Achieving work-life balance

A background in engineering gave Tracey Mozel a leg up when she made a career switch to technical writing

Photo courtesy Tracey Mozel

Tracey Mozel's home-based business allows her to combine a career with quality family time. — Photo courtesy Tracey Mozel

Nelson resident Tracey Mozel is an engineer by training but has morphed that background into a home-based business—Tracey Mozel Technical Writing—that suits her current lifestlye in the Kootenays.

She loves what she does because it affords her that precious work-life balance that so many seek. Mozel mentioned flexibility several times in describing the benefits of her choice of career, something she's been doing for 12 years now.

That flexibility means she can enjoy satisfying work, but be home with her kids too, enjoying the relaxed pace of life in the West Kootenay.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an engineer-turned-technical writer, and I produce technical documentation, both print and electronic, for clients in industries that range from software development to dairy farming.

What is your favourite part of the job?

The best things about my job are the variety and flexibility. I work on contract with clients from many different industries, so every project is different, and every week offers the opportunity to do something new.

Working from a home office also gives me lots of flexibility to plan my work schedule around my family's schedule. It's really the best of both worlds—satisfying, interesting work and the flexibility to be at home when my kids get out of school.

What tips would you give to someone looking to get into similar work?

Unquestionably, a degree in electrical engineering has been a big boost to my technical writing career. That isn't the only route into the field, of course, but it has certainly worked for me.

The most obvious benefit is that a background in engineering and science makes it relatively easy to understand complex technical material; it is immensely useful to have some previous experience or education related to my clients' products or processes.

Another benefit is that an engineering degree helps give me a foot in the door. There is often a belief among technical companies that what they do is so complicated that a technical writer with an arts background couldn't possibly be any help at all. That isn't necessarily true, of course; I have worked with many very good technical writers who came from English or journalism backgrounds.

But the perception is there, and having an engineering degree helps break down that barrier. My career as an engineer, years ago though it was, also helped me establish a network of contacts that have by now spread to many different companies in a lot of different industries.

That's incredibly valuable; nearly all the work I've done as a technical writer has come from those contacts.

What do you enjoy about living in the Kootenays?

The relaxed Kootenay pace of life is really something special. I grew up here but spent nearly 20 years at the Coast, first getting an engineering degree and then building a career. It was a good thing to do at the time, but I am very happy to be back in the Kootenays.

Life here is so much more relaxed: the people are more open, the traffic is lighter, the pace is slower. People are much less angry here. The other day, the guy behind me at an intersection honked his horn when the light turned green; apparently I didn't move fast enough for him. I just thought, "Wow, you're not from around here, are you?"


Sandra Albers

Since 2007, Sandra has enjoyed hearing about new businesses, expanding businesses and unique businesses, as well as learning more about the long-time successes in the business community of the Kootenays. She writes, as well as copy edits and proofreads, for both magazine and website, and welcomes input from our readers. View all of Sandra Albers’s articles

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