How it Started
It all started with test results. When I graduated from college (more years ago than I care to count), I had no idea what career to pursue. Being a great student, I signed up for a career assessment class offered by the Adult Education Department at a local college.
After a series of personality, skills, and aptitude tests, the top three occupations were model, translator, and technical writer. My French was conversational at best, so I chose technical writer, even though I had no idea what it was at the time. My teachers had always said I had excellent writing skills, but I had always assumed that I couldn’t earn a living as a writer. Who does?
I began my career as a technical recruiter, interviewing and placing IT professionals in new positions. It turned out to be excellent preparation to work in an IT environment. While recruiting, I started graduate school in the Technical/Professional Writing program at UNC Charlotte. I obtained my first technical writing position through an internship in that program and haven’t looked back.
How it’s Going
This is a very exciting time in technical communication. The field has expanded into so many new areas that it’s hard to track them all.
When people say they are technical communicators, I have to follow up with, “So, what do you do?” I used to know the answer but not anymore. People often provide job titles I have never heard of before, but when they describe the job, it sounds like something I do every day.
The new world of remote-only and hybrid work environments has also introduced new challenges as well as advantages. More and more, we are all re-thinking and re-structuring how we work day by day.
The Value of Membership
With so many changes to process and manage, we all need the STC more than ever. The greatest strength of the STC is the ability to demonstrate how to apply our core competencies to the new tools, genres, project methodologies, and careers. In short, the STC connects what I know to what I need to know.
Being an STC member means getting the inside track on what it’s like to work in the new and growing areas of technical communication. I have opened up to so many new career possibilities after hearing from professionals who do the work every day.
The STC always reminds me that technical communication is a profession and not just a job. There is no one way to be a technical communicator, but there are best practices that apply in every setting. The STC always provides that balance.
The Value of Mentorship
A few years ago, some board members asked me to become a mentor for the Florida chapter. At the time, I wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. Then, I met some students at the annual STC/FTC meeting and realized how much I did know and how much fun it was to share what I knew.
Last year, I signed up to be a mentor and was assigned Nancy Jean Lopez as a mentee, who is phenomenal. Coaching someone through the transition from school to the work environment has taught me so much about myself and was more fun than I ever expected. Watching Nancy master new skills has been a joy and reminded me why I have been in this profession for so long.
The next time the Florida STC is looking for mentors, do yourself a favor and volunteer. You know more than you think you do. You also have more to offer than you can imagine, especially to someone new to the industry. Mentoring is also a great way to boost your confidence because it makes you realize how much you have accomplished and how far you have come.
Certified Study Buddies
Inspired by Nancy’s enthusiasm, she and I started the Certified Study Buddies program to help members study for the CPTC Foundation exam. We meet monthly to discuss a section of Technical Communication Today, the official textbook for the exam.
Studying on your own can be difficult. Having monthly meetings holds us all accountable, which keeps us on track. Together, we are learning to apply the material to be better communicators every day.
We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting.
You can contact Jessica at STC.Jessica.Nealon@gmail.com or find her on LinkedIn!