This two-part post is kindly spawned by Cindy Staudt, lecturer at CPIT and programme leader for the Graduate Diploma of Information Design.
Here’s a confession: I am a PhD dropout.
My parents were horrified when I told them I was dropping out. Their daughter was supposed to be on a path to academic glory! People were going to have to call me ‘Doctor’! How in the world did I plan to make a living without a PhD?
The truth was, while I found reading and writing and talking about reading and writing pretty fun, it was starting to seem like a problematic career path. The number of people willing to hire you to talk about TS Eliot every week was dwindling. And maybe I’d seen Pretty Woman too many times in my misspent youth, but a quote from that film – ‘We don’t build anything, Phil. We don’t make anything.’ – kept ringing in my head.
I wanted to make things. I wanted to do things. I wanted to be involved in projects that started in one place and finished in another. Reading at a literature conference or having my name on a journal article didn’t feel like enough. But I still needed a job. A kind professor gently pushed me in the direction of a Master’s programme in technical and professional communication. With plenty of writing skills in my background, I was able to shift sideways into tech comms with relative ease, finding a whole new path and career trajectory. And when I took my first business editing course? Well, every perfectionist atom in my body thrummed. It was the right place for me.
Whether you’ve been working in tech comms for 20 years, or are just starting your career, everyone can benefit from structured education.The really good technical communicators are the ones who keep learning, whether through seminars, webinars, conferences, training courses, online courses, or qualification programmes. The opportunities are endless, and until certification programmes really take hold in the profession, a qualification is a good way to easily show employers you ‘know your stuff’. Tech comms education tends to tackle the universal skills, such as writing, editing, project management, usability, and information design. A good programme will offer a mix of skills that can either carry you directly into the workforce, or improve the work you already do.
Watch out for Cindy’s next post on this subject!