From aviation to rail transport.
Stephan Schmidt is a team leader, trainer and technical writer at Semcon in Cologne, Germany. He has always had a connection to technical professions throughout his entire professional career. His path led him from a trained gas and water fitter to an aircraft mechanic and finally to a technical writer.
Like many of my generation, I did not know straight away, in which direction my professional career should take me after leaving school. At that time, my father’s motto was: “Craftsmanship has golden soil, you cannot go wrong there”. Today, as a father of three myself, I know exactly what he meant back then as a man who worked as a craftsman himself. So I decided to start an apprenticeship as a gas and water fitter. In the first year of my apprenticeship, I had already developed a pretty good sense for comprehending technical things and quickly implementing them. After successfully completing my vocational training, I wanted to follow this direction and possibly succeed my trainer, but I could not avoid the compulsory military service that still existed at that time.
Safety was always the alpha and omega in my career choices
Since I am not one to start something half-heartedly, it was out of question to deliberately fail the examination at Bundeswehr to avoid military service. I did not achieve my actual goal of flying a helicopter at some point in my life due to the high number of participants and the strict selection of participants, but I was at least allowed to choose the department in which I was going to work. Therefore, I was assigned as an aircraft mechanic on the twin-engine multirole fighter Tornado and spent the next ten years attending training courses and maintaining fighter jets. In the last four years of my service, which I spent abroad, I changed my career again due to family misfortunes and moved back to Germany with my family.
Going back to school again
After I took a year off work to get back into my apprenticeship company, I decided – according to my motto “Safety is the alpha and omega” – to do further training to become a state-certified technician in the field of mechanical engineering. To do this, I first had to go back to school to catch up on my vocational diploma and then again to complete the advanced training. After successfully completing the latter, I came across Haas-Publikationen GmbH (now Semcon) by chance during my application phase. An interview and a subsequent trial day convinced me to deviate from my original plan of working in the field of construction and switch to the profession of a technical writer. I immediately felt comfortable and signed the contract of employment. Thus began my career as a technical writer in July 2012.
My activities at Semcon
My main task as a technical writer is primarily the creation of work instructions, guides and complex operation and maintenance manuals for rail vehicles. Depending on the customer and their individual requirements, it is a matter of generating complex technical data into simple action steps with comprehensibly supporting graphics in different languages. To do this, I examine 3D-models, drawings, electrical and pneumatic diagrams, supplier documents, system requirement specifications and spare parts lists, among other things, and summarize the information relevant to the end user in the manual required in each case. Graphic preparation is just as much a part of my job as compiling and checking the relevant content. After the preparation and technical review by the engineering department, the manuals are made available to the train conductors and maintenance staff on site.
In addition to this, I am going to be more involved in the role of trainer, which means that I am going to conduct training sessions for the crew and maintenance staff at the customer’s premises. This also means that I will have to implement and explain the documentation I have created myself practically, so that anyone who may be unfamiliar with it will then be able to work with the documents on the vehicle or operate it. The big advantage for me is that I can incorporate any knowledge I may have gained into the documentation afterwards.
After several independent projects and the excellent leadership and promotion of my own team leader, I was recently promoted to team leader myself. The aim is to continue to look after my own client in the long term or to deepen the relationship, to officially calculate and manage projects independently and perhaps the most important function, to form and lead my own team. My professional career has, I think, already helpfully paved the way for this, so that I am looking forward to new challenges and I am optimistic about the future and my tasks at Semcon.
Conclusion of my career choice
For almost nine years now, I have been practicing the profession of a technical writer, which could not be more varied with its ups and downs and also certain demands. Nevertheless, I feel confirmed in my decision to take this path. And at the end of the day, it offers me the security I need. And that is still the alpha and omega for me.
Name: Stephan Schmidt
Title: Team leader, trainer and technical writer
Education: Gas and water fitter, aircraft mechanic and state-certified technician specializing in mechanical engineering.
Has worked at HAAS / Semcon since: July 2012
About Semcon Stories
A series of articles for everyone wondering what it’s like to work at Semcon. With Semcon Stories our employees get to highlight certain exciting aspects of their jobs.