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November 18, 2013

S&TC Alumna: Rose Hruska

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Rose Hruska
Technical Writer/User Documentation Specialist
Advanced Informatics
B.S. in S&TC, 2013

What is your current position?
I am a Technical Writer/User Documentation Specialist at a Minneapolis-based healthcare educational software company called Advanced Informatics. Our company produces E*Value, a customizable software that assists healthcare educators in managing student data and administrative processes. My main duty is to create and update documentation about E*Value functionality for the software's online help manual. Since the tools within the software are always changing, I am constantly editing existing documentation and creating instructions for the use of new tools. Another duty I am tasked with is adding documents that assist my co-workers in communicating with clients to the company Wiki. I also post updates about new tools and features on the client-facing administrator homepage in E*Value and my co-workers often ask me to proofread and edit their documents.

How does your position relate to technical communication?
My position relates directly to technical communication because it requires me to present technical information in a language and format that is concise but easily understandable.

What aspects of your study in technical communication have been most relevant to your current work?
Learning the process of editing my own and others' writing during my undergraduate career definitely helped prepare me for the job I have now. After I draft a document, I consult subject matter experts within the company and ask them to check the text's accuracy. Often, I need to revise the documentation to reflect obscure variables that can be produced within the software. Being able to revise my work to make it as accurate as possible is crucial for creating documentation that is useful for clients. Another aspect of my study in technical communication that has been extremely relevant to my current work is being able to analyze the needs of my audience.

What did you learn about technical communication that surprised you most in the workplace?
The most surprising component of technical communication in the workplace is how much I must communicate with other employees in order to complete projects. Although technical writing seems like a fairly independent line of work, I often need to consult coworkers from multiple departments to gather all of the information needed to write technical documentation. I was also surprised by the importance of well-written emails in the workplace. Emails that are poorly written and unclear can waste the time of all parties involved if they have to ask for clarification.

What message do you have for our current students?
Work on creating a clean, detailed resume. Your resume should show employers not only why they'd want to hire you, but also why they'd want to work with you. Internships can be crucial; relevant experience is attractive to potential employers, and internships give you an idea of what your career after college might involve. Also, start applying for jobs a few months before graduation. Even if you don't get a job offer right away, potential employers may keep your resume on file in case a position you're qualified for becomes available.

February 19, 2013

S&TC Alumna: Jenna Bauer

Bauer_Jenna_colorprint.jpgJenna Bauer
Marketing Communications Manager & Assistant Vice President for Piper Jaffray
BS. in S&TC 2007

What is your current position?
I am the Marketing Communications Manager & Assistant Vice President for Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis-based investment bank where I manage a small team that wears many hats. On a given day, I am managing and delegating several projects which can range from annual reports to press releases to tradeshow booths to photo shoots. Last year, my biggest undertaking was managing the redesign of our corporate Website. I am also the main overseer of our brand, meaning that I am often "enforcing rules" with respect to how we represent the company through messaging and visuals. A lot of my time is also spent writing and editing various materials--pitch books, Web pages, conference books, articles and speaking points for our top executives.

How does your position relate to technical communication?
The financial sector tends to be complex and fast-paced, which involves interacting with subject matter experts and translating information to an understandable and digestible format. I am often returning to the core principles of audience, purpose, context and ethos, pathos, logos when setting objectives and it makes our efforts that much more impactful. As a corporate communications group, we are broadcasting messages to large audiences in many forms--Web pages, e-mails, press releases, brochures and ads, to name a few. We need to make sure our communications are timely, capture the audience's attention, reinforce the message or image we are trying to convey, and promote a desired action. The STC coursework positioned me well to think critically and creatively on these topics.

What aspects of your study in technical communication have been most relevant to your current work?
While I didn't take a typical career path for an STC major, I've seen a lot of synergies between the coursework and my job. Our group manages virtually all aspects of marketing--the corporate website and intranet, relationships with the media, brand and identity, social media presence; all of which require us to be a gatherer, conduit and distributor of information--essentially, applying many of the fundamentals from the STC program. My team also develops collateral like ads, brochures, presentations, signage and mailers. These materials require a compelling message and visual design, both of which the STC program prepared me well for with courses like Visual Rhetoric, Project Management and Usability.

What did you learn about technical communication that surprised you most in the workplace?
I always felt the STC program events and faculty prepared me well for a transition into the working world. One thing I hadn't anticipated right out of college was the extent to which I have to explain our decisions and policies, often on things as minor as a word choice or a graphic treatment. Being able to ground and articulate your work in a convincing way is especially important early in your career, and will make you a very effective communicator. Context helps our fellow employees better understand what we do and why we do it. But, being in a non-typical career for an STC grad, I was surprised how much the material was applicable in my daily work, for example, editing a report, directing on a book layout or simply communicating initiatives to other employees.

What message do you have for our current students?
If I could go back in time, there are two things I would do differently as a student:

1.) Take goal setting seriously. I used to think of goal setting as a mandatory classroom assignment, but now I see it as very important to being successful. Try to think 10 steps ahead and spend a lot of time setting your goals. If you aren't sure what path you want to take, have as many informational interviews as you can with people working in fields you are--and are not--considering. You will find that most professionals are happy to talk with students about their jobs. Also, try to complete at least one internship. It will help with the college-to-career transition and of course greatly increase your odds of getting a job after graduation.

2.) Network more. As a student, I was really intimidated by networking but soon realized, like anything, it just takes practice. I now really like to meet and connect with other professionals and even formed a networking group recently, which is a good reminder that stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Don't think of networking as a quick way to get a job, but instead, approach it as a long-term endeavor and a means for broadening your perspective.