Building Competencies in Technical Communication


Heidi Lawrence, PhD
Assistant Professor, George Mason University


November 1, 2017 - 2:00 PM


November 1, 2017 - 3:00 PM

Building Competencies in Technical Communication

How do technical communicators know the things that we know? How do we come to learn those things—through formal education, through experience, through networking and professional connections? These are some questions that, as a professor, I see people struggle with at a variety of stages across a career (and that I have struggled with myself). Students new to technical communication ask the age-old question: how do I get experience if I don’t have experience? Mid-career professionals often also wonder how to continue to shift their forms of expertise to evolve with changing times and technologies, secure advancement, or follow new paths and opportunities as they arise. Highly experienced veteran technical communicators also may wonder how to best mentor new members of the profession, share their experience and wisdom, and assist in the professionalization efforts of organizations like STC as they work to help technical communication gain legitimacy and status in various industries.

This presentation attempts to answer the question—how do technical communicators know the things that we know?—by examining and reporting on various sites for professionalization, learning, and growth across our field. I examine some of the daily challenges that technical communicators face at different career stages and discuss how those challenges operate as learning opportunities specifically for technical communicators. I then report on the rhetorically based learning practices that are emphasized specifically in our Professional Writing and Rhetoric program at George Mason University while also examining other evidence-based sites and spaces for building and expanding competencies at all levels.

The objectives of this presentation are:

  • To engage in a broad conversation about what the knowledge base of technical communication is, how it is acquired initially, and what the opportunities are for expansion and advancement over the career
  • What the career paths of technical communicators look like, from initial stages through advancement opportunities
  • What possibilities educational programs and professional associations have for helping the field and the people in it to continue to grow

Audience takeaways include:

  1. New technical communicators will learn specific strategies to gain experience in the field of technical communication
  2. Mid- and advanced-career technical communicators will learn about additional sites for expanding, changing, and communicating their own competencies back to the field.
  3. All attendees will gain a sense of the typical challenges of technical communicators, how those challenges help us to build competencies, and how we can best grow and prepare as communicators.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do education events take place?

Webinars are held every Wednesday afternoon from 2-3 PM EDT/EST (GMT-4/5).

A majority of online courses are held Tuesdays-Thursdays between 10:00 AM-1:00 PM EDT/EST (GMT-4/5), as to not conflict with webinar times.

When will I receive the GoTo Webinar instructions for an event?

Registered attendees will receive the GoTo Webinar instructions three (3) hours before the webinar begins, approximately at 11:00 AM EDT/EST.

Registered attendees will receive the GoTo Webinar instructions one (1) day before the online course begins.

To participate in a webinar and an online course, you must be able to access GoTo Webinar, STC’s online meeting space.  GoTo Webinar is a standard web seminar tool (no separate download required) and all you need is a reliable Internet connection and phone line, or a computer with VoIP capabilities.

I registered for an online course, what are my next steps?

Once you register for an online course, you will receive a confirmation receipt that day. A majority of our online courses uses Moodle, STC’s course management site, which attendees will receive the login instructions two (2) days before the course begins.

If you cannot access Adobe Connect and/or Moodle (as needed), then you will not be able to successfully complete an online course.

I registered for a webinar, but will be unable to attend. Will a recording be available?

If a registered attendee is unable to attend a webinar that day, they will receive an email with a link to the recording, and an evaluation link along with the PDF of the presentation.

I registered for a webinar and/or an online course, but cannot attend at that time. Will I receive a refund?

If a registered attendee is unable to attend a webinar and/or an online course, the cost is transferable to a future event, but is not refundable. Online registration closes one-two business days before the education event begins.

I want to take a specific course that isn't listed online. Will it be offered in the future?

STC rotates its courses every year as we try to offer the most popular ones within the first half of the year. Online courses are subject to change or are offered more than once per quarter. If a course is not listed, STC will offer it again in the following year.

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The Society for Technical Communication advances technical communication as the discipline of transforming complex information into usable content for products, processes, and services.