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Villegas Views: Be Thankful for Technical Communication

150 150 Danielle Villegas

It is during this time of the year in the United States (last month for Canadians) that Americans sit down for a celebratory feast honoring the first harvest of religious pilgrims who came to the New World and settled in Massachusetts. In between watching parades, football games, and early holiday movies on television, we are supposed to take a moment to give thanks for the good things in our lives. Not all of us do it, as we’re more concerned that the apple and pumpkin pies in the oven are about to burn, but that’s the idea we’re supposed to pursue.

Do we ever give thanks for being in technical communication? While it seems like an expected question this time of year, it’s an odd question—yet a good one to ask. When I took the time to think about whether being involved in this field was worthy of thanks, I decided it was. For me, there are several reasons why all technical communicators should be thankful that they work in the field that they do.

Technical communication is a field that helps people. We are the creators of much of the world’s most important content, from newsletters, to directions on how to put together furniture, to fix-it-yourself guides, to software documentation, to instructions for a medical device—and everything else in between. Without technical communicators there would be no content at all and it would be rather chaotic. Blessed are those who actually read what we write!

There are many opportunities to grow in technical communication. It’s not the kind of field that one specifically needs a technical communication credential—although those are helpful and valuable. It’s not a field where there’s only one specific way to get into the role of a technical communicator, unlike, say, an architect or a medical doctor.  There are many ways to learn technical communication skills and make your way into this career. There is no set path, but rather many paths to get there and many paths to take. Due to the proliferation of mobile devices and continual dependency on computers, the need for technical communicators continues to grow and expand, allowing for more opportunities as time goes on.

I’ve mentioned in many posts before that we truly have a unique community within the technical communication field. It’s a good thing that we have STC, social media, and various conferences to help bring us together to share and learn new ideas. Yes, many fields have professional organizations, conferences, and talk to each other through social media, but what’s great about communication among technical communicators is that it covers many topics from a large group of creative people. I have found those in the technical communication field to be the most supportive professional group, and that’s saying a lot. It’s not something to take for granted, although I think it usually is.

For me, I have extra reasons to be personally thankful for a career in technical communication. I’ve discovered a new career through technical communication, and it’s provided me with a second chance to make something of myself. I was able to find a good contract job this year that I liked, and it got me started as a true technical communicator and not as an administrative assistant with highly advanced skills.

Additional reasons stem from the consequences of my own doing. Writing here on STC’s Notebook as well as writing on my blog have provided me with opportunities to connect with some of the top thought leaders in this field, and I’ve been happily overwhelmed by the experience. In my own eyes, I still feel like the newly graduated technical communicator trying to make her way in this field, and yet I’ve rubbed elbows and had intelligent conversations with some of the most well-known, experienced, and respected technical communicators out there. I can’t believe my luck! The best analogy to this feeling relates to Thanksgiving. The feeling I get is the one when as a kid, you find out that you don’t have to sit at the little kids’ table anymore and you are invited to sit at the adults’ table for the first time. You feel a little out of place initially because you may be the youngest one at the adult table, but you feel a little bit special because you are acknowledged for starting to be mature enough to handle the responsibility of being in the presence of all the big people.

I’ve also had many opportunities to write and speak as well. In a very short time, I’ve started writing here for STC’s Notebook, wrote a small piece for Intercom, did my first presentation at an STC conference last spring, and I have been asked to do two webinars in the next two months or so. That’s quite a bit, considering it was my first real year as a technical communicator! I don’t think I’d have those opportunities in other fields so soon after getting my new career started.

When giving thanks this year at any celebration you have during this holiday season, no matter where you are in the world, remember to be thankful that you are part of a dynamic community of innovative thinkers. That, in itself, is fortunate.