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From the Editor's Desk: Technical communicators set sights on economic rebound
2002, Q4 (July 05, 2007)
By G. David Heath

G. David Heath
When I attended the Carolina Chapter October monthly program — a Panel Discussion on "Tips for Job Seekers" — I was particularly struck by two things: the wealth of experience and skills that were represented by the audience, many of whom were job seekers, and the quality of the discussion that took place.

Organized and chaired by Greg Berg, Carolina Chapter Programs Manager, the meeting was billed as an opportunity to question the panel, which included Ottis Cowper of SAS, Jodi Kramer of Advacon, and Robert Perry of Hill-Rom. Greg's meeting announcement suggested that we might ask questions like "How long should your rsum be? What should you never say in an interview? Should you send the hiring manager flowers?" But the questions went far beyond these basic concerns. They stimulated a discussion that testified to the commitment of our technical communicators to improving the profession and to their own goals of personal improvement and job satisfaction.

These are difficult economic times for Research Triangle Park. As reported in the Raleigh News and Observer on November 10, 2002, "The Triangle's wide, deep recession is the worst in 20 years." Technical communicators have not been spared the pain as many high-tech companies laid off skilled, dedicated professionals, especially in the hard-hit information technology and telecommunication sectors.

Nearly all commentators are agreed that the prospects for the Triangle's economic rebound are closely tied to its need for more diversification, especially into new and emerging markets and technologies, such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. It's true that the Triangle has been overly dependent on the IT and telecom business sectors.

In such an environment, it's helpful to keep in mind that the technical communication profession is, by its very nature, diversified. Also, those who work in it — as typified by STC Carolina Chapter membership — are skilled at learning, adapting, and positioning themselves in environments that involve continually changing technologies and requirements. These skills have always been an essential part of our job.

Of course, nobody would seriously suggest that a technical writer or editor laid off one day from a job working on, for example, computer networking hardware documentation could walk into a new job the next day documenting the results of the latest bio-medical research. Yet within the broad boundaries of our chosen technologies there is a great deal of scope for adaptation as markets evolve. This is where technical communication professionals excel. For example, many of those technical communicators who began their careers in the era of centralized mainframe computing and even card-punch machines successfully adapted to evolving technologies to become key players in the very different network computing, desktop workstation, and telecommunications technologies that made the Triangle so successful during the 90s.

I feel optimistic that the same talent for responding to change will enable technical communicators to play key roles in the new Triangle economy as well.

I came away from the meeting with the feeling that the opportunity to ask questions was only a part of the wealth of opportunity in that room. The opportunities to learn from each other, to network and share expertise and job-hunting experiences, and to continue to learn and evolve as technical communicators are ones that STC provides to us every time we get together. At this meeting, these opportunities were enhanced by the valuable help provided by Greg and the three panel members.

Carolina Communique welcomes letters to the editor on any topic of interest to technical communicators. End of article.

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