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The Road Not Often Taken … Alternate career paths for senior technical communicators George F. Hayhoe Tri-Doc 2005 Conference 8 April 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "The Road Not Often Taken … Alternate career paths for senior technical communicators George F. Hayhoe Tri-Doc 2005 Conference 8 April 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Road Not Often Taken … Alternate career paths for senior technical communicators George F. Hayhoe Tri-Doc 2005 Conference 8 April 2005

2 The road we’ll explore today  Careers past and present  Knowledge senior technical communicators need  Three examples of technical tracks

3 Careers past and present

4 The early years, 1  Who: Mostly male, mostly trained as scientists or engineers  What: Big publications departments in defense and aerospace companies  When: 1950s-1985 (Cold War/Space Race)  Where: Mostly in the U.S.  Why: Writing proposals, reports, and procedures

5 The early years, 2  Time-consuming process of handwritten drafts, typescripts, art work specs, editorial and SME reviews, typesetting, and excruciating revisions and corrections  Most publications produced by teams; well-defined career ladders  Lots of (to us) unfamiliar equipment and tools

6 The computer revolution, 1  Who: Increasingly female with backgrounds in the humanities  What: Computer hardware and software, and consumer electronics  When:  Where: Mostly in the U.S.  Why: Writing hardware and software user guides

7 The computer revolution, 2  Disappearance of secretaries and typing pools  Keyboard skills essential  Developing a comfort level with technology, up close and personal  The concept of desktop publishing

8 TC as cottage industry, 1  Who: 70% female (2002), most with backgrounds in the humanities  What: Computer hardware and software, and consumer electronics  When: 1995-present  Where: U.S., Europe, and Asia  Why: Writing help and Web sites; increasing use of multimedia

9 TC as cottage industry, 2  Everyone their own writer/editor/ designer/illustrator  Single ownership of projects  Little coordination between projects  Often literally cottage work

10 The problems we face  Salaries account for increasing percentage of cost of publishing  Relatively few with formal training in TC  Emphasis on tools  Corporate solutions: Offshoring Deprofessionalizing

11 Knowledge senior technical communicators need

12 Communication expertise  Few technical communicators with formal training  Extensive theory and research base  Experience with procedures but often little knowledge of other genres  Impact of single sourcing and shift away from hardware/software writing

13 Cognate expertise  Related fields such as instructional design, cognitive psychology, human factors, usability, typography, and design  Some formal knowledge of all  Specialization in one or two

14 Subject domain expertise  Increasing computer literacy  Greater mastery of computing and business processes needed to support more sophisticated users  Shift away from IT to other domains such as healthcare, finance, and security?

15 Management expertise  Estimation and time management  Budgeting, accounting, and market- ing  Leadership, motivation, and inter- personal dynamics/communication

16 Three examples of technical tracks

17 Information development and design  Production assistant  Information developer  Expert information developer  Information designer  Project manager S. Carliner Emerging skills in technical communication: The information designer’s place in a new career path for technical communicators. Technical communication 48:

18 Single sourcing  Information designers  Information architects  Information technologists  Information analysts M. J. Albers Single sourcing and the technical communication career path. Technical communication 50:

19 Knowledge creation  Help experts make tacit knowledge explicit  Help design teams reach consensus about product design  Create knowledge assets such as documents M. A. Hughes Moving from information transfer to knowledge creation: A new value proposition for technical communicators. Technical communication 49:

20 Your turn  Questions  Discussion


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