In May 2017, I earned my Masters degree in Technical Communication at Missouri S&T. Since then, I have often been asked about my experience of pursuing the degree, if I find the degree worth the time and effort required, and how it helps me in my current role as the Senior Technical Writer at Cockroach Labs. This blog series is my attempt to answer the questions and open up the conversation to a broader audience.
To understand the impact of the graduate program on my career, we first need to discuss my professional background.
The Story So Far…
I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from University of Pune, India. After a year-long stint at Wipro as a VLSI designer, I switched fields and moved to technical writing. I worked as a Technical Writer for 5 years: first at Symantec (a multinational company where I worked on user documentation) and then at Druva (a fast-growing startup where I worked on developer documentation and created software architecture and design docs). I presented at several national STC conferences and participated in numerous workshops. By February 2015, I felt as if I had learned all that the Indian tech writing community had to offer. I was beginning to feel stuck at this stage of my career when I had a chance meeting with a friend who was considering pursuing a Masters degree in her field. I wondered if there are any graduate programs in Technical Communication. So naturally, I googled it. I was blown away by the number of graduate programs in Technical Communication! Thus began my journey halfway across the world to pursue a Masters degree in Technical Communication.
The whole process of getting serious about applying to Tech Comm grad programs and starting my program in the United States took less 6 months. In those 6 months, I did all of the following:
- Researched the Tech Comm programs
- Prepared the application materials (Statement of Purpose, Letters of Recommendation, Transcripts, and so on)
- Studied for and took the GRE and TOEFL exams (got good scores, thankfully!)
- Applied for the program at Missouri S&T
- Was offered a Graduate Teaching Assistantship
- Applied for and received my student visa
- Packed everything I owned and moved across the seas to the United States.
Since then, I have completed ten graduate courses in Tech Comm, successfully defended my Master’s thesis, did a summer internship in California, continued with same company as a remote part-time intern during the second year of the graduate program, taught a section of the technical writing service course to undergrads for three semesters, and moved to New York to join Cockroach Labs.
Pursuing a graduate program has made me a better technical writer. My industry experience as a technical writer helped me answer the “what” and “how” questions of technical writing, but the graduate program taught me “why” we do what we do. The program helped me develop the foundational skills and theoretical approaches to technical writing. It also opened my mind to new aspects of Tech Comm that I hadn’t been exposed to before: research in technical communication, teaching technical communication, proposal writing, cultural contextual theories in international communication, visual communication, usability and accessibility, history of the field, and so on. I got the chance to meet my tech-comm heroes: Dr. Kirk St. Amant, Tom Johnson, Dr. Lisa Meloncon, and many others.
I also discovered the treasure of academic research in Tech Comm, and the prominent academic journals: Technical Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, IEEE Transactions of Professional Communication, and several more. I was introduced to the academic ecosystem of Tech Comm, which is a whole different career path in itself. I have found brilliant mentors in the field: Dr. Northcut, Dr. Wright, and Dr. Malone (my professors at Missouri S&T), and a very supportive and welcoming community of ATTW and CPTSC (professional organizations in the academic sphere).
The graduate program gave me much more than I could have asked for. It justified my decision to give up my steady career and comfortable life in India and move to the United States. I genuinely believe that more technical writers should opt for a formal education in Tech Comm, and I hope this blog series inspires you to consider pursuing a graduate degree in Technical Communication. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts:
- How to choose a Technical Communication graduate program (Scheduled for 01/08/2018)
- How to apply to universities (Scheduled for 01/15/2018)
- MS in Technical Communication Program at Missouri S&T (Scheduled for 01/22/2018)
- Graduate Teaching Assistantship at the Missouri S&T program (Scheduled for 01/29/2018)
If you have questions, suggestions, or blog post requests, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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