Technical communication

This page describes what technical communication is all about. It also illustrates what kind of people work in the profession in Finland, including their educational background and what kind of skills they need to succeed at work.

What is technical communication

Technical communicators design and create information for users. Examples of the outcome of this process are different user guides and online helps, such as context sensitive helps in computer applications, Web pages or mobile phones.

Technical communication means the process where information about products is designed, created, and communicated to end users. The end users of the target group may use this data to support their use of the product. The main objective of technical communication documents is to provide users with information that supports the effective use of the product or service in question. The products documented vary considerably; ranging from individual software applications to jet engines.

Technical documentation is referred to by different terms in different contexts. These include technical writing, information design and documentation planning. Technical communication can also include the production of other types of customer documentation, such as equipment descriptions, spare part lists or product specifications. The work of a technical communicator may also include writing other types of documents. Therefore, technical communicators may provide content for their company Web pages or write marketing material.

Employment

Technical communications professionals work in various situations, including in factories, software companies, offices, banks, hospitals, alone, with others, or as subcontractors. This list quite aptly illustrates that technical communicators are as diverse as the job description. A common feature for all fields that require technical communicators is that they all need documents that relate to technology and that are designed and written appropriately.

The majority of Finnish technical communications professionals work in the field of information technology, especially in the field of wireless communications. In recent years, companies have outsourced their technical writers in order to focus more on their core expertise and also due to financial reasons. Therefore, various service companies are also significant employers of technical communicators.

It is safe to assume that the need for technical communicators will increase in the future. The role of technology in our everyday lives is continuously increasing, which inevitably leads to a need for people who are able to familiarise themselves with a product from the point of view of common people, and who are able to relate in a clear and simple manner how this technology is used.

Examples

Technical communications professionals are required in several fields and in various companies. Here are some examples of everyday life in technical documentation:

Technical documentation is much more than mere writing. Do you want to describe your work to your fellow members and to others who are interested? Contact us through the feedback form and tell about your own experiences in technical communications!

Knowledge and skills

A technical communicator is expected to posses various kinds of skills and abilities, including good writing skills and the ability to filter and transform the information received from subject matter experts into the form required by the target group. Accordingly, technical communicators must also analyse their target group: for whom they are writing and what these users have to know about the product or service to be able to use it properly. Additionally, fluency in English is often a basic necessity because texts created in Finland are mostly written in English. Due to this, technical communicators working in Finland usually have a background in linguistics.

The primary task for skilled writers is to create intelligible and coherent documents, which conform to the different backgrounds and goals of the users. Technical communicators are also required to possess other skills and abilities. One of the most important skills is the ability to understand the technology that they are writing about. A general interest in technology helps writers to understand the inner workings of various specific technologies. Technical communicators must also understand the requirements of their target group and how they use the documents. The ability to cope with stress is also required because technical communicators work in an environment that is characterised by rapid technological advancement and, especially in the IT industry, abruptly changing project schedules. The ability to work in a team is very important because the work consists of working cooperatively with other writers, subject matter experts and graphic designers, among others. Technical communicators must be social and possess an extroverted character because some information gathering is done by interviewing experts.

Naturally, computer skills are also required because even if a communicator does not work in the field of technology, the tools used require the ability to use computers and specific applications. These applications include different kinds of word processors, publishing programs, proofreading software and various html-editors and programs that produce helps in html format. Therefore, technical communicators must be able live with constant change because the field itself is in a continuous state of transformation.

Education

A majority of people working in technical communications in Finland have a linguistics background by training: either in philology or in translation studies. Approximately 20 % are from other backgrounds, commonly technical or commercial studies. Nearly all technical communicators have passed their matriculation examination, and well over half of them have a higher academic degree.

In recent years, the field of technical communications has become more well known, which has increased the educational opportunities in the field. There are more training opportunities on offer these days. A third of technical communications professional have attended either a programme provided by the universities or a course or conference provided by other parties. The society’s autumn seminars have inspired over 100 members to take part each year