Jenn Murphy became a technical communicator on the job, when her responsibilities at GT Hiring Solutions expanded to include technical documentation and training. She’s currently enrolled in the Technical Communication Certificate program at Simon Fraser University and has been enjoying applying her new skills at work. In this spotlight article, Jenn discusses her nonlinear path to becoming a technical communicator, what she likes about the field, and what she does in her spare time.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I spent a lot of time writing silly poems and telling stories. My stories tended to be so involved that my mother would wonder if I was telling the truth; I was not.
Can you describe the career path that led you into technical communication?
My career path has been anything but linear. I studied professional writing in university and had planned a career in writing for magazines and newspapers. I ended up working in employment services in administration and data, and I loved making a positive impact on the community while also being able to use my analytical and technical skills.
In 2012, my company was awarded a contract that was much bigger and more complex than we had ever experienced. I worked under an amazing leader, Carolyn Yeager, who saw my aptitude for learning the new systems and writing technical manuals and processes. We had very short timelines in which to share very dense technical knowledge with a large variety of roles and audiences. It was an exhilarating time!
My writing flame was ignited again, and I remembered the joy of playing with words. I also began developing in-person training sessions. These sessions taught me a lot about adult learning and techniques for helping people gain understanding of the technical aspects of their job.
What makes technical communication a good fit for you?
I am passionate about language and learning. I have found that it’s natural for me to be able to deep-dive into information and parse it out and make it easier for people to digest.
I find that people who are drawn to technical communication have a constant thirst for knowledge. However, they are also very empathetic and love to help people learn and achieve their goals. People can’t spend time doing in-depth learning when they have tasks to complete. I enjoy helping them learn and succeed.
What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Probably my current project, which involves creating a wiki in our SharePoint intranet site. We have over 38 processes with 4 to 20 sections that all need to be written and linked. It’s something we’ve been planning for three years and I’ve been excited to finally begin. Like many companies, we struggle with people not being able to find answers to their questions. I believe this is the first step to making it easier for my co-workers to do that. It’s very exciting!
What do you like most about being a member of the STC Canada West Coast chapter?
My favourite part, thus far, has been meeting all the different people in the industry. There’s diversity and yet each person I’ve met has the commonality of loving to learn. The knowledge base of our local chapter is immense and inspiring. At each event I learn more about the world and gain professional knowledge. It’s a lovely community and I really enjoy being involved in it.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Geography is a passion of mine and I love to research and learn about unfamiliar places. I don’t travel internationally often these days, but I am a traveller at heart. I like to daydream and plan imaginary trips. I currently stick to the Pacific Northwest, but one day hope to be able to find the time to get back to some international travel. I’ve got two continents to check off!
My other passion is interior design. Victoria has some amazing designers and I love following their work. We’ve also had a construction boom recently, and that has brought some beautiful architecture and design to our city. I love wandering our city and seeing the beauty we create.
Jenny Riecken is a technical writer with a past as a QA analyst. She specializes in freelance contracts, writing everything from software documentation to policy manuals.