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A Graduate's Story (Duke University Technical Communications Program)
2010, Q3 (September 26, 2010)
By Tim Kornegay, Chapter Member

Tim Kornegay
Tim Kornegay

In April 2009, I received a phone call from my manager at IBM informing me that due to a recourse action, my position had been outsourced. The news officially ended an 11-year career with IBM. Instead of hanging my head or allowing depressing thoughts to enter it, I embraced the news as an opportunity to make a career change.

I asked a fellow church member about educational opportunities to become a technical writer. She gave information from two local universities: North Carolina State and Duke.

After my research, I applied for the Technical Communications Program at Duke University because the course was for one academic year and the class met once a week after 5:00pm.

In late July 2009, I was accepted into the program. The class of 12 students began on a Saturday in late August with a day-long orientation facilitated by STC Member Greg Eller. We heard from several other technical writers sharing their experiences and job opportunities in the field.

The lessons began a week later and ran through April 2010. During the period, we were exposed to everything involving technical communications, from editing documents to budgeting time and money on projects.

The esteemed group of instructors and STC Members in the program were:
  • Susan Dakin
  • Jim Sheedy
  • Chris Benz
  • Linda Gregory
  • Ann-Marie Grissino
  • Larry Kunz
The classes prepared us to put together a capstone project, which is a synopsis of a major project. In the capstone, we had to explain the organization and content of project, such as whether the document would be in a binder or only soft copy. We had to present audience analyses, case scenarios, task analyses, doc plans, outlines, and indexes. The project could be done individually or in a small group. Upon completion of project, we presented it orally in the final days of class.

My capstone project was to implement a policies and procedures text for the tutor/mentoring program at my church.

The most helpful information I learned in preparing to become a technical writer is the amount of preparation needed to write a document. The amount of research, interviews with subject matter experts (SMEs), and time and money management on a project tend to be more critical in technical communications than in other similar fields.

The completion of program culminated with a small graduate ceremony where we received our huge Duke University certificate in Technical Communication. The program involved more than just receiving a certificate: I established a special bond with my classmates and teachers that, I hope, will last a lifetime.

Honestly, it took a while before my undergraduate degree started paying me back. However, my technical communications certificate has already shown a return: I was asked to write this article!

Tim Kornegay can be reached at tkorne5 at yahoo dot com. End of article.

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