Professor Beth Agnew, Seneca College, has become one of the first in the world to receive the new Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC)™ designation from the Society for Technical Communication.
“It’s a great step forward for our profession,” says Agnew. “For 40 years our organization has been trying to hit the moving target of what it means to be a technical communicator. Our skills have changed rapidly along with technology and the many ways of communicating it. Finally, this past year the STC settled on our core competencies.”
Certification requires expert evaluation of demonstrated skills in 9 areas that cover user, task and experience analysis, information design, information development, information production, and process management. It includes a commitment to honour a code of conduct and professional ethics.
Long a skilled and qualified professional, Agnew and others awarded the CPTC™ are now recognized on a par with MCSE, PMP, CGA, and other “Registered” or “Certified” experts.
“It’s exciting that our professional organization now can grant official acknowledgement of our skills that employers and clients can rely upon,” she says.
“Our profession is very broad,” says Agnew. “We deal with all aspects of usability, user assistance, product and content development, customer relationships, and information architecture. That’s a tall order. Technical communicators make significant contributions to improving a company’s bottom line by reducing customer support costs and making technology easier to use and understand.”
Technical communicators are industry independent, working as easily in aerospace and engineering as banking, manufacturing and science, though some specialize in their particular areas of interest.
“Practitioner backgrounds are as varied as our workplaces,” notes Agnew. “Ideal for career changers, your existing knowledge and experience are leveraged into communicating about technology to achieve specific results.”
“Fine Arts,” she laughs. “Specifically, Fiction Writing, but that hasn’t hindered me working for NASA, the Geological Survey of Canada or MDS Sciex.”
Professor Agnew is the co-ordinator of the Seneca College one year post-graduate program in Technical Communication and teaches courses in information technology, web-based training and multimedia. The program is focused on giving students a solid foundation in the areas that will be required for certification when they’ve met the experience requirements.
“All you need are an affinity for technology and some writing ability. New grads facing competition for jobs from all their classmates with the same English, Liberal Arts, Computer, or Science degree can take our program in technical communication and quickly differentiate themselves from their competitors. Plus they get co-op work experience that helps launch their new careers.”
Since 1998, the Seneca Tech Comm Program has been graduating skilled technical communicators who have gone on to work for companies such as IBM, RIM, Siemens Milltronics, TD Bank, Mount Sinai Hospital, engineering firms and government ministries.
“Technical Communication is a very rewarding profession,” says Agnew. “When we do our jobs right, it’s completely transparent. We work behind the scenes, and few realize there’s been a technical communicator involved. The only evidence is that products are easier to use, information much easier to understand, and customers are more satisfied with their purchases.”
“Every company can benefit from having a technical communicator on the payroll.”