Wiki Pages > About Technical Communication > Personas > Marcia Houston, Writer and Editor
MarciaHouston

Writer and Editor for Showman Financial Services

  • 42 years old, married to a CPA, two teenagers
  • BA in English, University of Connecticut
  • Comfortable with Word, Acrobat, PowerPoint, Excel
  • Senior member of STC, comes to the annual conference about once every three years, occasionally goes to chapter meetings, belongs to the STC virtual communities on Information Design and Architecture and on Usability and User Experience (UUX), has been lurking on the STC UUX listserv 
"How can I go from the skills I have to moving into the web and usability testing here at my company?"

Marcia enjoyed studying English literature in college, but she really grooved on helping other students in the college's Writing Center.  That's where she realized that she had really good skills at clear writing and editing.  After college, she worked for a few years as an editorial assistant in a publishing house.  Then she got married, had kids, and moved away from the city.

She didn't want to commute and she wanted to spend a lot of time with the children when they were young, so she started to free lance as a technical writer and editor for small companies.  She found out about STC and became active locally and in the Consultants and Independent Contractors virtual community.

When her youngest child started school full time, Marcia decided she wanted the greater security of a company job and thought she would learn more in a technical writing team.  The job at Showman has been fine.  The technical communication team serves internal clients-writing and editing manuals, reports, and policies.

After 10 years at Showman, Marcia is ready for a new challenge.  The web team is growing.  Marcia knows that she already has a lot of skills that would help Showman's Internet site, and she thinks working on the web team would be more exciting than her current job.

She wants to still think of herself as a technical communicator and to have the Showman web team appreciate how much the web is about communication and what technical communicators can offer the web team.  But she realizes that she needs to add knowledge about information architecture and usability to her writing and editing skills.

Key Attributes

  • Strong writing and editing skills
  • Likes making technical information clear to non-technical people
  • Not afraid of the tools, but doesn't want to focus on being a "tools" person
  • Enjoys working in a team
  • Eager to add to her skill set

Tasks

  • Interviews SMEs (and thinks those skills would transfer well to gathering information from web users)
  • Analyzes information and decides what content her audiences need (and thinks those skills would transfer well to doing task analysis and content selection for a web site)
  • Creates page layouts / information design (but wants to know how that differs from "information architecture" and "web design" for the web)
  • Always finds a few people to "try out" her manuals (and so has done very informal usability testing on her own)
  • Goes through review cycles with SMEs and managers to be sure her material is technically accurate (so has negotiating skills that should help in a team)

Informational Needs/Goals

  • Wants to learn about how what she now does transfers to the web (web writing, content analysis, usability techniques)
  • Wants to see reviews of books and articles that are written by other technical communicators so she doesn't waste time reading material that is too basic for her
  • Hopes that there will be some links to videos and other interactive resources so she can see these new techniques in action
  • Wants to consider specialized training from STC or other groups and hopes to find relevant links through the STC Knowledge Portal.

Scenario of Use: Marcia Houston

  1. Marcia reads the News & Notes from the STC President. She is excited to read about the new STC Knowledge Portal and that one of its goals is helping technical communicators expand their skill sets. She follows the link in the News & Notes email and gets to the front page of the Knowledge Portal.
  2. Because she always has too much to do, she quickly scans the information about what the Knowledge Portal is and why STC is creating the Knowledge Portal. She looks to see how the Knowledge Portal is organized because she wants to find a section on the specifics of what she is looking for.
  3. She finds the visual (mind map) of the Knowledge Portal and sees the section on Information Design and Development. Under that heading, she sees User-centered Design. When she clicks on User-centered Design, she sees a number of topics that she's been "hearing" about while lurking on the STC UUX listserv.
  4. Marcia selects the link to Usability. She comes to a "pathway" page that has links to an overview, a bibliography that promises links to reviews in Technical Communication for many of the books, more specific topics about usability, a list of other resources like certificate and academic programs, and material on the topic from various STC conferences and webinars. (The last has a symbol that says it's available to members only.)
  5. Marcia is excited about how useful this is going to be. She's especially pleased to see that STC considers this part of its Knowledge Portal. And she is pleased that she doesn't have to leave STC and go to a new group to do what she sees as expanding herself as a technical communicator. She starts with the overview, planning on looking into the other pages, too.