media. In plain English, that
> means
> he studied how oil and other petroleum byproducts or contaminants might
> behave if they leak into the soil or groundwater. From this knowledge, he
> developed
> recommendations for preventative measures and contingency plans to mitigate
> contamination incidents. His work necessitated frequent travel to
> conferences
> to give presentations on his work, presentations which I often prepared for
> him. I also maintained his numerous publications, edited articles for him
> and
> his colleagues and assisted with scientific grant proposals.
> More To Come
> By late 2000, I was in trouble. Despite my reliance on a CCTV and a catalog
> case full of magnifying glasses, I suppose all that technical editing had
> taken
> its toll. Or perhaps it was just because I had officially reached middle
> age. Either way, my residual vision was going, and I knew it. I started
> making
> too many typos of my own and failed to catch those of others. My time as a
> technical writer and editor was ending, so I started to investigate my other
> options, such as medical transcription. Then, a secondary near-fatal illness
> sidelined me completely in early 2001.
> The illness is improved now, and I am becoming accustomed to living with the
> lowest visual acuity I have ever had. I worked in supportive roles during my
> first career, and I hope you find that I attached myself to worthy
> coattails. I am currently researching options for a second career with a
> leadership
> role this time, perhaps as the proprietor of my own business. Whatever the
> outcome, I will always remember the generosity of the American Council of
> the
> Blind and other sponsors who contributed to making me a productive
> individual. Thank you.
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Mukesh Jain
  email: mukesh.jain57 at gmail.com
  mobile: 09977165123
  "happiness and joy are the wealth of prosperous life"

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