Senior Technical Writer for ABC Company

  • 45 years old, married, with two kids
  • M.A. in English; taught freshman comp while grad student
  • Nearly 20 years experience in technical writing with a four-year break to have her children
  • Worked for the same company for the past 12 years
  • Senior member of STC; attends local meetings a couple of times a year; went to one conference when it was in a nearby city many years ago
  • Has no accounting or business training, but has attended many company seminars on their technology

How can I get management to understand what we’re up against? We’re overworked and no one seems to care. And now they expect me to handle translations!

Caroline got into technical writing as a way to use her exceptional writing skills. She likes the writing and has evolved into the natural leader of the small writing group. ABC Company is expanding beyond its U.S. base into Europe and possibly Japan. She knows from reading Intercom and the STC journal that they may want to think about how to write for translation. The group has been working really long hours to get out the last releases.

Caroline is also wondering whether they could or should try to talk management into investing into a content management system, because trying to use the conditional text in FrameMaker is getting hard to manage, and she’s heard that with translations a content management system may be even more important. She wants to know how to go about convincing her boss and the rest of the development organization to invest in one.

Key Attributes

  • Enjoys writing and helping others to write better.
  • Is motivated to help the users understand the product.
  • Thinks better documentation might help reduce support costs.
  • Is a little resentful because the company has not recognized her contributions and she does some management without the title.



  • Provides daily work direction and guidance to two contractors and a full-time employee
  • Represents the tech writing function at project planning meetings and writes the doc plans
  • Designs the FrameMaker templates
  • Interviews SMEs
  • Handles some of the topics

Informational Needs/Goals


  • Wants to learn more about writing for translation, both for herself and the rest of the writers
  • Needs to find out more about content management systems, including when they’re most appropriate and how to justify spending the money on one
  • Wants to know how she can position herself for a promotion and/or recognition of her contributions
  • May want to move into a management position but needs to find out more about required skills and training to qualify

Scenario of Use: Caroline Landry

  1. Caroline reads about the TCBOK in Intercom (she’s a regular reader) and recognizes it as a place where she can probably go to find the information that she needs on translation, CMS, and promotions.
  2. When Caroline arrives at the TCBOK she doesn’t know exactly where to navigate to.  “Translation” could be considered part of Information Design & Development, Tool Knowledge, or Deliverables.  “Content Management System” is probably under Tool Knowledge, but she’s not sure that all the info she needs is there, because she’s also looking for recommendations.  And Professional Development sounds about right for her career concerns, but what content within that might specifically relate to promotion or recognition?  There doesn’t seem to be a topic with that title.
  3. So instead of browsing, Caroline plugs her key terms into the Search box for the TCBOK.  She first comes back with a number of hits on topics related to translation, including one for “machine translation,” which she had heard of but knew little about.  A quick review of the topic shows her that her team might want to consider going in this direction, and so she makes a note to assign one of her employees to do a more in-depth look at machine translation and the style rules appropriate for it.
  4. Caroline has an interest in automation, and when she looks at the tags applied to the main “machine translation” entry, she realizes that “automation” is not one of them, so using the TCBOK’s tagging feature, she adds an “automation” tag to the article so that other readers in the future will find this article if they search on “automation.”
  5. Caroline’s search on “content management system” returns a set of reviews of specific CMS’s, provided by other TCBOK users.  Caroline recognizes a couple of the vendor names but not all, and so she now can be more confident that she’s considering the right set of vendor products in the recommendation that she makes to her management chain—and she can leverage the experiences of other STC members in doing so.
  6. When Caroline searches on “promotion,” several topics come up related to certification, and in reviewing them, Caroline realizes that gaining certification in certain technologies or processes (like project management) could help her demonstrate that her skill level in certain areas justifies a promotion.  It seems obvious now, but Caroline just hadn’t realized that investing in a certification could provide an objective measure of her skills, and which she could use to argue for a promotion.  So she’s glad that some other STC member had tagged this “certification” topic with the tag “promotion.”  She links out to review the Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute.
  7. Caroline is really happy with one particular article that provides concrete information on the ROI of certification in her field, so on the article page, she rates the article highly and leaves a comment describing how helpful it was.

Caroline Landry has learned to use the TCKP effectively through the use of topical tags. Many practitioners may relate to her situation as a hard-working technical communicator searching for a way to communicate with and receive recognition from the management of her employer, ABC Co. As a member of STC, she has the advantage of knowing about the TCKP, but others in her situation may need some road signs to lead them to STC and get them into the TCKP.

The managers of ABC Co. might be more receptive to Caroline’s efforts if they had some direct contact from STC through promotional outreach.  Caroline might benefit from a feature that allows her to describe her company’s TC needs and provide contacts of management heads within ABC, to which STC could send promotional literature of e-mails that would help lend credibility to Caroline’s efforts to vet new technologies to help fulfill the new multinational business areas ABC is entering. Such a feature could handle the ethical issues by providing a way for Caroline to get permission from management to provide information about her company (e.g., a flyer or online form describing TCKP to corporate management types and inviting them to participate in advancing knowledge in the field by describing their TC needs).

Caroline wants to know what skills and qualifications are necessary to transition her role to the next level. Being a TC who is used to researching problems and a member of STC, she checks the STC web site. She knows that has a job database, so assumes the website has an area for job seekers—specifically, an area on career advancement. Caroline starts by reading about the skills considered desirable in a manager in today’s market. She looks up sample job descriptions for management-level positions in Technical Publications. She conducts a search on articles related to career advancement, TC management, and proving your value to your employer. She identifies any degrees or certifications that would make her a more attractive candidate and looks up potential online programs or schools in her area that offer these certs/degrees. She then checks out salary range by geographcal region to know what starting point to negotiate.