While presenting on a panel, I was asked about what skills are needed to be an effective technical communicator. While the other panelists shared their ideas, I came up with CAIRO:
Communication skills are obviously needed for anyone in TechComm. You must understand your audience and know how to write what they need to know. This often involves translating something from technical speak to industry speak. Also, you must have the right _kind_ of communications skills. Writing for TechComm is not really the same as writing marketing content or blog posts.
(Alternate C is Curiosity, suggested by Jacob Lehmann. Do you have the curiosity to fully investigate the project you’re working on and learn it enough to understand it?)
Adaptability is key. You can’t just be the person who only does one thing. Need to document APIs and use Swagger? Sure, learn how. Want to produce content with DITA? You can learn that, no problem.
Interpersonal skills will make or break your network. Everyone has had to work with a less-than-helpful/grumpy person. How can you turn an awkward work relationship like that to a helpful, friendly one? Find common ground? Maybe you both read the same web comics, follow the same sports teams, have travelled to the same place. Form a connection and the answers you need will come to you without you needing to ask.
Research skills tie in with your communication skills. Before you sit down to write, you need to learn what you’re writing about. Attend that meeting, set up that call with the designer, read the wiki or design, review the bug about this feature. Then figure out what you need to say.
Organization is key in life, not just in terms of your job. For TechComm, after you’ve researched all your idea, how do you structure it? Is it a series of connected topics? Is it a master document that explains everything? How do you best convey all that you’ve learned? These are all things you need to sort out before you put the proverbial pen to paper.
What Tools and Technologies Should I Knowas a Technical Communicator?
Monday, 29 November | 1:00 PM ET
Interested in learning about the tools every technical communicator should know? Join moderator Liz Pohland, STC CEO and panelists Tim Esposito, Jack Molisani, and Jane Wilson to learn more about the most frequently used tools, tools that are both good and free to use, the different tools for Mac vs. PC, and more. Bring your questions about tools for the open Q&A! Each month, STC will hold a free moderated panel with seasoned TechComm professionals who will answer the most common questions we get asked about the industry, and what you need to know to start your career as a tech comm professional. KnowledgeXchange Panel Discussions are held the last Monday of each month at 1:00 PM ET.
This review originally appeared in Volume 68, Number 4, November 2021 issue of Technical Communication.
Time travel is a common and popular theme in both literature and film. From H.G. Wells to Back to the Future, people have imagined how time travel could work and alter their lives, perhaps by travelling to the past to make a sound investment or place a winning bet on a sporting event. However, very few sources center on travelling through time with the intention of inventing everything and explain to you how to do so. Humorist Ryan North, perhaps best known for his Dinosaur Comics, wears the hat of a technical communicator and presents a fun, but serious look at how to re-create the modern world if you are stranded in the past, in How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler.
The book’s framing narrative is that you are a time traveler stranded in the past, reading the time machine repair guide. In the likely event that you cannot fix the time machine, you’ll have to build modern society from scratch, with the guide’s help. While this sounds fantastical in concept, it sets the tone for what is essentially a reference book on discovering everything, from breeding dogs from wolves, to creating charcoal to filter water, to composing “Ode to Joy” with your name on the manuscript.
In the introductions, North credits a technical writer (himself in another timeline) with creating the book’s content. Accordingly, much of the content is relatively technical in nature, although explained so any common person/stranded time traveler can follow along and understand. Each section lists the invention, a relevant quote about it, a description, what people did without it before it was invented, when it was invented, the prerequisites of inventing it, and how to invent it. For example, without inventing glass you would not have corrective lenses or microscopes. To invent it no prerequisite inventions are needed unless you want to make artificial glass. Next, not only instructions on how to create glass are provided, but also how to form glass into useful objects, such as a telescope. Footnotes help flesh out the process and add levity to the content.
After reading How to Invent Everything, you may not be ready to create a combustion engine from scratch, although all types of engines are described. Throughout what could be a dense encyclopedia of information, North sprinkles humorous observations and informative footnotes about actual history, such as the “wandering womb” theory from ancient Greece that persisted until the 1800s. The content reads like a high-level summary of what you would expect to learn in an overview course of just about everything, including basic chemistry to music composition to computer logic and the first 768 digits of pi for reference. For anyone who would like a general explanation of how the modern world works explained at a high school level, invent moveable type and bookbinding, pick up a copy of this book, warm up your flux capacitor, and prepare for a delightful travel through time.
I’m deeply honored to receive the President’s Award from the Society for Technical Communication (STC). #stc21“
The President’s Award honors those who have made distinguished contributions to the profession of technical communication or the Society. The President’s Award is awarded solely at the discretion of the president.”
There are still seats left for my WordPress workshop on Saturday, September 19. This workshop is ideal for STC chapter webmasters and others who host and maintain WordPress sites. The morning workshop covers the basics; the afternoon workshop covers some important topics, including security, in greater depth. Register on Eventbrite.
This entry is being posted on behalf of Timothy Esposito, candidate for Secretary in the 2020 STC election.
My name is Timothy Esposito, and I am running for Society Secretary. Over the years, I have held many roles with STC, both for the Philadelphia Metro Chapter and for the Society itself. At the chapter level, I have served in every role, including president and acting secretary. While I was president of the Philadelphia Metro Chapter, we were awarded Community of the Year. For the Society, I have chaired the Community Achievement Award Committee, the Distinguished Community Services Award Committee, and the Associate Fellow Committee. Meanwhile I worked on the Community Affairs Committee, the Scholarship Committee, the Budget Review Committee, Summit Committee, and the Intercom Awards Committee. So why do I want to join the STC board as Secretary?I am running for Society Secretary because I want to:
Apply leadership skills I developed with STC to help guide the Society itself.
Support the Society as it grows, evolves, and continues to set the standards in our industry.
Use my organizational skills to make the Board and the Society run smoothly.
Please consider me for secretary because I am:
Comfortable working in diverse communities and remote teams.
Invested in balancing the needs of communities and the Society to provide the best possible outcome for both STC and STC members. My attention to detail and organizational skills will assist the Society and its members.
If elected Society secretary, I will serve honestly and faithfully to the best of my ability. Timothy Esposito, STC Fellow STC Election 2020 Candidate for Secretary