A Semester of Change
By: Nicholas Mina
Early on in the 2017 Fall semester, I found myself sitting in a room full of students whom I had never met and professors I had never taken. It was the first Future Technical Communicators (FTC) meeting of the semester, and my first experience with the club (or any club, for that matter). I was warmly welcomed, but still cautious. I feared being seen as an unprepared student who had not taken any steps to immerse himself in the professional world of Technical Communication. What I found, however, was that the students around me were in the same position that I was in; they were at the crossroads of Student and Professional, wondering which direction to take.
Until I stepped into that meeting, I was your average college student. I went to all of my classes, I did my assignments on time, and I studied for my tests. I had plenty of time left over to grab coffee with friends, go to the gym, and of course, binge watch all seven seasons of Game of Thrones. I did not feel behind in my profession, nor did I feel out of the loop. I was in college, and I was doing everything that was expected of me… or so I thought. In a short period of time, I became a regular member of FTC and joined the leadership board as Treasurer. I became a member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and obtained a mentor through the chapter. This chain of events would change my entire outlook of, and experience with, the Technical Communication program at UCF. All in one semester.
Through my involvement in FTC and STC, I’ve learned what it means to be a professional within the technical communication field. Prior to my membership, I would awkwardly stutter through the explanation of what I was studying and what I wanted to do whenever a friend would pose the question. The reason for this was simple. Before my involvement in FTC and STC, I had never met someone who actually worked in the field. Within weeks of joining, however, I was exposed to professionals at all different stages in their careers. Student interns, writing department managers, and my mentor, who recently retired from Lockheed Martin after a forty-five year tenure. Each of these professionals have been able to provide relevant and eye-opening advice pertaining to the Technical Communication field, and have motivated me to start redefining myself as a professional.
Perhaps the most eye-opening advice I received this semester came from my mentor in two parts. 1.) If you’re not good at it, don’t waste your time and energy trying to do it, and 2.) The recipe for success is useless without one key ingredient: experience. These pieces of advice have allowed me to focus my energy on parts of the technical communication field that I have skills pertaining to, and have motivated me to start my career now (as opposed to struggling to get it off the ground after graduation). Through advice like this from my mentor, and even students in FTC, I’ve learned the importance of being a student professional, rather than a professional student.
The 2017 Fall semester played a pivotal role in my efforts to transform myself into a professional. The insight I’ve received and the connections I’ve made can all be attributed to one thing: involvement. I could have ignored the emails about the September FTC meeting, but I decided to take a step out of the comfort bubble of college and attend the meeting. The change I’ve experienced as a professional has been astounding, and I feel that my newfound perspective of the technical communication field will pay off greatly in the long run.