Technical Communication

By Pat Gomez Martz

I am a technical communicator–a TC–a fact that came out because of a car accident. As I healed, I became very interested in how people learn, so I did a lot of reading on the side. When my business plateaued, I pursued formal education in business, but trying to listen to professors and read slides at the same time was exhausting, so I left school with a graduate certificate instead of an MBA.

Unsure what to do next, I had my younger daughter, who was working for my company as an unpaid intern, audit all my time cards. She told me I was a technical communicator. What? What’s that? She explained that my clients and their audiences were technical, as was my work–technical communication. I had backed into my profession by accident.

Imagine my surprise.

I decided it would make more sense to bolster my writing credentials–I had none on paper–so I started looking to see what was available. There were a couple of interesting programs online. One looked particularly good, but I knew from my undergraduate days that you learn at least as much from your classmates as you do from the classroom. I wanted a face-to-face program. There was one at Lawrence Tech leading to a Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication (MS-TPC), so I called, spoke to the director and was invited to come in to talk about it. It sounded very interesting. She told me that I was in if I wanted to be–when could she expect my application?

Imagine my surprise, again. Was I interviewed by accident? I sent in my application fast.

As I delved into the program, I gained confidence; the small classes and attentive faculty helped. I took some electives. In Technical Editing, I learned that I could still edit. I was the project manager in Advanced Publication Design II when we created marketing materials for the MS-TPC program, which Lawrence Tech’s Marketing Department accepted and put to use. I used what I learned in Instructional Design as the basis of my practicum; Telling the Corporate Story gave me grounding in storytelling; and Proposal Writing helped me to land a seat on a client’s proposal development team to help put together a proposal-writing process. But the scariest course–ever–was required: Rhetoric. I dreaded it, I put it off, and then I took it and found out that I had been using it all along. Towards the end of my final semester, I was offered an adjunct teaching position at Lawrence Tech.

Now I teach Introduction to Technical and Professional Communication to undergraduates, and Foundations of Technical Communication and Rhetoric of Technical Communication to graduate students. And I still do a lot of reading on the side, which is no accident. 

About the Author: Martz is a lapsed botanist who has worked as an indexing editor, technical editor, desktop publisher, graphic designer, ghost editor, and more recently, as writing consultant, coach, and adjunct professor. She is deeply interested in the intersection of technical communication, visual design, and rhetoric, and earned her MS-TPC from Lawrence Technological University in 2012. Lawrence Tech, an AWC-Detroit sponsor, also offers grad certificates in Technical and Professional Communication, Writing for the Digital Age and Sports Communication.