Doing It All: Advantages of Diversified Skills in a Declining Economy

Kathy King

The United States continues to deal with the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The day began with an unbelievable horror that evolved into bioterrorism. Now the United States business environment must deal with a declining economy and employee layoffs. Since companies depend on fewer employees to do more work, valuable employees possess multiple skills and a willingness to learn. 

As a 1998 graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, my English degree, with a concentration in technical writing, and my minor in computer science equipped me with a diversified skills base. As an employee at Dataradio COR Ltd., my initial responsibilities as the documentation administrator/technical communicator included maintaining the engineering functions in our company database and writing technical manuals and other product documentation. 

After organizing the documentation department and getting Dataradio’s technical manuals current, I began working with the marketing department to create product brochures. We purchased a digital camera in order to eliminate the need for outside help to provide pictures of our products. Digital photos usually require touch-ups in a graphics program. I choose to work with Adobe Photoshop software.

 Dataradio made the decision to produce technical manuals on CD-ROM. We chose a universal format our customers could easily access. I learned to work with Adobe Acrobat to convert Adobe FrameMaker files to PDF format. Adobe provides free downloads of Acrobat Reader on their Web site and allows royalty-free use on CD-ROM. As our need for more CDs grew, Dataradio purchased a disc duplicator. I learned to build the programs and design labels. 

My education in technical communication taught me the importance of creating materials for the end user and prepared me for my evolution from a documentation administrator and technical communicator working for the engineering department to that of technical communications coordinator working for the marketing department. While still responsible for technical manuals, user guides, product brochures, customer CDs, and engineering functions of the company database, I also help design and place our company advertisements in trade publications, distribute press releases, help maintain our Web site and attend tradeshows. I recently completed training for QuarkXPress as we convert our product brochures to the program used by our Atlanta, Georgia, headquarters. 

Moving to marketing left me apprehensive because my training lies in a different field. Creating an ad campaign was completely foreign, yet, new tasks provided me with the opportunity to look at the materials I create in a new light. I see customer expectations for the manuals and user guides I create. I interact with our sales department at tradeshows and have the opportunity to talk with sales people who work with our customers. They provide information from a new perspective.

 I enjoy the variety of the work I do at Dataradio and offer this article as an example for those pursuing degrees in technical communication. I believe company requirements for employees who are able to multi-task direct the future of our profession. For those of us who choose the corporate environment, our success depends on our ability to adapt to new challenges. 

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