Why am I studying technical communication?

Studying technical communication feels like the right thing for me to do now. There are several things that draw me to the TC field. I hope to gain skills in speaking professionally, technical writing, and editing. Through the course of my studies, I hope to glean an overview of the career possibilities in the technical communication field, and I want to be able to visualize myself working in the field of technical communication.

When I was in high school, I thought about majoring in chemical engineering and minoring in technical communication. I chose chemical engineering because I was always good at math and science, enjoyed chemistry, and was interested in engineering. I considered technical communication because the topic of communication fascinates me and I like working with people who love learning. I didn’t get a minor in technical communication while I was completing my BS in chemical engineering because I wouldn’t have been able to finish in four years. I didn’t have enough room in my schedule because when I got to college I was undecided and took classes towards chemical engineering, chemistry, and environmental engineering to help me decide.

Though I have a BS in chemical engineering and have taught high school math and science, I still feel like I have a lot to learn. I consider speaking one of my weaknesses. I took Speech and Advanced Public Speaking because I felt nervous just introducing myself in Statics class (granted it was a class of about 80 students) when I was a college sophomore. My senior design professor complimented my speaking ability after my senior design presentation and I still feel as though I need more practice. I also seek to improve my technical writing and editing skills. The people with degrees in technical communication from NMT who I have worked on projects with have impressed me with their technical writing and editing skills.

I know a few people who have a BS in technical communication. Two of my friends wrote the proposal that helped get equipment for the new TC lab we New Mexico Tech students have access to today. One of them now works as a technical writer and support specialist for Indian Health Service. The other one was a documentation specialist at NRAO until her contract was up and is now seeking to use her amazing technical writing and editing abilities to find a job in Chicago. One of my friends is IT Director at the office of Senator Jeff Bingaman. Another one of my friends became a systems engineer at ShoreTel after studying information technology at RIT. I also know someone who went into graphics and web development.

Through observing the experience of friends, I know there is a lot I could possibly do in the field of technical communication. I have many interests and believe the skills I will learn in technical communication will provide many career options that would be a good fit for me.


4 comments so far

  1. Kai on

    Hi, Samantha, thanks for sharing your motivation, it made me reconsider why I’m in TC and what I like about it.

    I haven’t seen anyone else say they get into TC to learn about speaking professionally. At first, I thought that was a quirky connection to make, but looking at my own experience, it makes perfect sense. TC has definitely helped me learn to structure wildly disparate material into something presentable and comprehensible. And knowing I have some order in my message makes it easier for me to convey it with confidence. It even helps me deal with criticism: Knowing my structure well, I can often pinpoint where I might have gone wrong and how I can fix it.

    I don’t know your school, but from my general experience, you don’t necesssarily get a good impression what actual work in TC feels like from studying it. I would think realizing your resume objective to become a TC intern during summer 2013 will give you a much better indication… πŸ™‚

    If you enjoy communication and learning, may I recommend some posts on my own blog at http://kaiweber.wordpress.com/category/cognition/? I’m interested in cognitive science (to the extent that I can understand it without formal training) and have a couple of presentations that connect it to TC, one on pattern recognition and one on meaning (via mental models and semiotics).

    I can only encourage you to continue to network to see what careers and opportunities are out there. And I recommend that you look into attending an STC Summit. The next one will be in Atlanta next May. Hook up with STC Trinitite – I’ve met three people from your school who went to this year’s Summit at Chicago who can tell you how it’s been.

  2. TCSamanthaM on

    Hi, Kai, thanks for suggesting the topic and writing such a thoughtful comment.

    I don’t necessarily want to give presentations at conferences (yet), but handling business calls and talking to clients and subject-matter experts seems to be an important part of what technical communicators do. Did you learn “to structure wildly disparate material into something presentable and comprehensible” while writing and apply that skill to speaking or does it go both ways? I’m curious about what media and purposes you’ve used that for, seems applicable to many.

    You’re right, professors focus a lot on theory and we have projects that simulate work, but an internship would give me a better impression on what working in the field is really like. We’ve had a lot of guest speakers in Orientation to Technical Communication, and that has given me a better understanding of the breadth of things technical communicators do; however, they’re unable to give enough details in just an hour of speaking.

    Your posts seem to be in alignment with my interests. I’m currently taking an introductory psychology class and picked up a few things on learning from when I was a teacher. I’ll probably write a little on how to learn and take tests in the future.

    I definitely want to go to the STC Summit. After I took a proposal writing class as an elective during my first degree, I joked about joining STC so I could go to the conference with my friends and learn more about what they were learning. STC Trinitite is still figuring out a way to get enough funding so that interested students can go to Atlanta in May.

    • Kai on

      Hi, Samantha – I mainly learned that structuring by writing, esp. by writing topics which makes you decide which topics to write to ensure complete coverage and then sort them into a comprehensible order.

      On the other hand, speaking taught me – by trial and error – how to present an argument so it’s easy to follow. Even in talking to SMEs, this helps me to set the right context when I ask questions, so we cut straight to the chase and I can be sure to get an answer I can actually use.

      I have experiences so far with user manuals and release notes in PDF, online help in CHM and HTML, as well as with conference presentations and webinars in PowerPoint. Oh, and some articles and conference proceedings in Word.

      Does the Orientation allow for networking with the guest speakers? Maybe there are some people who are fun to prompt for details or who are willing help in other ways? I find that tech comm’ers in general are a pretty approachable, helpful bunch… πŸ™‚

      I’m planning to attend the Atlanta Summit myself – but I’m not sure yet I’ll actually get to go. But maybe we’ll meet there… πŸ™‚

  3. TCSamanthaM on

    Hi, Kai – I did meet some guest speakers that seemed like they would be fun to prompt for details, and the instructor encourages networking. One of our STC Trinitite co-presidents approached one of the guest speakers who specializes in animation and is trying to see if she can do a workshop for students interested in how to use common design software. Tech comm’ers do seem to have a nice and helpful culture. πŸ™‚

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