Mirel says “Rhetorically, choices in reporting also should be shaped by a writer’s relationships with the intended primary and secondary readers, their prior knowledge, their likely assumptions and misconceptions, and the questions that the evaluation tried to answer” (295). Writing reports, gathering data, and being able to present it effectively is a large part of technical communications from the nuts-and-bolts side of the equation.
This past weekend, my dinner companion was a Technical Engineer from Chicago. He described what he did as the middle ground between the people who sold the software and the people who actually produced it. Since the two sides of the coin didn’t have the language to communicate effectively, they needed a translator. He was that translator.
He said the most difficult aspect of his job was navigating the relationships between both sides of the firm. Sometimes, one side would want data, but did not ask for it clearly. Since the intent wasn’t clear, what was collected was useless. Learning how to ask sufficient questions and couch it in terms the other camp could understand made all the difference.
I asked him how he managed to negotiate each circumstance. He provided an active skill assessment that involved many of the points Mirel lists on page 296, but the bottom line was knowing the human component he was working with. He knew exactly how to approach each department and explain what was needed. If the process was shaped as a wheel, he would have been the heart and each department would have been a cog with the stave being the end product. One broken cog was all that was needed to ruin the end product.
The end result was expected to be a program that end users could execute with ease and that was his job. Crunching data, evaluating usefulness, refining the process…all fell under his technical umbrella.
What I took away from our dinner conversations about his job as it applied to this week’s readings was how important it is to not only form relationships within the process, but also with the product itself. Efficient communication, persuasion, and intelligence gathering aren’t elements we consider as part of the process of getting software to market; however, they are vitally important…and companies pay a lot of money to acquire specialists to get the job done.