Re: Degree Question

Subject: Re: Degree Question
From: Jane Torpie <Jane_Torpie_at_III-HQ -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 16:44:00 EST

Teresa -

Good for you to be thinking ahead as you are. I've got several random thoughts
for you (it's late in the day):

I have a BA in English from a well-regarded liberal arts college. Ten years
ago, after one BASIC course, I had a summer internship as a DBase programmer and
wrote a manual to document my project. Eight years ago, I used it as my first
writing sample. I convinced the interviewers that my experience and education
demonstrated that I could learn technical material and communicate it. I did
everything I could to stay away from the image of a secretary. I got the job.

Your education is just the beginning, so don't feel like you're trapped if it
doesn't provide the perfect preparation you think you need. The ability to
learn and to communicate is what an employer really needs (even if he/she
doesn't realize it and is looking for a power word-processor). Your specific
experience is the way you demonstrate that you have those abilities.

Figure out what you want to do after school. Do you want to write for a trade
mag? Perhaps do marcom or PR? Maybe do training course development? You can
use your degree, along with the right experience, to do a lot of neat things.

Get the best internship and summer jobs that you can; these are key to landing
your first job. Do some writing on the side, too, to round out your portfolio.
For example, write up some material for new students to use your college's
(university's) computing center or get started with the word processor. Try
your hand at some reference cards. (Imagine how helpful that will be to
literature majors who aren't as proficient at DTP as you are. Someday you can
tell the interviewer how you assessed and met the need on a tiny budget of time
and a few dollars for the copy center, or how you convinced the department to
pay for the printing!)

Remember that there's a lot more to life than the work you do. Those lit.
courses (and any others that you take, like History, Math, Psych, Philosophy,
Art or German) are the ones that make you better rounded and begin developing
skills you'll need to progress in your career. You'll need to research, deal
with statistics, understand people, communicate visually, work in the global
village, and speak well, too. It's much more likely that you'll find time and
tuition-reimbursement money for continuing ed. in your professional field than
for a lit. course after you graduate.

Also, check your alumnae/alumni office for the names of graduates who are tech.
writers or trainers or in PR, etc. We alums love to talk about our jobs and how
our alma maters helped us to get there. Then talk with the department head ...
maybe one of you has an idea that the other doesn't. If nothing else, perhaps
you can customize the major to your own needs (so be prepared to tell her what
they are!).

Best of luck ... feel free to ask people on the list for more information if
you'd like!

BTW, online doc. is a superset of online help. It's not just what you read when
you're having trouble; it's the learning and reference material, too. In
general, we're in a trend away from strictly paper-based documentation toward
online doc, but most people think that we'll need both, to meet different needs.
Jane Torpie
Senior Technical Writer
Easel Corporation
Burlington, MA

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