Tim Haag Celebrates 10 Years as a Columnist

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I ran into columnist Tim Haag at PCB West, who was visiting the show with co-workers from the technical writing company First Page Sage. We discussed Tim’s years as a Design007 Magazine columnist, and some of the drivers affecting the technical writing market, such as the retirement of many PCB subject matter experts who were also go-to writers within their companies.

Andy Shaughnessy: Tim, good to see you. It’s been a while. How’s it going?

Tim Haag: It’s going really good, Andy. Good to see you.

Shaughnessy: Yeah, good to see you. So first, tell us what brings you to PCB West?

Haag: I have two writers here from First Page Sage who will be taking classes. I’m here to connect with people, make new connections, and just basically network with the whole design community that I’ve known for the last 30 years or so.

Shaughnessy: Now you’re in a management position with a number of writers working for you. Not bad, considering that you were a PCB designer, and not a writer. How did you wind up in management?

Haag: I started out by writing different things for the company that I was working for at the time, and that’s where I began to grow as a writer. Eventually I had some ideas that I put down, and Design007 Magazine started publishing my column. That led to more writing, and eventually, First Page Sage was looking for somebody who could write technology pieces about the PCB design industry, and they hired me. As that has grown and the company has grown, I’ve had more supervisory experience. Now I’m a team lead of a group of writers who cover just a vast assortment of different industries.

Shaughnessy: It looks like First Page Sage services much of the electronics industry, not just PCB.

Haag: Exactly. We have a lot of different customers that are in the EDA industry and other technology segments. EDA is just one area that we service. We also have people writing about other industries medical, legal, real estate, and SaaS-based applications. The list is endless.

Shaughnessy: I can’t believe you’ve been writing your column for 10 years. Congratulations!

Haag: I’ve enjoyed it. It’s really been great working with you all.

Shaughnessy: When you sent your first column to us, we published it as-is. I don’t think we changed a single word.

Haag: I was never so shocked as when you came back to me and said, “We’re going to publish this word for word and not change a thing.” I was stunned.

Shaughnessy: But with the next column, you weren’t so lucky. We bled all over it.

Haag: Oh, yeah. Just red on every word.

Shaughnessy: That’s how it is when your first column is a home run. You can’t hit homers all the time.

Haag: I had such an ego crash.

Shaughnessy: Now you’re the team lead. You said that your company is hiring writers right now, and that seems to be the case across the board. I’ve heard other technical writers saying that there’s just so much work writing out there now. Is it because so many subject matter experts left the industry during COVID, or are they all just retiring? What do you attribute this to?

Haag: We do see a lot of that. A lot of people come to us because they don’t have the in-house expertise to write the material that they want. But we provide more than just technical expertise. We’re laying out an entire campaign for companies to grow their presence on the web and to attract visibility. We do that by not only organizing the SEO aspects of their campaign, but also by studying their industry in depth, and then we provide writers who are subject matter experts and can write high-quality content to attract that interest from the people they’re trying to attract.

We do the basics of SEO, sure, like everybody else does. But with us that’s the beginning of the journey, not the destination. We will look at what the company needs, what it’s going to take to get there, and then design an entire campaign that will answer those needs. We also provide technical expertise on website design in addition to the content that our writers are providing.

Shaughnessy: What is the main problem customers have when they come to you?

Haag: We see a variety of needs from customers. Some people just want technical expertise in what we write for them. Other people say, “Our website’s a mess, and we know it. What do you guys recommend?” Other people say, “We want to see a campaign that will grow our readers’ interest.” What we provide the customer depends on what they want. We may publish blogs to their website, or publish it to social media outlets like LinkedIn, or whatever is necessary.

Shaughnessy: That’s great. This all happened almost accidentally, right? It’s like designers say about their career, “I didn’t choose this; it chose me.” This happened fairly late in your career.

Haag: It was late in my career, and my career in design started out by accident as well. I was working for an electronics company on the manufacturing floor; I had been a photographer in school, and this job opened up in the photo lab, so I took a look. I had no idea what it all meant. They transferred me over and next thing I know I’m making film that’s used for layers of circuit boards.

Shaughnessy: You were in the yellow room?

Haag: Exactly. I went from there to laying out boards, and from there I eventually became a technical writer for circuit board design.

Shaughnessy: I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since you started the column.

Haag: Yes, it’s been 10 years. It’s been wonderful, too.

Shaughnessy: Thanks for your time, Tim.

Haag: Thank you, Andy. Always a pleasure.

Click here to read Tim's column, Tim's Takeaways.


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