Technical communicators are always building bridges — between technology and its users, between content and design, and between groups or individuals so that the flow of information can be smooth and easy. In that way, we are always making connections. We connect people with the information they need to solve a problem, perform a task or answer a question. We often connect people with other people, even though there may be another type of interface between them.
Continually standing in the gap, as it were, we see both sides of a situation. We are also very familiar with the chasm that can exist between information and understanding. If you’ve ever fallen into that chasm yourself — flailing helplessly because you don’t “get” whatever it is you’re supposed to be getting — you know how much of a relief it is to finally have that dawn of understanding when the lightbulb goes on and what you’ve been struggling with makes sense.
That’s a situation our students confront all the time. From their own uncertainties, they forge structures that help them get from the unknown to the known. Learning to build those bridges makes them very effective at creating similar structures for their readers and users. It is our empathy with our target audience that helps us correctly choose and shape the information we convey so that it does the job intended.
You don’t have to be an engineer to be a good technical communicator, but it helps to be able to think like one.