Archive for the ‘TC 101’ Tag

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.

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.