Popping the Technical Bubble

Kerry Byrnes has been a Technical Editor for Barnard construction for a little over a year. She started out as a writing major who worked in the writing center while attending school at Montana State University. The writing center gave her an insight to her passion to talking with others to develop their writing. Through her connections at the writing center, she found a job with Barnard as a technical writer in the marketing department following graduation. With a passion for professional and practical writing, the job seemed to be the perfect fit.

As a technical editor in the marketing department, Byrnes is responsible for taking various forms of technical information and converting it into audience driven documents. Several of the examples of writing she brought to the interview were of various genres that portrayed the same information. There are the project profiles that are to inform the owners of the projects and sites of the status and work being performed. There are then quarterly publications for all of Barnard’s clients that update the clientele as to the projects currently being worked on and their status. Finally, there is the internal monthly newsletter that includes a more personal touch for project updates in addition to employee lifestyle articles. While all these pieces of writing fundamentally contain the same information, they are each tailored to who will be reading them.

Byrnes’ writing process begins with identifying the purpose of the document to be circulated. The audience varies based on the type of circulation, meaning the level of technical information going into any given document fluctuates with the audience. The content and types of stories that go into each is also determined by the audience. The project profile, for example, would not contain information on multiple projects, but rather a greater amount of specificity to the single project covered. Once the audience is identified, Byrnes spends time going through internal documents on the projects as well as interviewing the personnel on the project to gain a better understanding. Much like her work in the writing center, it is more a method of taking content that others have already written on the subject and improving it by means of simplification and tailoring to the desired audience. In many ways, her job as an editor is more prominent than that of a writer in the sense she morphs the information to better fit the publication’s audience.

Any non-work related writing Byrnes chooses to indulge is also focused in the real world of professional writing. She explored the peculiarity of being odd one out as an undergraduate in the sense of not having an affinity or desire to write fiction; where she dabbled in creative non-fiction, found far greater enjoyment in helping others improve their writing and writing with a real world application and purpose. Currently, writing outside of work consists of essays on various topics.

As an engineer myself, I have worked in several companies where those of us who worked in a more technical realm weren’t usually responsible for conveying information to clients. This interview was interesting in the sense that I now saw how it connected. A business obviously has to work with stakeholders and clientele, but existing in the technical bubble can make one forget communication with stakeholders on their level of understanding is an activity that must be done. Byrnes’ role as a technical editor fills a need that is up and coming. The need to take technical knowledge and shape it for the appropriate audience is a skill set that is needed when it comes to relating the technical bubble to the real world. However, these types of jobs aren’t explicitly marketed as jobs for writing majors and can require a bit of networking and selling one’s skills in that department. There is a great need for technical editors to pop the technical bubble, and Kerry Byrnes is one of many young professionals leading the way.

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One thought on “Popping the Technical Bubble

  1. While interviewing with Jenny, Communications Director at MSU, I also found that technical writers are mainly bridging to convey the information form technical personnel to general public or other non-specific audience. It is true that technical writer’s role is not explicit to general public, they remain ignorant that there are writers behind the story. However, their role is firm in any institution or an organization to circulate the different form of information that can fit to anyone who is part of a particular organization. The major problem is that the writers who has major in Writing face hard time with jargon. They need to have basic understanding in the subject to pop the technical bubble accurately. And they fill this gap by interacting their clients and gain better understanding over the years.

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