Manager of Information Development for Two dot OH! Graphics
- 41 years old, married
- BS in Computer Science, MBA
- Started her career as a C++ programmer
- Has worked for Two dot OH! Graphics for seven years, the last three years as a software development manager
- Has been a loud critic in the past of the lack of professionalism in the company’s user documentation
- Recently given the title of Manager of Information Development with the mandate to create a professional technical communications department
“I feel like the dog that caught the car it was chasing—now what do I do??!!”
Kate never intended to get into the technical publications end of the business, but as she moved out of programming and into management, she became more and more interested in user experience and user acceptance. She began to feel that her company had a problem in that it was trying to market sophisticated software products that created and managed graphic files to users who were essentially art directors, not computer whizzes. She felt the user documentation was inadequate to bridge the gap and voiced her opinion at several high level meetings. Finally, the head of engineering said, “Fine, let her fix it.”
Two dot OH! Graphics is essentially at a Level 1 in the Information Processing Maturity Model, that is, the documentation is done by programmers with occasional help coming sporadically from contractors. The company has seeded the new department with two “writers,” mainly old school programmers the dev team wanted to dump.
- Strong technical base
- Committed to improving the user experience through professional documentation
- Likes well-defined processes and organizational structures
- Not afraid of change
- Willing to invest in her own professional development
- Defines department mission
- Budgets headcount, tools, and training expenses
- Defines processes
- Designates productivity and quality goals and metrics
- Staffs department
- Reviews staff performance
- Wants to know what the traditional roles are within a technical communication department
- Looking for benchmarks around size of department
- Wants a concise checklist of roles and qualifications for technical communicators
- Looking for guidelines about the information development processes
- Would like to have interview guides or hiring rubrics for technical communicators
TCBOK Pages that are Particularly Relevant for Kate Watkins
- Core Competencies of Technical Communicators
- Technical Communicator Salaries
- Providing a Career Path for Your Staff
- Information Process Maturity Model
- Information Mapping
Scenario of Use: Kate Watkins
- Kate goes on the Web to search for resources for technical communication and comes across the STC Website in her search. She goes there.
- She sees a link to “Body of Knowledge” and equates that to “stuff a technical writer needs to know” and so she takes the link. She lands on the Technical Communication Knowledge Portal.
- She sees a major heading called “About Technical Communication” and goes there first. She reads about the profession and the types of people who work in it. Her immediate reaction is: “I was right; there is a professional backbone to this stuff, and we’re missing it.”
- She backs up to the Technical Communication Knowledge Portal and investigates the topic “Information Design and Development.” She feels a bit overwhelmed by how much there is, and she feels she will not be able to upgrade her two “hand me over” writers. She is convinced she needs to go outside and hire talent.
- She backs up again to the Technical Communication Knowledge Portal and sees a topic area called “Producing TC.” She navigates through that link and one called “Managing Technical Communication Groups.”
- In that section, she finds a section called “Core competencies.” Her intimidation starts to go down and she thinks, “Thank goodness, others have gone this path before me and they blazed the trail.”
- Then she lands on what she calls the “paydirt page.” She finds that each of the major roles in technical communication are defined, each has a bulleted job description suitable for posting in an online ad, a link to the STC job posting page where she can advertise, as well as a local chapter list where she can contact the jobs manager in her local area and post ads that way.
- She copies the information she wants, bookmarks the pages of interest and is just about to leave the “Core competencies” section when she sees a link called “Academic Programs.” Out of curiosity she takes the link and is delighted to see that one of the universities in her area has an undergraduate and graduate program in technical communication. She makes a note to contact its placement office. “Wouldn’t be a bad idea to see if there is a certificate program I could take,” she thinks.
The TCKP is just the sort of knowledge management resource Kate needs. Although she has been interested in user experience for several years and is well aware of the inadequacies of the documentation process at her company, she is just now discovering STC. Now that Kate has discovered a source of experiential knowledge that may help her build a TC department, how can she best use it and what features will help her most?
The use scenario points out many useful features of the TCKP, but even with the Core Competencies information and the directories of academic programs, Kate still needs a way of talking to practitioners who play those various roles to see what mix of personnel she will need. She may be able to get that after weeks of interviews with job candidates who have been working in TC for 5 years or more, but that process is time consuming and may not yield any useful or reliable knowledge.
Kate needs a way of gaining the kind of networking exposure that currently only years of attending STC conferences can provide. Even a wiki- or blog-based discussion forum could take considerable time for Kate to get a 3D picture of the kind of TC department she needs to build. A well-indexed archives of past STC conference presentations might help. A workshop in how to build an agile TC department would help; a team of volunteer advisors (a TC managers hot line) would be ideal. Others in the TC profession have had to build a TC shop and have made mistakes and learned lessons they could share with Kate. The TCKP might provide that kind of interactive knowledge sharing through a wiki or discussion board.