A summary of my remarks last night to the newest graduates of Duke’s Technical Communication certificate program:
A recent ranking had a twist: it listed the worst jobs along with the best. At the bottom of the list? Lumberjack. I find this strange, given that lumberjacks have their own song. Nevertheless, in spite of our not having a song, Tech Comm rates as a pretty good career.
Now that you’ve completed the course and gotten the certificate that says you’re a technical communicator, what do the words on your certificate really mean?
It means that Technical Communication is part of who you are: it’s in your professional DNA.
It means that from now on, if you’re attending the opera and a man dashes out from backstage and cries, “Is there a technical communicator in the house?” – you’ll be able to stand up and say, “Why, yes, I’m a technical communicator,” and then swing into action, perhaps fixing the typos in the libretto. (This has happened to me countless times – and by countless, I mean zero. Still, it could happen. And now you’ll be ready if it does.)
More to the point, it means that your work brings value to people by providing information they need, in a way they can use. Several of you told me that you plan to continue refining your final class projects to reach more people and to work in new formats like mobile platforms and social media.
Some of you will get jobs in Tech Comm; some of you will apply your Tech Comm skills in your current career. All of you will bring value by, for example:
- Helping customers use the company’s products and services effectively
- Defining and describing policies and procedures to help the business run better
- Improving the company’s brand so that people feel connected and cared for
Like you, the entire Tech Comm profession is reaching more people, on more media, touching more parts of their lives. We’re a long way from the old days of printed books and online help systems.
We in the profession are figuring out how to make all of it work. There are lots of questions:
- How do we learn about new audiences?
- How do we adapt new tools and new processes?
- How do we make a business case for the added value that we bring?
You’ll be part of finding the answers. Maybe one of you will even write our Tech Comm song.