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Fields and Jobs in Technical Communication

By Danielle Porres

Secretary, Future Technical Communicators club at UCF

Hello, everyone! I know most, if not all of our blog’s readers are pursuing a career in tech comm and are looking to get themselves out there in the world of job searching. Once you begin the process, it can definitely feel as though you’re navigating through a whirlwind of emotions and activity. Sure, you’re familiar with what tech comm encompasses, but how do you figure out which industry or niche you want to get into? Knowing how versatile the field of tech comm is and the different types of opportunities out there, it can definitely feel daunting to pinpoint what you want to do with your degree.

There are a plethora of industries focused on hiring technical communicators, ranging from health care to public relations, all wanting highly-skilled individuals with a passion for writing and editing. As noted by Masters in Communications, the most notable career paths in the field are, “Technical Writer or Documentation Specialist, Medical Writer, Training Consultant, Science and Technology Journalist, and Researcher” (p.11). 

Additional job titles for technical communicators (Source: stc.org):

  • Technical Writers & Editors
  • Indexers
  • Information Architects
  • Instructional Designers
  • Technical Illustrators
  • Globalization & Localization Specialists
  • Usability & Human Factors Professionals
  • Visual Designers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Teachers & Researchers of Technical Communication
  • Trainers and E-Learning Developers

As you navigate through your course load, it is plausible to find a specialization or industry that you might want to get into. You might take an interest in scientific writing, multimedia production, instructional writing, and many others. If multiple interests you at once, that’s okay too! It can actually serve as an advantage since companies and industries admire versatility. By being someone who can develop and hone their skills in various tech comm areas, many more opportunities can fall at your door. 

Although taking courses and obtaining your degree is essential, networking and gaining experience is what will you that extra push. Through internships and some odd jobs here and there, you will be able to further develop your writing/editing style, find your preferred niche(s), and connect with others who share common tech comm interests. 

<strong>Danielle Porres – Secretary, Publications Committee Member</strong>
Danielle Porres – Secretary, Publications Committee Member

Hi! My name is Danielle, the current secretary of FTC. I’m a sophomore majoring in Technical Communication and minoring in Writing & Rhetoric. It is my first semester as a member of FTC, but so far it’s been such an amazing and rewarding experience. The FTC community strives to not only promote the importance of technical literacy but the significance of making connections. As secretary of FTC, I hope to contribute to our blog’s publications, utilize my organizational skills, and continuously communicate with the leaders. Aside from my work in FTC, I am a proofreader for the Johnson’s Dictionary Project and a member of Sigma Tau Delta. When I’m not working, I enjoy creative journaling, reading, and listening to music.

Privacy Policies / Terms of Service: Who reads them?

By Zachary P.  Miller

Historian, Future Technical Communicators club at UCF

Picture this. You are meeting up with some old friends to grab lunch. It has been years since you have interacted with each other beyond calls and texts. Fast forward two hours into your hangout, and you are having a great time. Your friends cannot stop checking their phones with glee and laughter. Soon enough, you are introduced to an incredible new social app they are using to stay in contact with one another. You immediately download it from the AppStore and begin creating an account. You fill out all of your credentials as quickly as possible, and head for the create account button. But wait, you have to select that you have read the terms of use and privacy policy to proceed. Well, did you? Have you ever bothered to open the legal documents you effectively sign when hitting the checkmark? The odds are probably not. 

In 2017, a Deloitte survey of 2,000 participants found that 91% of people consent to user agreements without reading them. Let’s break it down. When creating an account for Snapchat, each user is required to check a box at the end of a statement that goes something like this: “By tapping Sign Up and Accept, you acknowledge that you have read the Privacy Policy and agree to the Terms of Service.” 

The combined total of words that each document contains is 13,766. 200-250 words per minute is a reasonable estimate for an average person living in the United States. However, literacy is still much lower for many people. That being said, it would take an ‘average person 68 minutes to read through the entirety of SnapChats Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Is this reasonable?

The walls of text that make up user agreements like Snapchat and the simple agreement that is relatively user-friendly in terms of getting an account created are thought-provoking. Who are these agreements really for? In order to answer this question, we must understand the basis of these user agreements.

In most cases, agreements like privacy policies and terms of service are required by law for any business that collects user data. A privacy policy aims to inform users about collecting their data while using a digital service and explain how this data is used. On the other hand, terms of service serve to inform users what the limitations of service are. While terms of service are not necessarily required by law, they are essential to any service or platform that hopes to avoid liability and enforce a set of rules on its users.

Obviously, these agreements should do more than just put companies in the clear for utilizing personal data and controlling their users. When first using a digital service, it is required that you check a box or hit a button that allows you to proceed to use the service. Agreeing to privacy policies and terms of service with a simple click of a button is accessible to the user, no doubt. Yet, these agreements are often in a form that is not designed with user comprehension in mind. Anyone who has looked at a privacy policy can agree that it is no simple task to review before signing, especially when you are eager to solve a problem that the service you are using satisfies. 

To ensure transparency between companies and their users, it is essential to take a human-centered approach to design the agreements that allow companies to succeed. More technical communicators need to design solutions that can convey critical points of user agreements rather than discouraging users from even attempting to read the agreements in the first place. Do you read them?

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScgG8iG5AOrH8VbUiXEezJXDKJnj5HM4x4frmoUCNcJBYpCfw/viewform?embedded=true

For the time being, I have collected some options for users to consider if faced with the problem we have outlined around user agreements.

  •  First off, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can make it hard for third parties to track and capture your data. This bypasses the issue with the comprehensibility of user agreements by encrypting your data and disguising your identity.
  • Users can also gain skills in identifying keywords within agreements that can give insights into what they relinquish with the acceptance of privacy policies and terms of service. The keywords to look out for will tell you what information the app or website collects, how long it keeps this data, and who they share it with. Keywords include accepting, agree, authorize, retain, and third parties.
  • Companies might make their agreements more comprehensible through user experience research and design. Simply understanding user expectations, redesigning layouts, including visuals, and writing for comprehension to a broad audience can make a vast difference for users. 
  • Taking a step further, outside efforts to create a solution that analyzes and presents key points from privacy policies and terms of service have been made. Research in machine learning offers solutions that can match the expertise of privacy policy experts and “Open[s] opportunities for other innovative privacy policy presentation mechanisms, including summarizing policies into simpler language. It can also enable comparative shopping applications that advise the consumer by comparing the privacy aspects of multiple applications they want to choose from” (Harkous). 
  • This technological mitigation culminates in initiatives and tools that allow for a clear understanding of what data each website or application harvests from its users. The initiative titled Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS; DR) seeks to help fix the “biggest lie on the web” that almost no one reads privacy policies and terms of service before agreeing. 
Zachary Miller - Historian, Future Technical Communicators
Zachary Miller – Historian, Future Technical Communicators

Zachary P. Miller is an Anthropology major at the University of Central Florida. He leverages his interdisciplinary background to bring human-centered perspectives to understanding contemporary problems in human-computer interaction. Zachary is a UCF Burnett Honors scholar and SURF Fellow. He is the Historian of UCF’s Future Technical Communicators and a research assistant in UCF’s Socio-Technical Interaction Research Lab. After graduating from UCF, Zachary plans to work as a User Experience Researcher. 

Tech Comm Jobs and Where to Find Them

Or: “We’ve got so many jobs, you don’t even know.”

By Caitlyn Hunter and John Clement

We here at FTC know how hard it can be to be on the job hunt. “Technical Communicator” isn’t a common job title, so we understand the struggle of trying out multiple search phrases and applying endless filters in search programs like LinkedIn or Indeed. The whole process can be exhausting and sometimes discouraging, so we decided to make it a little easier for all of you.

John and I have had many colleagues and friends send in advice, internships, and job opportunities. We have culminated them all here with simple descriptions to allow for easy skimming. There’s no promise that there’s a position here for you, but with 18 openings and many more leads, we hope to help at least some of you get connected with an opportunity you might not have otherwise found.

With all this said, we wish you luck on the job hunt and for finding that perfect position.

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Introducing FTC Publications

The Future Technical Communicators club was established in 2000 as the product of two technical communication students at UCF with a dream. They both sought to make a student organization that offered itself as a place for technical communication students to sharpen the skills they would need when they enter a career in technical communication. Beyond that, the club sought to help its members find and get a job in those very careers. Since then, it has grown to offer an array of programs from workshops to guest speaker events and networking opportunities, all while still pursuing that same goal. Whether you are a freshman or senior, graduate or undergraduate student, technical communication major or otherwise, FTC always seeks to provide you with opportunities to gain something practical that can’t be gained in the classroom alone. We want you to give you a push that makes you not just an excellent student but a prepared professional.

We want to add one more asset to our repertoire of resources for members. Our club’s current website was established fairly recently, back at the end of Fall 2020. While it has information about the club itself and houses some of our content, it never had a definitive purpose. The officers have wanted to make the website a proper home for FTC content, and in doing so, we had the idea of giving it something unique too — something you could only find here and something that was useful for students at the same time. One idea led to another, and then we got to work.

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