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Seven Traits of Successful Technical Communicators


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STC Presentation to 2006 Conference in Las Vegas and STC Toronto Career Day in 2008 …

STC Presentation to 2006 Conference in Las Vegas and STC Toronto Career Day in 2008
and STC Toronto Management Day in 2009

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  • Bernard (Welcome)
  • Bernard (introduction)
  • Visnja (Introduce Presentation)
  • Visnja
  • Visnja
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  • Visnja
  • Rob
  • Rob
  • Visnja
  • Rob
  • Visnja Often are those that recognize problems as opportunities to innovate and excel in the field. Are those that at interviews have found out as much as they can about the company and who the players are, what they have done, news items about the company, etc. Are those that if they say they have not used a technology or tool, have at least taken time to read about it or talk to someone to learn more.
  • Rob
  • Visnja
  • Rob
  • Visnja You are able to objectively review other ways of doing things and are positive as opposed to negative when new ways of doing things are imposed on you. Enjoy learning how people or groups do things differently. Do not fight change and chaos Comfort with chaos and uncertainty See change as an opportunity to learn and do something different Comfortable with moving out of their comfort zone Able to learn about different ways of doing things and recognize and champion when something might be better than what they are currently doing Are not stressed when things are uncertain or chaotic but are able to continue and follow a course of action despite the uncertainty and chaos
  • Rob
  • Rob
  • Rob
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  • Rob 1 minute/42 minutes Delivery mediums: the deliverables you produce Delivery mechanisms: way users access your deliverables Skills: what you need to be able to do Expectations: what folks expect you to do Tools: software/hardware you use to produce and deliver deliverables
  • Rob
  • Visnja
  • Visnja
  • Visnja Larger audience bases tend to require: Translation Content re-use Web-based help Strict corporate style And so on…
  • Visnja
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  • Transcript

    • 1. Hiring Excellence: Seven Traits of Successful Technical Communicators
    • 2. Presenters
      • Bernard Aschwanden
        • President of Toronto STC chapter
        • Trainer and consultant in CMS, XML, DITA, and publishing technologies
      • Rob Frankland
        • Long-time documentation manager
        • Technical communication consultant
      • Rob Hanna
        • Technical communication consultant
        • Member of the Board of Directors for the Society for Technical Communication
    • 3. About this Presentation
      • Presented to the STC Conference in 2006 in Las Vegas
      • Panel co-presenters/co-authors:
        • Amber Swope – IBM
        • Lisa Swallow – Mentor Graphics
        • Rob Frankland – Sock Monkey
        • Rob Hanna – ASCan Enterprises
        • Visnja Beg – IBM
      • Other presentations to local STC chapters
    • 4. Presentation Overview
      • Introduction
      • Seven Traits
      • Ethical Conduct
      • Technical Skills
      • Hiring Trends
      • Supporting the Profession
      • Q&A
    • 5. Technical Writers
      • Technical writers put technical information into easily understandable language. They prepare operating and maintenance manuals, catalogues, parts lists, assembly instructions, sales promotion materials, and project proposals. Many technical writers work with engineers on technical subject matters to prepare written interpretations of engineering and design specifications and other information for a general readership. Technical writers also may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that still is in the prototype stage. They plan and edit technical materials and oversee the preparation of illustrations, photographs, diagrams, and charts.
      • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
    • 6. Technical Communicators
      • Develop and design instructional and informational tools needed to assure safe, appropriate and effective use of science and technology, intellectual property, and manufactured products and services. Combines multi-media knowledge and strong communication skills with technical expertise to educate across the entire spectrum of users’ abilities, technical experience, and visual and auditory capabilities.
      • Proposed BLS Definition:
    • 7. Technical Communicators
      • Technical Communicators are…
        • Technical Writers
        • Technical Editors
        • Information Developers
        • Information Architects
        • Documentation Specialists
        • Instructional Designers
        • Technical Illustrators
    • 8. What We Bring to the Table Behaviours Traits Skills Technical Expertise Habits Ethics
    • 9. Seven Traits
      • Successful Technical Communicators are:
        • Confident
        • Passionate
        • Driven to Explore
        • Creative Problem Solvers
        • Continuously Learning
        • Technically Apt
        • Comfortable with Chaos
    • 10. Confidence in Self
      • To try new things
      • To actively seek out needed resources
      • To stand up for what you believe
      • To advocate for the user
    • 11. Passionate in What You Do
      • User champion
      • Pride in your work
      • Drive for excellence
      • Not satisfied with “just a job”
      • Works within Communities of Practice
      • Do you see yourself as a professional?
    • 12. Driven to Explore
      • Natural curiosity and desire to innovate
      • Interested in all aspects of the technical communication business
      • Regularly makes time to explore
      • Does not wait for others to tell them what the best solutions are
      • Not afraid to try something different
    • 13. Creative Problem Solving
      • Able to identify problems and act independently to solve them
      • Sees the opportunity in adversity
      • Can identify and effectively explain issues before they become problems
      • Persistent
      • Think creatively
    • 14. Continuous Learning
      • Industry isn’t static
      • It’s up to you to keep learning
        • New skills
        • New technologies
        • New tricks
      • Develop and revise career goals to stretch beyond your current state
      • Make your own personal investment and don’t rely solely on your employer
    • 15. Technical Aptitude
      • Quickly learn new technology
      • Be able to train others
      • Understand the domain about which you write
      • Be able to communicate this knowledge
    • 16. Comfort with Chaos
      • Sees change as opportunity
      • Capable of moving out of their comfort zone
      • Adaptable
      • Able to surf through the chaos
    • 17. Ethical Conduct
      • Ethical behaviour supports the theory and practice of technical communication so that businesses and customers benefit from safe, appropriate, and effective use of products, information, and services
      • John Hedtke describes ethical conduct as:
        • Abiding by professional standards, and
        • Complying with appropriate laws
    • 18. Abide by Professional Standards
      • Be honest in communication and about qualifications in circumstances that might lead to conflicts of interest.
      • Strive for excellence in delivered products and processes.
      • Acquire and maintain professional expertise.
      • Help others understand the value of technical communication.
      • Honor professional commitments.
    • 19. Comply with Appropriate Laws
      • Honor copyrights, patents, and other property rights and acknowledge the authorship and ownership of intellectual property.
      • Avoid harm to others through incomplete or inaccurate communication.
      • Honor confidentiality and respect the privacy of others.
      • Obey the laws and policies concerning technical communication and data privacy and security of my country and my company.
    • 20. Technical Skills
      • Requisite skills are under constant change
      • Important to focus on the applicant’s adaptability and willingness to learn new skills
      • Look at categories of skills rather than specific skills with a single technology or piece of software
    • 21. Then and Now
      • As evidenced by the pace of change over the past few decades, our profession is under constant change
      • Some believe that we are on the precipice of a major technological change not just in technical communication but in the way we all communicate
            • Gollner, Joe; Stilo 2008
    • 22. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • Twenty years ago
        • Exacting researcher
        • Efficient organizer
        • Skillful reporter
        • Accomplished teacher
        • Publisher’s apprentice
        • Science and engineering devotee
        • Graphic arts patron
    • 23. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • Today
        • Knowledge of online publishing technologies
        • Creation of metadata
        • Content management
        • Localization
        • Audience-centric focus
        • Write well
        • Visualize Information
    • 24. Technological Advances
      • You must develop with the industry
      • Changes in 20 years
        • New delivery mediums
        • New delivery mechanisms
        • New skills
        • New expectations
        • New tools
        • New technologies
    • 25. Role of Technology
      • Then
        • Technical writers wrote about technology
      • Now
        • Technology is embedded in what we write about technology
        • We write less and manipulate text
    • 26. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • New study – Skills for ≤ 2 years of experience
      • Some Experience
      • Subject Area Knowledge
      • Tech Writing Skills
      • Technology Skills
      • Project Management Skills Lanier, Clinton; Analysis of the Skills Called for by Technical Communication Employers in Recruitment Postings; Technical Communication; February 2009 p51- 61
    • 27. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • Some Experience
        • Technical writing (34%)
        • Subject matter (34%)
        • Subject matter writing experience (38%)
    • 28. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • Subject area knowledge
        • Specialized writers
        • Technical vs. Technical writing degrees
      • Tech writing skills
        • Called for in ads (17%)
        • Are these skills a given?
    • 29. Trends in Hiring Practices
      • Technology skills
        • HATS (16%)
        • Specialized software tools (20%)
      • Project management skills
        • Interpersonal skills
        • Collaborative skills
        • Excellent communication skills
        • Excellent oral communication skills
    • 30. Do They Know Themselves
      • None of the traits are binary
        • When do they feel most confident?
        • Where is their passion?
        • What subjects are they driven to explore?
        • What types of subjects are they good at?
    • 31. What Will They Face?
      • Types of Chaos
        • Technology-based
        • Team-based
        • Corporate-based
      • Problem Solving Opportunities
    • 32. Do They Have the Right Mix of Technical vs Communication Skills? Most Least Audience Laymen Professionals Technical Writing Ability Technical Ability
    • 33. Can They Write for Your Customers? Laymen Professionals Technical Audience Cell phones PC software Medical Financial Procedural Aerospace IT Web Apps SpecialtySoftware Insurance Programming Audience Base (Size)
    • 34. Professional Development
      • Technical Communicators need to stay connected with changes in the field
      • Look for candidates that identify with the profession outside of 9-5
      • Look for candidates that make an ongoing effort to connect, renew, and develop through professional associations
    • 35. Supporting the Profession
      • The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is a world-wide professional association with 12,000 members
      • The STC is headquartered in Arlington, Va with chapters in Toronto and Waterloo
      • The STC has been supporting the profession for more than 50 years
    • 36. Badge of a Professional
      • Hiring an STC member means hiring a professional with all the tools in his/her toolbox
      • Hire an STC member and get access to a vast network of professionals and resources
    • 37. The STC Supports its Members
      • Traditional Channels
        • Publications
        • Online Resources
        • Local and Virtual Communities
        • Competitions
        • Learning Opportunities
      • Emerging Channels
        • STC Body of Knowledge
        • Professional Certification
    • 38. Where Can You Learn More?
      • The Society for Technical Communication is the first stop for your needs in learning, networking, and professional growth
    • 39. Summary
      • Successful TC exhibit specific traits
      • Traits and competencies have changed over time
      • Traits vary by industry and needs
      • Look for technical communicators that identify with the profession
    • 40. Questions? Thank you for attending
    • 41. Hiring Excellence
      • What to look for as a hiring manager
        • How do you determine who is likely the best candidate from a resume and interview?
        • Questions and techniques to use to “weed out” and identify excellent candidates.
    • 42. From a Resume
      • Know what position you are looking to fill but also what skills are lacking on your team or may be useful.
    • 43. From the Interview
      • Understand the personality traits that will enable the candidate to fit in to the team, the environment, the company.
    • 44. Looking at Technical Skills
      • Review resume and probe the use of the tools they have used.
        • How much knowledge in the tools and for what purpose they used them
        • Probe use of various writing methodologies
        • Knowledge of tools/skills, how much?
        • Possible use of standardized technical aptitude test
    • 45. Looking at Soft Skills
      • Are they presentable?
      • Do they project an aura of confidence but not cockiness?
      • Do they answer questions without hesitation and are able to present examples of what they have done in certain situations?
      • Use behavior based interviewing that probes examples of how candidates have dealt with various situations (BBSI).