I’ve only considered myself an official technical communicator for about a year and a half now, and yet I’ve already being asked advice as I go along. I think part of it comes from exposure from my TechCommGeekMom blog, but it’s also because technical communicators seem to be a rare species. When we find one of our “kind,” we do our best to connect. Conversely, I have been honored and privileged that several people within STC who are more experienced than I am have taken me under their wing to help guide my career and understand what it means to be a technical communicator. In other words, while I’m still learning how to be a good technical communicator, I’m being asked by others less experienced than I am what it means to be a technical communicator.
Let me give you some examples. Over the summer, I was contacted by a woman who found my blog and was interested in understanding more about technical communication, tech comm education, and the life of a technical communicator. It turns out that she lives locally to me, and she also has a special needs child, too. Her story sounded similar to mine, and we had a short-lived email conversation as she tried to determine whether taking technical communication courses was for her. While taking another tech comm graduate course myself over the summer, one of my classmates realized that I had already graduated, and asked me many questions about my degree and my experiences getting an education in technical communications. He was already a technical writer and wanted to figure out what advantages having some coursework would provide him. These are just two of a several examples I’ve had in the past year. I will never claim to being an expert in this field, but I have some experience that I’m always willing to share.
It got me to thinking about my responsibilities in representing this profession, and I realized that as technical communicators we have an obligation and responsibility in promoting and supporting fellow technical communicators in our global community—as well as our local community. I don’t know too many technical communicators in my area, but the few I do know nearby have given me advice and have supported my efforts. As I’ve gotten to know people through social media and at STC events, I’ve seen other seasoned STC members reach out and support me as well. I feel well cared for when I am among STC members, because I’ve gotten the feeling that we are all in this together. There’s a certain kinship and connection between all of us, even though we cover a breadth of specialties within our field. I had mentioned in my last post about the idea of getting students more involved in STC activities, starting with encouraging students to publish in local and regional STC publications. This is only one of many ways that we can actively work to grow our profession and start this connection early in a career. While STC is a professional organization that promotes the field of technical communication, it’s the people that make up the organization—all the members—that truly are the stewards of the field. Whether we do it through an STC activity, event, or publication, or do technical communication activities outside of our STC involvement, it is the responsibility of each technical communicator to foster interest in this field, protect the sanctity of the work that we do, and promote our livelihood as the important, often-overlooked part of industry.
Technical communication has been recognized as a legitimate and formal profession for about a century, and STC has been active for 60 years. As technological, societal, and corporate changes evolve, so does technical communication. By becoming the stewards of technical communication, we keep this profession alive and well and help to bring a better appreciation of our work among ourselves, but also to future generations of technical communicators. We need to take care of each other and continue to educate and challenge each other so the profession evolves, but we evolve as well. To me, that’s what the stewardship of technical communication is all about.
I try to extend this stewardship into my personal life too, to make those who are outside of the profession understand what I do. As my husband worked on installing new kitchen cabinets in our house this weekend, I reminded him, “Make sure that you read the instructions. You may be ensuring the employment of a technical writer.”
So, I pose the following question to the readers of this article: What do you do to promote technical communication and help support others in the field? Some technical communicators do it in a big way, but even small gestures can go a long way. Keep that in mind.