Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Alt Codes ¡Olé!

There aren’t enough keys on my keyboard! I used to look up special characters in the Character Map, but now I have found a more efficient way to add accents. If you’re using Windows, all you need is a keyboard with a number pad. Hold down the ALT key while you type in the number code on the number pad.

I searched for a table of often-used Alt Codes, and the closest one that I found to meeting my needs was from; however, I found some errors in them and doubt the page gets updated anymore. So I made my own. Here’s what I put together for Spanish.

Alt Codes for Spanish


Alt 168 ¿
Alt 173 ¡


Uppercase Lowercase
Alt 0193 Á Alt 0225 á
Alt 0201 É Alt 0233 é
Alt 0205 Í Alt 0237 í
Alt 165  Ñ Alt 164  ñ
Alt 0211 Ó Alt 0243 ó
Alt 0218 Ú Alt 0250 ú
Alt 0220 Ü Alt 0252 ü

Let me know if you find this table useful and if you’d like me to create more reference tables like these.


TC 101: Final Overview

The purpose of this memo is to recap my experience in Orientation to Technical Communication. Throughout the course, many different perspectives regarding career paths in technical communication have been presented. Guest speakers shared advice based on their experiences. Each guest speaker had a distinct job title and career path. This memo will include information from a public information officer, a technical writer, a graphic designer, the bureau of geology director, a computer scientist, and an assistant professor.

Public Information for a National Observatory
Presented by Dave Finley

Dave Finley talked about the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), his functions as a public information officer, and his background and training. NRAO is a facility of the US National Science Foundation with parts located across the continent and globe. Established in 1956, NRAO is a taxpayer funded user facility with instruments that are extremely flexible. As a public information officer, Mr. Finley’s three main roles involve media relations, public education, and community relations. He ensures NRAO has regular coverage in major media and local/regional media. Mr. Finley works on gaining visibility in science and astronomy magazines as well as tourist travel media. Dave is also working towards growing visibility in social media. With regards to public education, Mr. Finley is responsible for tours, lectures, and brochures. When it comes to community relations, Mr. Finley works with funding agencies, government officials, and civic organizations. In his many roles, Dave Finley is always aware of his audience and caters his message to the audience’s needs and level of expertise; his experience with science, journalism, and politics prepared him for his current job.

Technical Communication: My Paths, My Tips
Presented by Valerie Kimble

Valerie Kimble was a nontraditional student who graduated with a BS in technical communication from New Mexico Tech in 2001. Her career path was the most winding of the guest speakers. She majored in journalism at the University of Arizona until an entry-level journalism instructor ruined her childhood dreams. Valerie then left school to waitress full-time. Later, she returned to New Mexico, went to UNM, got married, went to Tech, got divorced, remarried, had two children, and the rest is history. Her first career was as bookkeeper at El Defensor Chieftain where she had to learn photography by default. She later became a staff writer and photographer. Ms. Kimble worked as editor for five years but found that that job did not suit her. She “retired” from the Chieftain after the birth of her second child but then returned to work part-time and then full-time. At the age of sixty, Ms. Kimble was ready for a change. New Mexico Tech faculty suggested technical communication and that major suited her just fine. Technical communication has something for the left brain and the right brain. Valerie Kimble left us with the following advice: be open to change, explore your options, and beware of limiting beliefs.

Bad Clients Are the Ones Who Don’t Pay
Presented by Kimberly Zuidema

Kimberly Zuidema wanted to study landscape design, but then the American Academy of Art didn’t offer the program, so she decided to study graphic design. She started her career at an ad agency in Chicago and also worked for a pharmaceutical company. Ms. Zuidema got an internship for an animation company with “I give good Mac” written in crayon. As a side note, older businesses often have Macs for design work and expect designers to be comfortable using Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. After Kim’s internship, her career path changed slightly based on location and family obligations. Ms. Zuidema worked doing ads for a furniture store in Socorro when her husband got a scholarship to NMT and then she became an explosion photographer at EMRTC. One final piece of useful advice that this guest speaker shared is to only show clients your top 3 choices of design work because they’ll probably pick one of the designs that aren’t what you’d consider the best work.

Ten Blocks to Effective Written Communication
Presented by Greer Price

Greer Price, the director of the bureau of geology, intended to make a list of ten blocks to effective written communication but ended up with a list of 18+ tips. First, use acronyms the reader will recognize and define them right away if necessary. Second, avoid inserting your opinion. Third, use fonts and graphics wisely. Fourth, always have an outline. Fifth, use proper grammar and syntax to improve readability. Sixth, have an appropriately narrowed focus. Seventh, avoid unnecessary jargon. Eighth, analyze your audience. Ninth, capitalize and punctuate correctly. Tenth, submit the required length. Eleventh, use good sentence structure–place the main idea in the sentence core and begin paragraphs with topic sentences. Twelfth, only include information directly related to the topic at hand. Thirteenth, use abbreviations appropriately–make sure they are correct and your audience will know them. Fourteenth, use references properly. Fifteenth, use words appropriately. Sixteenth, don’t excessively embellish your prose; additionally, use PowerPoints effectively. Seventeenth, give your writing a variety of sentence structure and vocabulary. Finally, make your writing parallel.

(Not) Just a Technical Writer
Presented by Cynthia Veitch

Cynthia Veitch has a BS in technical communication and an MS in computer science. She talked about her internships and her real-world job experiences. Additionally, Ms. Veitch talked about the definition of technical communication and what a technical communicator is. During her first internship, Cynthia wrote “Categorizing Threat: Building and Using a Generic Threat Matrix.” During her second internship, Cynthia wrote about army-wide best business practices on the use of removable USB storage media; unfortunately, that paper was no longer usable when an attacker used removable USB storage media to threaten security. Cynthia’s internship at Los Alamos didn’t work out well. She expected to do research but was relegated to data entry and offered a job as a secretary instead. Cynthia’s fourth internship, at Sandia, was a good fit for her and resulted in full-time employment. In her current job, Ms. Veitch is a scientist who knows how to communicate, but not all technical communicators are scientists. Cynthia Veitch’s final advice is: know your audience, sell yourself, and try something new.

International Professional Communication
Presented by Rosario Durão

Dr. Rosario Durão talked about how she got to international professional communication and why she believes in it. Dr. Durão started her career as a translator at a metallic mechanical company mostly completing literal renditions. Then she became a professor of specialized translation. During dinner with a translator from Australia, Professor Durão learned about the high-paying field of translation as communication that involves understanding the material and having cultural awareness. Professor Durão’s Ph.D. dissertation was about bachelor programs in scientific and technical translation and communication. Dr. Durão spent so much time discussing international professional communication and how she got to it that she ran out of time to go into as much detail about why she believes in it. Dr. Rosario Durão concluded her presentation about international professional communication by emphasizing its importance because the world is increasingly interconnected and complex. People who can communicate are critical assets to any company or organization.

Management Paper: Reducing Stereotype Threat

(This post consists of my excerpts from a team paper on perception and attribution.)


This paper is about “Stereotype Threat at Work” by Loriann Roberson and Carol T. Kulik in Chapter 10: Perception and Attribution in the 9th edition of The Organizational Behavior Reader. This article will be summarized, analyzed, and discussed with regards to understanding management and organizational behavior. First, the major points of the article will be summarized. Second, the content will be analyzed and critiqued in regards to its completeness in tackling the issue and how well it supports its arguments. Third, the application of the article with regards to modern science, technology, and engineering management will be discussed. Through the complete analysis of this article, this paper will provide a cohesive look at the ideas provided in the article and create a broader view of major issues in perception and attribution.


Stereotype Threat at Work

Kray, Thompson, & Galinsky (Roberson and Kulik in Osland and Turner 2011, 272) have an excellent definition of stereotype threat: “Stereotype threat describes the psychological experience of a person who, while engaged in a task, is aware of a stereotype about his or her identity group suggesting that he or she will not perform well on that task. . . . This awareness can have a disruptive effect on performance—ironically resulting in the individual confirming the very stereotype he or she wanted to disconfirm.” When stereotype threat is present, employees feel more motivated to prove themselves; however, this motivation does not provide better quality work. Since many stereotypes exist, most people are susceptible to stereotype threat. Here is a list of stereotypes from the article that can affect an individual’s performance regardless of actual ability (Roberson and Kulik in Osland and Turner 2011, 274-275):

  • Blacks lack intellectual ability.
  • Latinos lack intellectual ability.
  • Low SES students lack intellectual ability.
  • Women have weak math ability.
  • Older people have bad memory.
  • Gay men are dangerous to young children.
  • Persons with a head injury history experience a loss of cognitive performance.
  • Whites are racist.
  • White students have less mathematical ability than Asian students.
  • Men are less capable than women in dealing with affective (emotional) information.
  • White men have less athletic prowess than Black men.

Token individuals (people who are the only one of their kind) are quite aware of situations in which stereotypes exist. The problem is that these individuals care so much about performance that they may either try too hard or make overly cautious attempts at work.

What are the conditions necessary for stereotype threat to exist? Any time an employee believes a trait linked to stereotypes about groups is necessary for quality performance is an instance where stereotype threat may exist. First, stereotype threat occurs when the task is challenging. Worrying about the views of others decreases performance. Second, stereotype threat is likely to occur when an individual identifies as someone who should have expertise in the given task. Lastly, stereotype threat is likely to occur in contexts where employees perceive stereotypes to be operating.

Stereotype threat can disrupt performance but Roberson and Kulik have some recommendations for reducing the effects of stereotype threat. How can managers and interrupt the stereotype threat process? Managers can provide a successful task strategy by explicitly telling employees what behaviors they need to use to succeed. Managers can remind employees of the importance of skills without stereotype relevance. Managers can explain that stereotype threat may make employees feel anxious about the given task, but the stereotype is not related to the individual’s ability to do well. If at all possible, managers could arrange work to remove people from token situations. Reducing stereotype threat contrasts from diversity management. In an effort to reduce stereotype threat, stereotypes are addressed directly and the onus is shifted from the manager’s potential prejudice to the effect of the environment itself.


Critique of Stereotype Threat at Work

Roberson and Kulik effectively summarize research findings on stereotype threat. They provide a useful working definition of stereotype threat, compile examples, outline steps in the stereotype threat process, and provide strategies for interrupting the stereotype threat process. Very little of the article is devoted to the concrete benefits of applying stereotype threat reduction techniques to diversity management.

The concept of stereotype threat may seem obvious in hindsight, particularly to those aware of intersectionality among multiple groups; however, some managers and organizations might not realize how important the issue is. Those familiar with the concept of the Yerkes-Dodson law could easily see why the idea of stereotype threat could be a factor affecting performance. People suffering from stereotype threat care about the outcome of the task to the point of reducing performance. Over a dozen years of research shows that stereotype threat is common in the workplace and there are things managers can do to minimize its effects.

People of privilege may not be aware of how much a problem stereotype threat really is. Roberson and Kulik do mention that men, whites, and white men sometimes suffer from stereotype threat, but they fail to emphasize how much of an issue stereotypes are for the rest of the stereotyped individuals. Being seen as racist, having poor athletic prowess, and having difficulty with emotions do not come with the same stakes as being seen as posing a threat or lacking intellectual ability. Furthermore, the stereotypes applied to some groups may be in areas that aren’t as valued as the stereotypes applied to other groups. Lastly, people that are not marginalized are unlikely to be placed in token situations. However, these concepts may apply to more people as companies move towards globalization. For future work, I think it would be beneficial to do research on the cost of stereotype threat in domestic and international contexts.


Application of Stereotype Threat at Work

Stereotype threat in modern science, technology, and engineering management is very likely going to need to be addressed. As women, minorities, and other diverse individuals start to become token individuals in science and engineering companies, it is important to understand stereotype threat to reduce deviant behavior and turnover. Once companies start to have a reputation as a good place to work for diverse individuals, companies can attract more and more diverse talent.

Overcoming stereotype threat at work is important so managers can empower all employees to succeed. Some of the suggested strategies would be beneficial for training individuals from stereotyped groups and non-stereotyped groups. Successful task strategies could benefit new employees acquiring new skills. Reminding employees of why they were hired as a good fit for the team may be good for motivation. Witnessing others being appreciated for who they are may be good for the whole team’s morale.

Interrupting the stereotype threat process can have a significant impact on productivity in multiple settings. Some potential benefits have been discussed and more research can be done on how reducing stereotype threat can reduce potential costs. If managers fail to effectively utilize a diverse workforce, much potential value could be lost to companies with effective diversity management programs. In competitive global markets, all resources, including human resources, must be effectively managed to stay in business.


Judging people based on what they look like or other identifying characteristics unrelated to ability is a dangerous and costly mistake. To do so would be to attribute false meaning where meaning does not exist. Some people who behave in stereotyped ways do not represent the whole group. The problem with stereotypes is that people who act in a way that confirm the stereotype are remembered and people who disconfirm the stereotype are considered exceptions. Performing poorly due to anxiety from fear of confirming stereotypes continues to provide people with inaccurate information. Fortunately, Roberson and Kulik suggest strategies for reducing stereotype threat.

Management Paper: Video Response

Leadership and the New Science discussed four key areas. First, Dr. Wheatley entreated us to get comfortable with chaos. Second, she stated, “Information informs us and forms us.” Third, she stressed the importance of relationships. Finally, Dr. Wheatley discussed vision—an invisible field. While watching the video and discussing it in class, I tried to make connections to what we’ve been learning. I saw many connections to several different topics we’ve discussed in class; what’s more, I saw many clear connections to articles that dealt with managing conflict effectively.

As the video discussed chaos, I saw a distinct analogy to conflict. Functional outcomes can emerge from conflict. Rather than traditional views of conflict suggesting dysfunctional outcomes, with the new science and more recent theories on conflict, better solutions can emerge from chaos/conflict. Not all interactions must be zero-sum; many situations can be negotiated as win-win. As managers and organizations come to accept chaos/conflict, individuals and organizations can use more organic and creative problem-solving processes.

Once people are comfortable with chaos, they must ground their beliefs and actions on information that is in touch with reality. Companies that are data-driven outperform companies that don’t rely so heavily on facts. Additionally, information must be shared across functions and departments for better results. Some management experts call this concept avoiding silo mentality. If an individual with a hammer sees all problems as nails, he or she is going to miss many alternate options. Getting as much information as possible and relating that information to experience can help managers and organizations make better decisions.

In an effort to share information and increase efficiency, leaders are advised to develop a diversity of relationships. Dr. Wheatley states, “Relationships are all there is.” In order to do business and work as a cohesive team, relationships are fundamental. Without relationships, there is no team. Getting along with coworkers not only leads to increased productivity, but also it can lead to increased job satisfaction and better stress management.

Vision was a topic that was a little unclear to me. The video had the aurora borealis analogy, but I don’t think they went into enough detail about it. If we’re talking of vision in terms of an underlying goal and culture that influences behavior, I can see how it can be called an invisible field. Some parts of nature are invisible to the naked eye but they are still necessary for models on how the world works. I believe a big part of leadership is effectively communicating a vision and empowering others to work towards common goals.

In this paper, I wrote about chaos, information, relationships, and vision and how these four topics relate to conflict and other ideas discussed in class. Coming from a technical background, these ideas make a lot of sense. Fundamental science concepts apply to management. Understanding and applying this information can help us become better leaders. The challenge will be in taking these ideas and translating them from how we do science to how we lead and manage.


Management Paper: Task vs People Reaction

Leadership Matrix

Leadership Matrix (Photo credit: Don Clark)

I was surprised with my results on this questionnaire. During class, when concern for task versus concern for people was described, I thought I would be considered much more task-oriented than people-oriented (perhaps 7.3). I think the source of the discrepancies between my self-assessment and the results of this questionnaire lie with the number of times I answered occasionally.

My score was only 2 on concern for task and 5 on concern for people. I was not surprised that I would frequently want to keep work moving at a rapid pace and push for increased production. Many of the items that show concern for people seem like they would increase productivity. Permitting members to use their own judgment helps keep people engaged in the task at hand. Giving people the freedom to do their work helps avoid resentment and, if team members are committed to the task, would ensure the work gets done. I think communicating why certain decisions must be made helps people understand why certain tasks must be done so that they will complete what needs to get done.

I had 6 items that I marked as occasionally. Many decisions that are good for production are good for people too. These are often situation-dependent decisions. I would only needle members for greater effort if necessary, always needling might de-motivate team members and never needling might not serve team members that occasionally need a push. Assigning group members to particular tasks might be necessary occasionally; on the other hand, letting team members self-select tasks may occasionally lead to greater job satisfaction. Of course, I would be willing to make changes, but only when necessary. As with assigning tasks, self-selecting a pace may occasionally be best for productivity.

Since I was surprised with my results, I wonder about the validity of the test. Why would my self-assessment be so different from the results of this questionnaire? Was I not thinking about enough specific situations. Perhaps my attitudes, intentions, and actions are not in alignment. If so, I wonder why. I also wonder how effective each manager type can be. I suspect in most cases, as with other aspects of management and organizational behavior, effectiveness is dependent on the situation.

Clark, D. R. (2010). Leadership Matrix Survey. Retrieved Dec 11, 2012 from

Management Paper: Myers-Briggs Observations

fancy logo/writing for use in MBTI articles

fancy logo/writing for use in MBTI articles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago, the first time I took the MBTI, my results were INTJ. This time, my results were ISTJ. I can see how my personality matches up with both results. The MBTI can help me understand myself, others, and how people might interact in teams. This understanding has practical applications for organizational behavior. Knowledge of personalities can help reduce conflicts and facilitate conflict resolution when conflicts do occur.

I am definitely introverted. Crowds tire me and I prefer one-on-one communication. I prefer to think and reflect before I act and I like to keep my thoughts to myself until they’re more fully developed. I tend to listen and get along in groups with extroverts because extroverts like to be speaking about 30-50% of the time. I am quite content taking in my surroundings without making small talk.

Depending on the situation, I can be either intuitive or sensing. I noticed an increase in sensing in my method of perceiving/understanding when I started meditating more regularly. This change makes sense because the focus of mediation is experience in the here and now and the sensing method of perceiving/understanding focuses on the present and reality. I balance common sense with imagination, often coming up with many ideas and narrowing them down to the most practical. I have a good memory for license plates and dates that have meaning but not historical dates that I only have a limited understanding of. I don’t like guessing when the facts are unclear.

I tend to be a thinking person. I like to find facts to inform my intuition. I’m comfortable breaking projects down into tasks and agreeing on who does what by when. Though I like reaching consensus, I like objectively evaluating the facts. When conflict isn’t present, I tend to worry group members may be acting overly polite and not getting to the core of important issues.

My “action orientation” tends to be judging. I think I’m in the mode of perceiving until it’s time to judge. I don’t like “wishy-washy” behavior. Once a group has reached a decision, I like to stick to the decision. If information changes, I like to keep groups informed of changes in case we need to rethink a decision. However, I prefer to stick to decisions until further notice.

I have worked with a variety of personality types. Sometimes I can get along well with people who are opposite (ESFP) and dissimilar but I’ve come to realize that I can’t get along with everyone all the time. In my Psychology textbook, I read that birds of a feather really do flock together. I noticed that I spend more time with introverts. Now that I think of it, I do find it easier to make plans with other judging people and I’ve been trying to be more understanding of cultural differences when it comes to punctuality.