STC TC Communicator
Published by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication

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                                                                                                               March 2017, Volume 3, Issue 3
 Technical Communication Meets User-Centered Design
with Speaker Fred Beecher


Back by popular demand, Fred Beecher, Director of User Experience Design at The Nerdery, will discuss the shared goal of UX and Technical Communication: effective communication.

Mr. Beecher will talk about how we can leverage our existing tech comm skills if we incorporate UX design into our daily processes.


Registration is required for dinner, but walk-ins are welcome. Catering by Kowalski's. This is a co-hosted event with the Metropolitan State University student chapter of STC, called TC3. TC3 stands for Technical Writing, Communication, and Community, the three pillars of our profession!
Tuesday
March 14, 2017
5:30 pm: Networking
6:30 pm: ​Speaker
Metropolitan State University
Student Center, Room SC-101
700 E 7th Street
St. Paul, MN 55106



Directions

Register Online

The University of Minnesota
Technical Writing Program
Part III of III

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Hello everyone!

This article is the last in my series about technical communication education today.

To read about the viewpoints of established technical communicators and their education experiences, please check out the February 2017 STC TC newsletter.

Today, I am covering the narrative of those who are currently studying technical communication. Enjoy!
The technical communication landscape has changed significantly in the last several decades. Once needed primarily for their ability to write about technical subjects like computers, technical communicators have now become important members of a wide variety of fields and disciplines.

As the demand for technical communicators with specialized skills has increased, educational standards in relation to writing skillsets have tightened. As I mentioned in the February issue, a technical communicator several decades ago benefitted from possessing a writing-oriented degree. Today, the writing-oriented degree is beneficial, but additional training in sub-specialties allows a student to develop a competitive edge. For example, the University of Minnesota’s Technical Writing and Communication (TWC) program now includes four sub-plans that offer training in specialized fields.

To sample the current educational environment, I interviewed four TWC students in varying sub-plans to learn about their experiences. Their background is summarized in the table below.

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Similar to the older technical writers who I interviewed for last month’s newsletter, all four students were strongly interested in writing. However, each student had a different perspective on how technical writing could serve their career goals.

In Brian and Megan’s case, they majored in English but switched majors to “functional writing,” or learning to write for applied technological subjects and audiences. Megan loved writing, but felt like she didn’t have the “creative stamina or artsy introspection” to succeed in the English major. Brian believed English wouldn’t provide the necessary skills for the field in which he was interested.
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In Laura and Lauren’s case, they chose the Technical Writing and Communication (TWC) program because it applied to numerous subjects. Laura had a passion for “writing, communicating, and technology,” as well as the intersectional nature of these areas with “writing skills, communication skills, and digital technology." She wanted to integrate writing with the real world in order to have the most impact on users. Lauren wanted to learn “a skill set applicable to a wide variety of careers” so she could potentially access a wide variety of options.

In Megan’s case, she had a strong interest in law and wanted to combine the analytical principles she learned in the TWC core work with the legal knowledge from her law classes to become a practicing attorney. Brian wanted to add his writing ability, technological savvy, and knowledge on design to developing a cohesive brand and advertising for a company. Laura wanted to use communication skills from her TWC coursework with her passion for the environment to work for a company like EcoLabs in St. Paul, which is an environmentally friendly company that serves local businesses. Lauren wanted to use medical knowledge gained in the Biological and Health Sciences sub-plan, communication skills developed in her writing courses, and a strong interest in health sciences and content management to work in the health communication field.

Despite their various goals for applying technical communication, all of the students had similar perspectives on the difference between technical communication education today versus in the past. Each student identified the ubiquitous nature of technology in today’s society, and sought a program that accommodated numerous fields and professions.

Educational standards that previously focused on a linear, engineering-oriented path have now branched into multiple fields, as technological changes have drastically changed how we communicate. As Lauren pointed out: “our generation … is changing many of the ways in which we communicate with each other through the various modes on our devices and our increasing use of the web.”

Technical communication has expanded its subject matter, and in the process now draws in students like Megan, Laura, Lauren, and Brian, who perhaps represent a wider range of fields and career options. The opportunities for technical communicators are growing, and it’s exciting to see the future to which students can look forward.

This concludes my mini-series on intersections between technical communication and its educational practices. Thank you for all for reading! 
 
Ayanfe Adewoye
adewo008@umn.edu

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