TecCOM - Profession of Technical Communication

Professional Activities

The areas of work that fall under technical communication are diversified, essential, and interdisciplinary. The combination of media and technology in particular has made this profession more and more popular among graduates. But what is the actual relevance of technical writers and what exactly do they do?

Understanding the User and his need for Information

The society we live in today is influenced by the increasing diversification of technical devices. Modes of operation and application possibilities are becoming more complex and more difficult for the consumer to understand. There is a need for clarification for the devices that are used in the private domain (smartphones, TVs, cars) and – more importantly – for those used in the professional domain (devices, machines, production facilities, software, services). This is where technical writers come in. They create detailed and easy-to-understand info material to ensure safe and effective use. Their documentation is oriented towards all interfaces along the entire life cycle of a product (assembly, commissioning, usage, maintenance, etc.), thereby ensuring seamless usage.

Producer, Judge, Mediator and Guardian Rolled into one

Technical communication manages all the information related to a product. It involves many diversified tasks. A large part of the work done by technical writers involves the creation of technical documentation and related project management. They also develop concepts, take care of quality management and ensure that current laws, norms and standards are complied with. Depending on the product, economic sector, and target group, they have to adapt to circumstances and adjust their work accordingly. This means that they may have to prepare different information for IT specialists as opposed to a private individual and his washing machine. Just as a machine operator requires different information to use his production facilities correctly, technical writers analyze the user-specific need for information and prepare technical documentation based on this requirement. 

They also play the role of mediators, where they accomplish a range of communicative activities. They are important interfaces in a company and mediate internally and externally between departments, customers, and manufacturers. They research information on a product and steer discussions constructively, with a particular focus on consumer protection. By analyzing products in detail, they ensure maximum safety in society. This is very important because their work also optimizes the usability of products and information.

Working with Media and "Smart Information"

Technical writers can create multimedia technical documentation. They have access to a large pool of knowledge of all media channels known to us (print, website, apps, etc.) and can use these extremely effectively in a target-oriented manner. They prepare user information depending on the needs of their target group and make it available in offline and online media. The choice of medium depends on the subsequent usage concept of the user.

With regard to online media, technical writers nowadays focus greatly on innovative media technology. Buzzwords like “smart information” and “digitally networked systems” characterize the zeitgeist of the industry. Technical writers think and act based on user expectations, which increase with the opportunities that digitalization offers. In today’s world, good product information must not only be comprehensible and digitally accessible, it should also modulate correct information about a concrete use case in real time. What does this mean? For example, if a machine is defective, users are unlikely to feel motivated to go through the entire technical documentation to find out the possible causes of the defect. What they need is to be able to find the correct solution to eliminate the defect without much effort. Technical writers therefore aim to provide information in a context-sensitive, personalized, and dynamic manner. They endeavor to provide the best possible user experience

Working with Languages

Multilingualism is also an important aspect of the day-to-day work life of technical writers. Given the fast-paced globalization, technically correct and linguistically accurate translation of user information is becoming more and more important. A good 90 percent of all documentation is already used internationally. Professional translation based on sound technical knowledge is therefore critical for success.

Technical Writers – Multifunctional Wizards?

The tasks that constitute technical communication are multifaceted and extensive. However, this does not necessarily imply that technical writers need to become multifunctional wizards.

In practice, they don’t work on all topics equally intensively. That is virtually impossible. They can choose their areas of specialization, then focus and study specific areas that first engage their interest. Depending on the training facility and personal aptitude, they can undergo more in-depth training in specific disciplines. For example, if one chooses linguistics, one will primarily work on compiling and translating texts in future. Programming activities and the application of HTML know-how would play only a minor role or no role at all. Things are different when one chooses a technical field. Here, one focuses on developing comprehensible texts on the basis of complicated technical design plans and designing graphics using CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs for instance.