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September 25, 2017
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By Martin Wall, Chapter Member

Martin Wall

One of the things that puts a lot of technical communicators on the fence is the fear of not knowing where to start. People who are breaking into field often get stumped when job descriptions ask for writing samples and experience in various tools. Getting assistance from someone who has been in the field of Technical Communication for a long time is rare opportunity. STC Carolina Chapter offers an exclusive Technical Communicators Mentoring Program where mentors and mentees are given an opportunity to interact with each other and are matched to work on projects including but not limited to building portfolio pieces, helping mentees learn new tools, resume building, and job shadowing.

On August 31, 2017 the STC Carolina chapter held a mentor/mentee night at TEKSystems at 3440 Wade Park Boulevard #300. Three potential mentors, consisting of Guiseppe Getto, Christina Mayr and Sreeranjani Pattabiraman were present.

Guiseppe Getto, being the incoming STC president, gave a brief presentation that outlined the education and services that STC provided for members. He especially emphasized that the Job Bank was an excellent resource, saying that he has been, or is currently in, many organizations similar to STC and they do not provide resources that are as valuable as our Job Bank. Giuseppe noted that the “Technical Writing Boot Camp” that had taken place recently was a huge success. He also described the upcoming Taxonomy workshop, conveying that it was an informative and exciting event but that it caters more toward technical communicators with a higher level of experience. New opportunities that were available to members in the coming year such as open leadership positions, competitions and judging positions were briefly described.

After the presentation was finished, the three mentors sat down and began being questioned by potential mentees in 5-minute shifts. Questions that were asked during this time included:
  • I’m just starting to get my feet wet in the world of technical communication, where should I begin when I look for resources to gain understanding and build opportunities for?
  • What is the best way to further my education to gain technical writing skills? Are there free resources online that can assist me in learning technical programming languages or similar skills?
  • How should I best reach out to employers to get the attention of the person responsible for interviewing people with technical writing skills?
  • In what ways should I network so that a potential employer would be able to reach out to their circle of contacts to find someone that could vouch for my skills and level of professionalism?
  • Where should I look to find work doing freelance technical writing? Are there particular resources for specific areas of freelance work such as medical writing, science writing, etc.?
  • How can I improve my resume to include skills, education and experience that demonstrate a mastery of technical writing? How should I go about displaying these skills on the resume itself?
  • What kinds of strategies should I use on LinkedIn to apply for jobs and/or to contact decision makers in the HR department or people in similar roles?
  • How can I demonstrate my proficiency in specific applications, such as Madcap Flare or Robohelp to a potential employer? How should I go about presenting my portfolio?
  • How can I get the most out of my experience at STC Carolina?

The structure of the Mentoring event was designed in such a way that the mentors and mentees fill out and turn in a mentor/mentee request form in which they rank the person that they would like to work with and are matched accordingly. Overall, the mentoring meet ‘n’ greet session worked as a two-way street, providing a great opportunity for novice technical communicators to interact with experienced writers and served as a platform for experienced technical communicators to share their knowledge with other fellow technical writing professionals.

Martin Wall can be reached at mdwall1234 at gmail dot com.End of article.

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