Technical Communication Poll: Skills to Survive and Thrive

With so much discussion in the technical communication profession centering on making tech comm more strategic and “demonstrating the value of tech communication,” we decided to spend some time and pixels on discovering how to do just that.  TechWhirl’s focus for June is “Skills to Survive and Thrive.”  Other professions and their practitioners seem to always be at the center of what happens in the organization, so simply having great ideas for new products or services, or ways to deliver them more efficiently just isn’t enough. Otherwise we’d all be CEOs right?  What are those folks doing–what skills do they have–that we need to acquire to ensure that our voices are heard, our ideas are acted upon and our contributions recognized?

A certain amount of the cliche “school of hard knocks” comes into play when discussing what skills we need to survive and thrive in the organizations that employ us—we just have to learn through experience. Or perhaps successful professionals just have some innate talent for these soft skills that doesn’t come naturally to those who gravitate to technical communication roles. As we move through the month of June, we hope to prompt a lot of discussion about what those soft skills are, whether you can acquire them and how you can hone them to support your professional goals.  Expertise in tools, domain knowledge, and familiarity with the organizational cultures are critical, but without the soft skills—the abilities to persuade, manage, estimate, negotiate, criticize, and prioritize—technical communicators often toil in obscurity, pining for recognition and worrying about the next reduction in force (RIF).

This week’s technical writing poll asks about which of those soft skills you think are most important to succeed in the technical communication field, and in the organization.  But we don’t have a corner on the market for what those skills are, so if we’ve missed one that you believe, or know from experience, is important, please take a  moment to post a comment, or head over to the email discussion list and start a new thread. Sharing the knowledge based on your experience and observation can only enrich the technical communication community.

What skills, beyond tools and domain knowledge, are most important to success in technical communication?

View Results

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Category: TechWhirl Poll Questions - Tag (s): soft skills

Fer O'Neil

11 years ago

Interesting that “estimation” is voted so high–I would like to see the career level of those voting and whether that skill is affected by lower versus higher positions (management versus non-management). Either way, if it’s just a skill to have once in the management-type role, it must be a good one to have!

Alyssa Fox

Alyssa Fox

11 years ago

Initiative is a biggie for me. So much of technical communication is taking the initiative to make suggestions – about products, documentation, tools, teams, process, etc. Sure, it’s easy to just take the stuff that’s thrown over the fence to you at the end, but really good technical communicators take the initiative to improve things from beginning to end.

Larry Kunz

11 years ago

Those are all good skills for different jobs within technical communication – especially management jobs. But for pure technical writing I’d say that the two most valuable skills are:
– Reporting, like a newspaper reporter who ferrets out the information and organizes it for a specific audience
– Explaining, coming alongside to provide a description or to show a person how to do something

Melinda Anderson


11 years ago

The skills listed above are all good skills. I have only been in the field for a year working for a company that designs LED digital displays and the software to run the displays. I am finding that interviewing SME’s are key in this industry as well as usability testing on procedures. Even if the testing just involves using a piece of paper as a door to test how to open said door.

Kell C

11 years ago

Thanks for the article! Its a really good topic, as poor communication has so many downstream consequences to a business. The one topic I didn’t see on your pole was “analytic thinker”. Its tough to be sceptical, inquisitive, and business minded when discussing a feature you are working on. That’s why me and my fellow requirements analysts at Seilevel Inc. have created a detailed methodology to power the creation of great software requirements. A colleague of mine wrote a great blog post called: “Why do so many software projects fail?” that describes how critical the analytical thinking behind good requirements are to the development process.

Read it here:

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