New Program Co-ordinator

After four years as co-ordinator of the Technical Communication program, Beth Agnew is handing over this responsibility to Anna Parker-Richards.

“It’s a great opportunity to get someone new involved in the Program,” says Professor Agnew. “Anna has been a strong leader in the Toronto chapter of the STC and her drive will be an asset to Seneca College and to our technical communication students.”

Having grown the program from a low of 18 students when she took over as co-ordinator in 2008 to a recent high of 42 students, Professor Agnew is still going to be active in getting the word out about this top post-graduate educational program for those seeking to enter the profession.

“I’ll still be teaching technical communication subjects and working with Anna and our co-op co-ordinator Charmaine Johnson to find appropriate work placements for our students,” says Agnew. Due to the program’s excellent reputation, there are more applicants than ever — prompting a second intake that will begin in May 2013.

Agnew thinks the program provides great return on investment. “The technical communication program is ideal for career changers because they can leverage their existing skills, background and experience into a new profession. Nothing is wasted. For new university graduates, the Tech Comm program offers a way to add to their skills while the students are still in “study mode”. It helps them differentiate themselves from all the others graduating with similar degrees.”

Tech Comm grads have proven technology and communication skills — high value currency in today’s workplace. “Plus, they’re trained to be problem-solvers,” says Agnew. “Providing solutions to customer problems always improves a company’s bottom line. That makes us very valuable commodities in any company.”

Agnew is excited about the new directions the Tech Comm program will be taking with Anna Parker-Richards as co-ordinator. “Anna is a positive leader,” she says. “She’s a master at networking and has the vision to ensure our program is meeting the needs of employers and students.”

For more information on the Technical Communication program, and to apply, see http://senecacollege.ca/fulltime/TECC.html

 

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Teaching Professionalism

I was asked how it is possible to instill professional identity into technical writers. My response was that professionalism can indeed be taught, and we do that very thing here in the Seneca Tech Comm program.

Simple things such as document ownership, good project management, displaying integrity, building relationships (with SMEs and others), using good communication skills for more than just documentation — all of these are taught and/or enhanced in our program. They all add up to professionalism, and I firmly believe that when you conduct yourself in a professional manner no matter what the circumstances, you usually engender respect for yourself and your position.

Professionalism includes being proactive — if a deadline is at risk, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a school assignment deadline or a documentation deadline, learning how to handle that is part of the job. Working with difficult people? We throw that at them too, in plenty of group situations where students do not always get along like chums but a high pressure project still needs to be delivered.

Our students also have to confront ambiguity of instructions, conflicting priorities, changing expectations, occasional lack of resources, and other situations that mirror what they’ll find in the workplace. Hands on education means exactly that — they’re at the wheel going very fast and they’d better learn to steer. The obstacles occur not because we’re disorganized but because a) it’s life, and b) we build in challenges that allow them to see what can occur when real world projects go awry.

Granted, our program is post-graduate so students are expected to have some degree of maturity upon admission, but they still could be right out of university with no work experience. Mostly I tell them to trust themselves, have confidence in the skills that they’ve learned, and to take charge of their work assignments. In the 11 years we’ve been graduating technical communicators, our students have turned out to be pretty successful at doing that. Professionalism certainly can be taught.

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