Summary of "New Hires"

Subject: Summary of "New Hires"
From: Susan Loudermilk <slouderm -at- falcon -dot- tamucc -dot- edu>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 13:54:56

Thanks to everyone for all of the great info you sent in response to my
query regarding developing a good technical writing degree program. This
is the model I developed for the program at this initial planning stage:

Major Focus: To teach students to collect, analyze and present
information, which requires a blend of theory and practice through multiple
and varied classroom and field experiences.

Theory: Composition theory, management principles, learning theory,
communication theory, technology theory

Practical Skills: Writing, presentation, interpersonal communication,
visual communication, document design, user testing, technology transfer

Some of the areas that you most emphasized include:
Internship Program
Collaboration Skills
Information Gathering - Interviewing
Project Planning and Management
Editing (Rewriting)
Technology Experience

This last area is something we are looking very closely at in regard to how
we approach technology in our degree program. Personally, I see technology
as being seamless with the technical writing enterprise, but what is the
best way incorporate it/teach it. One very important point made by many of
you is that you look for students to have experience using many different
kinds of software programs, rather than having a mastery of certain
programs. Nick Klasovsky believes "there shold be a required minor in
either computer science or industrial technology for all technical
communications degree programs." Ron Rhodes offers some specifics, saying
"Knowing a little about object-oriented programming is very helpful, C++,
Java, etc. Also, knowing a little about local area networks is helpful,
too. Microsoft NT especially, but Novell still has a few strongholds in
some major companies (and I hear is making a comeback -- but is only
rumor)." Elizabeth Ross suggests courses in "PC Troubleshooting & Repair,"
"Electronics 101," or "Introduction to Computer Technology."

Mark Baker spoke to the changes that may or may not take place in the

"The key point is this. Technical communication will cease to be a cottage
industry. People will cease to own a development project from beginning to
end. Technical communication departments will be staffed by specialists in
a number of different areas who will attend and manage a central
information repository.

These are the skills that will be in demand:

Text programming (my pick for hot career field of the future)
Modular content development
Rule based dynamic presentation design
Database design/administration
Editing (which means editing for adherence to the rules of the system)

Skills definitely not in demand will include:

Desktop publishing
Handmade static presentation design
Creative writing or personal style."

Sandra Charker made some good points also:

"In the software industry, isn't it also possible that the lone "writers"
will do less writing and more template support, editing, programming, and
publishing, with actual writing being done increasingly by SMEs and
designers in an organizational structure that might be seen as a virtual
tech comms department. I see this happening for tech comms departments of
more than one person. The driving forces include requirements for multiple
outputs, multiple software products being produced from common source,
decreasing cycle times, more focussed marketing strategies, and the slow
but hopefully continuing rise of user-centered design."

All of the responses were very helpful (I didn't think you needed to fall
on your sword, Kevin), both the general and the specific. Your willingness
to help others is what impresses me the most. That is a true sign that you
practice what you preach.

Susan Loudermilk,
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

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