Building Competencies in Technical Communication

Speakers

Heidi Lawrence, PhD
Assistant Professor, George Mason University

Start

November 1, 2017 - 2:00 PM

End

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.

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