TCUK 2019 Gold Sponsor – Amplexor

Amplexor is a leading global content services provider offering global governance, compliance, digital experience, and language solutions. Continuously growing since 1987, and with a presence in more than 40 countries, Amplexor helps customers across key industries, including manufacturing, life sciences, retail, technology/software and the public sector achieve process efficiency, increase revenue generation, reduce time-to-market and ensure quality and compliance. Amplexor’s turnkey solutions support core industry processes and include software technology, consulting, system integration, and language and content management services. For more information, visit http://www.amplexor.com.

TCUK 2019 Bronze Sponsor – Syncro Soft SRL

Oxygen provides a comprehensive suite of XML authoring, developing, publishing, and collaboration tools. The products are designed to accommodate a large variety of users, ranging from non-technical users to XML experts, and integrates all the major XML-based technologies (including DITA). They are available on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, etc.) and in various different forms (as a desktop application, Eclipse plugin, or browser-based tool).

The suite of products include:

• Oxygen XML Editor: All-in-one comprehensive XML authoring, publishing, and developing tool
• Oxygen XML Author: User-friendly, visual XML authoring and publishing tool
• Oxygen XML Web Author: Intuitive XML editing and reviewing tool in any modern web browser
• Oxygen XML Developer: Industry-leading tool for designing XML Schema and transformation pipelines
• Oxygen WebHelp: Convenient, interactive tool for publishing DITA and DocBook content on the web
• Oxygen PDF Chemistry: Attractive PDF output from HTML or DITA through simple CSS styling
• Oxygen Content Fusion – Easy to use, flexible collaboration platform for any type of documentation workflow

TCUK 2019 Bronze Sponsor – MadCap Software

Logo for MadCap Software

We Develop Innovative Software Solutions Backed with World-class Technical Support

MadCap Software was formed in 2005 by industry veterans with decades of experience in the technical communication and documentation industries, with the objective to develop great products backed with world-class technical support.

Today, MadCap Software is a trusted resource for thousands of companies around the globe for single-source, multi-channel authoring and publishing solutions designed for technical communication, knowledge management and content development. From authoring, publishing and translation, to cloud-based project and content management, to contribution and review in the cloud, you can streamline content delivery and manage the entire content development lifecycle with MadCap Software.

TCUK 2019 Silver Sponsor – TWi

    TWi is a leading technical writing and information design service provider, based in Ireland. We partner with clients who require scalable and fully managed documentation solutions to meet their changing needs. We work mainly with multinational clients in the Software, Fintech, Utilities, Engineering, and Pharma/MedTech industries. Thanks to technology and Ireland’s time zone, we’ve worked with teams around the globe.
    Clients avail of our technical communication expertise and knowledge of documentation best practices, tools, and strategies to create deliverables fit to accompany their innovative creations. Typical deliverables include SOPs, technical guides, user manuals, online help, training resources, and white papers.

    Partner with us to turn your documentation into an asset by:
    – Enhancing knowledge transfer
    – Promoting usability, customer safety, and user satisfaction
    – Generating increased sales
    – Growing internal capacity to meet future documentation needs
    – Supporting legal, quality, and regulatory compliance

    TCUK 2019 Silver Sponsor – CAD-IT UK Ltd

    CAD-IT are experts in Service Lifecycle Management and are dedicated to the improvement and advancement of all aspects relating to a product in its service life. By leveraging technology and readily available assets we can enhance our customers’ product and service quality, efficiency, profitability and customer satisfaction.

    We deliver software solutions, services and consultancy support for our customers. We specialise in assessing our customers’ service landscape and helping them improve how they design, support and maintain their products in the field by leveraging technology and process change. This increases the quality of the support and reduces costs across several functional areas.

    TCUK 2019 Bronze Sponsor – Edissero

    Logo for Edissero

    Edissero has been a specialist recruiter of technical communicators since 2003, helping many different companies and organisations, from blue chips to technology start-ups, find the best technical communicators for their technical and business information needs. We help companies in the UK and Europe recruit permanent and contract, full-time and part-time technical authors (from graduates and juniors to expert-level), documentation managers, content strategists, knowledgebase managers, eLearning and instructional designers, editors, bid writers, and user experience designers.

    With 16 years in this specialist market, we love what we do and are proud of our long-term partnerships with our clients and candidates. They tell us we are thorough, efficient, no-nonsense and nice to deal with.

    We look forward to seeing you at TCUK 2019! Please visit our stand to:

    • Register with us and talk about how we can help you further your career.
    • Discuss how we can help you recruit a technical communicator.
    • Take advantage of our 1-to-1 CV MOT service (please bring along your CV).
    • Enjoy a sweet treat from our ever-popular chocolate bowl!

    TCUK – The how, when, where and what

    By Derek Cooper

    (Reprinted with kind permission from the January 2019 edition of InfoPlus, ISTC’s free monthly online newsletter for scientific and technical communicators.)

    Happy New Year from the TCUK organising team.

    We’ve been busy with the early stages of planning for TCUK 2019 – the tenth anniversary of TCUK in its current form – and later in this article I want to tell you about it.

    green logo of the TCUK conference 2019

    But first, I want to give you a brief insight into what planning our conference involves, to help you understand the compromises we have to make, how those compromises affect your experience of TCUK, and how we fine-tune them to give you the best experience we can achieve.

    Venue selection criteria

    The criteria we apply when we choose a venue include (but are not limited to) a series of important requirements:

    • The venue must include syndicate rooms for the three presentation streams, with the ability to combine two of them for keynote speeches. The third room should be close to the other two.
    • Sponsors of the conference must have a suitable, large area where they can network easily with delegates during the conference and in the evenings. Ideally that area should also provide space for refreshments served between presentations.
    • Restaurant food must conform to a high standard, and must provide a good choice for delegates including those with special dietary requirements.
    • It must be possible to combine syndicate rooms for the Gala Dinner.
    • There must be bar areas where attendees can network and relax in the evening.
    • There must be sufficient bedrooms available for the expected number of attendees, and those bedrooms must be clean and comfortable, and must be within the same building as the conference facilities.
    • Access for disabled delegates must be supported fully by the venue design and facilities.
    • The venue location must be reasonably easy to find and must be within reasonable distance of transport links including major roads, rail, and international airport links. Ideally it should also be reasonably close to a city, town or other location where attendees can sample the local amenities.
    • There must be sufficient complimentary parking space for attendees who drive to the venue.

    Naturally, it must be available for the full week of the conference. Autumn is a popular season for conferences, and we are finding it increasingly difficult to find a conference venue that meets our criteria and that is available for one of the weeks we specify.

    Hotels that support these requirements invariably also provide other facilities such as a leisure pool and gym, but these are not part of our search criteria. If they exist at the hotel (which they usually do), then they are a bonus that delegates can enjoy.

    Inevitably, there are compromises involved, because all this has to be affordable for delegates, many of whom pay for their own attendance or who have to justify the cost of attendance to employers. Locations that are within major cities, or are close to major airports, are usually too expensive.

    TCUK 2019

    So, what have we decided for TCUK 2019 which, as I have already mentioned, is the tenth anniversary of the conference in its current form?

    We’ve identified a venue, a date, and a theme:

    Venue

    Our venue for TCUK 2019 is the Chesford Grange Hotel, near Kenilworth in Warwickshire.

    This is a location that meets or exceeds all of our requirements, and that also meets most of the “nice to have” features too. The hotel is located in a rural area close to the town of Warwick in central England. This is in the heart of Shakespeare country, and there are some wonderful visitor attractions nearby including the stunning Warwick Castle.

    Date

    The conference dates for your diary are from 10 to 12 September 2019. This is a week earlier than the earliest week we usually reserve for the conference during September, and this has been forced on us by restricted availability.

    Theme

    And for the theme – our title for TCUK 2019 is simply “10”.

    This title – prompted by the tenth anniversary – is deliberately enigmatic. You can use your imagination and interpret it in a number of ways, for example:

    • Ten years – the past, the future.
    • Ten things you have learned during the past decade.
    • Ten Commandments of technical communication.
    • We’ve deliberately presented the theme title in figures in case you might interpret it as a different number base – binary 10 might lead you to explore the impact of digital technology on technical communication.

    The choice is yours – these are just suggestions. We offer a prize for the most innovative and imaginative interpretation of the theme.

    As usual, we will also be looking for off-theme submissions from presenters who have something to say that doesn’t fall within the formal theme context.

    Timetable and deadlines

    We will be publishing the timetable and deadlines early in January. Note that the earlier date of the conference will affect these timescales.

    Please refer to the social media channels for further news of the conference details. I’ll also include updates in future issues of InfoPlus.

    TCUK 2019 Silver Sponsor – 3di Information Solutions Ltd

    “Complexity made clear”
    3di has delivered technical communication and localization services to global companies, government organisations, and technology and software businesses since 2002. Our in-house team of 40 is based near Guildford, in Kraków and in Edinburgh. Quite a few of us are attending TCUK as delegates.

    Our customers and suppliers love working with us and keep coming back. The people we work with day-to-day like our friendly and reliable approach and our focus on quality — we don’t let them down. The people who pay the bills like our competitive rates and our focus on efficient processes — we save them money.

    Visit our stand at TCUK to:

    • discuss your work and the challenges you face
    • brief us about projects you have coming up
    • tell us about your availability to work with us and our customers
    • find out more about our partnerships with Kothes, and with Madcap

    For more information visit our website www.3di-info.com.

    What are your top three technical writing tools?

    Earlier this year, Ferry Vermeulen asked speakers at conferences earlier this year what they consider their top three tools of choice for their technical communication needs. He received over 70 responses which he published in “Technical Writing Tools: The Ultimate Expert Choice” on his blog.

    Many of the responses are perfect for this year’s conference theme: From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator. Dive into the article for inspiration!

    • Find out who feels that a certain tool is like a map of her brain (or at least, if she were Data from Star Trek).
    • Learn how many are using Github and why.
    • Discover who considers “talent” a tool!

    If Ferry had contacted you, what would you say to him? You can add your thoughts in the comments at “Technical Writing Tools: The Ultimate Expert Choice”.

    You can also continue the discussion at the TCUK conference or on Twitter (and include @TCUK_Conf or the hashtag #TCUK16).

    From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator

    Anjali Gupta works as a Technical Writing Consultant with Adobe Systems, the Diamond Sponsor for TCUK16. She is smitten by Adobe products (especially FrameMaker and RoboHelp) and plans to learn and teach some great, new workflows to users. She loves to explore new communication styles and media. Anjali has written an article for us where she shares her thoughts on the 2016 conference theme.

    From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator

    It is one of those Monday mornings, when I am rushing to the office, skipping breakfast again. First thing that I want to do, after I reach the office, is to sip 2-3 cups of coffee and get rid of the usual Monday sickness. An email from my boss is the last thing that I am expecting to see on my smartphone screen. And Beep. It’s an email from my boss.

    Hi Anjali, the Online Help looks great. Thanks for such a quick turnaround. It’s a pleasure to have an expert like you in the team.

    I have been working through weekends to complete a crucial delivery. And this totally makes my day. A wide smile covers my face while I start for office. I remember the days when I had just started off in the field of technical communications and with the little experience that I had at that time, I was someone who was nervous and not very confident about my skills.

    Being a Technical Communicator requires you to be quick with learning tools and technologies, determining what users need, and helping users accomplish their tasks with the various types of content you create. The communication needs to be precise as well as engaging.

    At this point, when I sit down introspecting, I feel that I could have done a few things better. So if you think you are a novice in this field and want to plan your career path to be an expert technical communicator, imbibe these quick tips:

    • Understand that technical communication is more than just technical writing.
      I agree that these two terms are closely connected. But, as the world around you evolves, you will see that newer communication media and changing user preferences will open up opportunities for you to communicate in many ways, not just through writing conventional user guides and help manuals. So explore a variety of writing styles and methodologies and embrace new media.
    • Be patient. In fact, be very patient.
      Your first write-up will be rejected, your following write-ups will be heavily edited, and your first appreciation mail will not come easily. But you will have to be patient to excel. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s crucial to learn from them. Actually, this is how a writer grows: Write > Revise > Enhance. Remember, smart and steady will win the race here.
    • Keep up the investigative skills. Ask a lot of questions.
      Do not worry, if in a product demo, you ask something that leaves someone in the room amused. If you have done your user analysis, do not hesitate to play the user. Keep your probing skills sharp. It won’t take long for people to notice that somebody in the room has understood the product and the user community really well.
    • Keep sharpening your technical skills. Bridge the demand and supply gap.
      Gone are the days when writers used to work around with basic word processors. Today, as users want to see content in various formats, like interactive How-to videos, mobile and search-friendly articles, you as a technical communicator will have to match up to those requirements. Be well-read and flexible so that you can use both technology and skills to produce user delighting content.
    • Be collaborative and grounded.
      Collaborate well with your team and stakeholders. Be grounded and professional when it is about giving and accepting suggestions. Do not take reviews personally. They are done to improve the document. However, if you also choose to improve with each of the reviews (which is highly advisable), you will realize that success will be closer.

    The Novice Technical Communicator – Where does my journey begin

    This is the first in a series of articles based on our 2016 theme for TCUK: “From Novice to Expert – Writing Your Career Path as a Technical Communicator”.

    Fountain pen and ink bottle resting on an open blank notebook with 2 closed pens lying next to the notebook

    For a person entering the world of technical communication, this world may seem exciting and yet daunting. The role of a technical communicator is constantly evolving with the changes in technology and constantly presenting new challenges.

    There are many avenues to be travelled upon – for example, you can choose writing, editing, illustration, designing or publishing. Regardless of the avenue you choose as a technical communicator, you need to be able to understand complex (technical) information and convey this to your audience in a meaningful and appropriate way.

    On the job, you would work with a range of specialists – designers, engineers, technicians, marketers, product developers and publishers. You would need excellent communication skills to be able to deal with different types of personalities and extract the information you need from them.

    The career opportunities in the field of technical communication are plenty. At this point, you will be asking yourself, where do I begin my journey as a technical communicator?

    Here’s our take on how you can kickstart your career in technical communication.

    What does technical communication involve?

    Typically, technical communication involves creating documentation for technical processes, software programs and systems.

    You could produce end-user content – from the user’s perspective – that provides useful information on the product functionality and usability, which helps to solve the user’s problem, answer their questions and meet their needs.

    Your everyday work could involve creating new documents, updating or rewriting existing documentation, performing user research and presenting the information in the most appropriate manner. You could commission or illustrate photographs and diagrams, test materials and work with digital platforms for delivering and publishing content.

    Other types of documents you could create include:

    • articles, case studies and white papers
    • educational content
    • product manuals and specifications
    • policies and procedures / standard operating procedures
    • API documentation
    • how-to guides
    • blog posts

    The field of technical communication is moving beyond merely authoring classic documentation. Documenting what developers do is a growing area. Straddling the field of user experience while keeping one foot in technical communication is a popular choice. Technical communicators are expected to understand and utilise a variety of software programs, tools, methods and digital platforms that aid content creation.

    Which industries need technical communicators?

    You will make careful considerations about the industry you want to work in as a technical communicator.

    Before you choose the industry you want to work in, firstly, decide what you want to write about and try to follow your passion.

    There are many industries that require the skills of a technical communicator, such as:

    • aerospace, defence and manufacturing
    • architectural structure and engineering
    • digital technology
    • educational services
    • government agencies and organisations
    • information technology
    • telecommunications
    • scientific research labs
    • publishing agencies

    Use the internet (or any available resources!) to research which local industries are recruiting technical communicators – you can widen or narrow your search based on your results.

    Professional mentors and training

    The most difficult part of embarking on a career is breaking into the field. We have highlighted a few steps to guide you.

    Step one: Research the company you want to work for

    Use online and offline resources to find out what you can about the company you would like to work for.

    • Website – Most companies have a website – a shop window – which gives you an insight into the company history, present and future. Use the website to understand what the company does. Learn about the company products – even write your own (product) article based on the information you have so far.
      Download (free) resources such as case studies and white papers to give you an idea of the type of content that is being written and the level of skills required to produce that type of content.
      Make note of the things you think you can improve on as you navigate the website. If asked at a later stage to share your thoughts, then you refer to these notes.
    • Social Media – Take a look at the social media channels the company uses to promote their brand and products. This will give you an insight into the way in which the company engages and interacts with its customers and audiences online.
    • Publications – Take a look at trade magazines or other publications where the company contributes content to or is featured in.
    • Contacts – Make a note of the persons responsible for producing technical content. You will find contact information such as an email address or social media profile available on the ‘Contact Us’ page of the company site. Always use the preferred method of contact when reaching out.

    Step Two: Make contact and get a mentor

    In step one, you collected a list of contacts you can approach.

    Start off by introducing yourself and let them know who you are and what you are looking for. You could send them a copy of the article you wrote or other pieces of content that showcase your skills to generate interest.

    This would give them an opportunity to learn something about you. If they are interested in your work, they will contact you and request you to either contribute to a project that suits your skills or guide you through the hiring process for a role at the company.

    You may have to contact several technical communicators before you receive a response. But it’s worth your time – in the end you may just land your first role as a technical communicator.

    Entering the field of technical communication is challenging, but there are professionals out there who can mentor and guide young professionals looking for a break.

    Step Three: Memberships and Training

    Become a member of a recognised technical communication organisation or institute.

    This is a great way to meet professional technical communicators, join groups, attend events and find mentors and more contacts.

    Many memberships offer discounted events, courses and workshops for you to attend.

    The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators is the largest (non-profit) body in the UK that represents the technical communication profession. The ISTC offers a range of professional communities, events and courses for its members. The ISTC has a mentoring programme.

    Becoming a member of a professional organisation shows that you are proactive and curious about your field.

    Here is a list of technical communication organisations you can consider joining:

    Write your Tech Comm CV

    Writing a CV for any profession is a tough task.

    Being new in the field could mean that you may not have much experience. Use your CV as an opportunity to showcase your skill set and any relevant experience. For example:

    • Experience – If you have graduated from university – write a brief paragraph about a piece of course work you produced. Include skills that would be relevant to the role you will apply for – research, information gathering, use of imagery, and writing style used to produce course work.
      If you have your own blog or have written any articles or product reviews, then reference those in your CV. This could act as a portfolio of your work.
      If you were employed whilst you were a student then include your dates of employment and a brief sentence about your role.
    • Skills – List the software packages, methods and tools you used to produce your work with.

    From writing the CV to choosing the right format for the content is perhaps the biggest hurdle. Take a look at these sample technical writing CVs to get an idea of how the CV should be formatted, and begin writing the content.

    Your CV should read easily and follow a simple format as follows:

    • Top of CV – Name, address, contact details and social media profile – include a link to LinkedIn profile. Brief tag line of objective.
    • Body of CV – Work experiences till date – professional or voluntary. A list of skills, qualifications, certificates, and link to portfolio (if works are available online).
    • End of CV – Education.

    The clarity of your CV should indicate the clarity you will bring to the job!

    The cover letter for your CV should address the requirements posted in the job advertisement. If you are submitting an unsolicited CV, your cover letter should reflect the insights you gathered in step one.

    Build your network online or offline

    When building a new career, how you network with other professionals is key in the progression of your career.

    There are many technical communication leaders and experts out there that you can connect with on social media or even meet at events. You can follow them for regular updates and even post a message to them when you see something of interest from them in your personal feed.

    The internet is a fascinating way to connect with people. Set up your own professional social media profile on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and share your thoughts on the industry, join groups or communities and participate in discussions with other professionals.

    Keep in touch with the people you meet along the way. You never know when an opportunity may arise and you could be contacted – because you took the time to connect with them.

    Our next article will focus on the Expert Technical Communicator.

    Written by: Vee Modha
    Contribution by: Karen Mardahl