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A Crossover Profession
1996, June (June 20, 2007)
By Bill Albing

I began my career as a design engineer for a company that made microwave frequency communications components. My liberal arts education had prepared me for exploring a much wider world than the narrow world understood by my colleagues inventing widgets. After completing a project that was to go on a future space shuttle mission, I began looking for other job possibilities. It was years later that I discovered a profession that allowed me to use my skill at communicating while keeping an eye on developments in the changing realm of technology. That profession, technical communication, made it possible for me to crossover from engineering to writing. Just as Stevie Wonder is often called a crossover song writer moving from gospel to popular secular tunes, so many of us bring abilities developed in other professions to technical communication. In fact, we crossover everyday from design to documentation, from narrow jargon to wording of a wider audience, from thought to word. To some extent, I had always been a technical communicator, though my job title did not reveal it.

Larry Kunz is right when he corrects our professional code of ethics by pointing out that we are not simply a bridge of someone elses idea but a profession in our own right. But we should not forget that our profession is in many ways a bridge between what others consider separate disciplines. Each of us has a special talent that spans traditional roles, whether we are a technical writer, or an instructional designer, or graphic illustrator, or translator, or online help developer, or interface designer. Many of us often find ourselves between departments in a company. To produce technical marketing literature, we bridge marketing and engineering. To produce user manuals, we bridge customer service and engineering and marketing. To produce internal documentation, we bridge the information services (IS) department and other departments. In fact, the bridge metaphor proves inadequate for the number of functions we span or connect. The upcoming SIGDOC96 conference in October will focus on the many connections between business and research and universities. Here is another example of where those in our profession crossover. If you have not yet experienced the diversity within our profession, then I encourage you to attend this conference as well as our local Carolina Chapter Summer Conference in July.

For those who attended the STC International Conference, we look forward to hearing from you at our next meeting, June 13th. At that meeting you will also be able to meet the new leaders of the chapter who now take charge of administering the chapter for the next year.

We are a solid and growing chapter with a wide range of interests and capabilities. Articulating the value we offer to corporations and communities, in terms of knowledge management, will be one of our responsibilities. I am sending the Governor of North Carolina a request for a proclamation that the second week in October be designated Technical Communication week. While mostly symbolic, this will allow us to tell others about what we do and the important role we play as crossover professionals. End of article.

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