The next profiled writer is the third Public Relations grad we interviewed, in this case via e-mail, as she lives in New England. The focus this time is on technical support writing and the connections the writer makes to her undergraduate education are interesting.
A 2001 graduate, the subject had been the furthest removed from her undergraduate experience of all the interviewees. Her current job is as “a technical support rep for the premium accounts” in a software company located near Boston, MA. The subject lives in a small city of around 41,000 people and indicated on her survey that she does “write on concerns you have or issues you confront as a citizen” and also that she does seek “a readership beyond that of your fellow employees or social acquaintances.” She may have meant customers when she checked that blank and, unfortunately, no mention of her citizen-related writing came up in subsequent correspondence. What did emerge is that her job was keeping her quite busy and that she couldn’t supply samples of her work-related writing because it was specific to particular queries she receives from customers. That said, her e-mailed responses were succinct and informative. “My classes in news reporting taught me how to take a lot of information and formulate them in a structure that is easily understood by a reader. In my current job, often times I need to take complex and difficult to understand information and relay it in ‘laymen’s terms.’”
The subject considered much of her job-related writing to be persuasive, as she frequently needed to convince clients “to take one form of action versus another.” For example, what often prompted her to write were situations involving “scripts … written to correct code.” Apparently the attempt to correct code in proprietary software involves the possibility of causing “more damage than the original issue itself.” So the subject would “often need to persuade a client to live with an error versus moving forward with a script.”
Stylistically, her writing must be “long enough to convey the information, but precise enough that a busy professional will read, consume, and understand.” Her word choices can convey a “friendly” but also “a professional and technical tone,” and she has to avoid being too definite about either the issues involved with the software or when they can be successfully addressed. “For example, I need to give time frames, but not commit to a specific day/time, because there could be unforeseen issues.”
Much of her writing appears to occur via e-mail, which means she uses “my laptop 99.9% of the time,” along with Microsoft Outlook and case management software known as RightNow. The subject’s primary motive for research is “to help solve a problem and communicate the answer.” She will search through the case management tool “for similar issues and how they are handled,” as well as “other tools we use to store information. This may include a search through my computer using Google Desktop, or … through other softwares (Twiki, Outlook, Customer Community web site).”
The subject felt her education had “influenced the good practices I follow now” and that “the importance of technology in communication which was taught during my time at SRU has led me to be more interested in technology and more tech-savvy than my peers.” Staying current with the constant stream of new technologies was essential to her ability to conduct the kind of research she did on her job and she urged the undergraduate writing curriculum to continually “focus on leveraging technology for research and information gathering.” This stance is probably not surprising, given the nature of the subject’s work, but it has been hard to find any subject who did not do the majority of their information gathering via the internet or other online tools.