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Technically Speaking – What is Technical Communications?

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Ah, punctuation humour 🙂

I’d like to start by saying that just because I’m a tech author does not mean that I will be adhering to strict rules here. I’ll probably make mistakes with my grammar and punctuation, and honestly, the amount of times I went against my company’s writing guide specifications in my last post alone is more than I’d care to admit. However, I don’t really care. This is a blog after all. No one is going to rely on this nearly as much as the content that we produce at work, so I can use all the contractions and different types of punctuation I want! WOOOO!!

There are several ways of answering this.

Of course, there’s the people that think we just spell check what comes from engineering and repackage it but that is an unfair/grossly under-representation of what we do (although don’t get me started on some sentence structures and punctuation (or lack thereof) that I’ve seen since being here).

[NB I would like to point out however, that I know some very eloquent engineers who can write very well. I’m by no means tarring them all]

A common way of looking at it is that we ‘just’ provide the manuals that go along with the engineering products. This makes it seem pretty trivial, but the better the supporting documentation, the more chance the customers will have of avoiding issues or, be able to solve problems if they arise. This should mean the some of the pressure on the Support group is removed.

The other problem with this is assuming that the only way of communicating is by documents alone, usually pdfs. That is probably still the most common method but by no means the only way. Communicating can mean providing face-to-face sessions for training on a particular topic, it can mean posting on forums and blogs so that the information can get to our end users faster. We do presentations that can be recorded and e-learning modules that can better explain concepts and tools and make the user more confident in their knowledge and understanding.

A good way of looking at it is the recent increase in crafting hobbies, like knitting, at the moment. You know what you want at the end and you need accurate and simple instructions to get there. Diagrams are often provided which makes it a lot easier to understand, especially for people that are new to knitting. Patterns also don’t just come on paper anymore. There are YouTube videos and tutorials for specific types of stitches to full projects depending on how much help is needed.

I know a lot of people find this topic a little…dry sounding. But honestly, having to explain the ‘how, the what and the why’ of the products means that not only do I have to learn about them, but I’ve had to essentially teach myself computer science/basic engineering understanding to understand the information on the products! And I love that. Yes, I admit I miss biology but I read popular science books, I get updates from journals I like and talk to my friends still in that area so I’m not completely missing out.

I also think that as much as I love my job now, in the future, who knows where I’ll end up. What I enjoy most is editing, so I would love to get back into publishing one day, be that academically with journal articles, science textbooks etc. or maybe not STEM publishing at all! That’s the brilliant thing about what I do. I feel like it gives me so many skills that I can work on over the years and apply to other specialisms if I want to move on. (At the very least, I can’t imagine me staying in Cambridge forever…I mean, I want to buy a house one day and unless I marry somebody very well off, I can’t see that happening here).

So that is a fairly quick look at what I do these days. If anyone reading is interested in technical communications, please get in touch, ask me questions J I’m happy to help and give advice if possible. I also highly rate my employer and I believe they are currently accepting applications for their graduate scheme (for engineers and technical communications etc.), so if anyone would like to know more about who I work for, send me a private message.

Time Away; Job, Loss and the Future

I received my degree last year. It was not what I hoped I would get but I will leave it at that.

I did, however begin my job at a large science journal publishers, which was brilliant. I moved to Cambridge, which I loved, I started the training which I loved, made friends at the company and genuinely enjoyed going to work. 

Seven or so months in and they decided not to renew my contract to a permanent one and said I should maybe reconsider my career pathway. While I respect their right and decision on my contract with them, I disagree wholeheartedly with the latter sentiment. I even said so at the time. 

I loved my job. And despite what they said and what it all implies, I was *good* at my job. I needed some adjustment time, I admit that and it was longer than most (not all, I point out). However, they knew that when they hired me. I have some medical concerns that mean I sometimes will need extra time.

Anyway. This post isn’t about bitterness. It’s about what it did for me. It did give me 8 month intensive experiece or proofing, editing, peer review, team work, targets, multi-tasking, dealing with high stress customers, solving problems with said clients when there were language barriers etc etc. I came out of this with a whole lot more than I went in. 

And not just that. Most importantly, they gave me the grit and determination to know that working in STM/academic/research publishing is what I want. It is my end goal and that is good as it gives m something to aim for. Maybe it’ll take me a little while to get my foot through another company door but I know that is what I want. I will keep finding opportunities to increase my skill set. So although it was not the ideal situation, I am trying to remain positive.

I a obviously working in the meantime and have stayed in my new city as I have friends here and I settled in really well.

I think this is something very important for every young person in their early career (or career hunting). Deciding what you are aiming for, what you want, gives you the will and direction to look for the right experiences to enhance yourself (and your CV)

One final note: I have even signed up with a recruitment company that works specifically in finding their candidates work within publishing; you can even specify the types of publishing, locations etc. My contact there has given me other places to look for help and advice on graduates getting into publishing. Basically then, I think sometimes you need to not only be always looking for your passion but looking for places other than just the average job sites. To get where you want to in life, all help is good help!

News and the Future!

So, my exams are finally over, and as if that wasn’t good enough news, the day after my final exam I got a call offering me my dream job!

As you may have gathered, my two big interests are reading, science and reviewing and my job is a publishing editor for the royal society of chemistry. I elk get to read the latest of research coming through, organise peer reviews and proof read/edit it…I can’t believe it.

Now, my start date isn’t for a while as I need to actually graduate, relocate, get a car etc. Which means I will finally be able to finish off and write some more blog posts, cause I’ve had so many topics and books to write about but obviously revision and exams had to come first.

I’m considering reviewing some topics I’ve seen in the recent science literature too, so watch this space! Especially medical news stuff, me and my friends all seem to have such interesting illnesses.

You should see the pile of books that now await my eager eyes! I’ve been getting them all to treat myself with after exams and now it’s here =)

Are you any of you coming to the end of exams at the moment? Got things lined up for after uni?
Or want to tell me what books are on your reading to-do lists? Please do comment below.

Looking forward to writing for this blog more, hope you are up for reading it!

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