14 December 2015

Technical Communication UK 2015

As usual, I attended the Technical Communication UK conference (TCUK 2015), which was held in Glasgow this year. As my father came from Coatbridge (a few miles east of Glasgow), the accent and the general location felt very familiar to me, and after several years of attending TCUK, so did many of my fellow delegates! It’s one of the things I really like about TCUK – the change to catch up with people I don’t see very often and find out what they’ve been doing lately.

I didn’t attend as many sessions as I normally do – but that wasn’t the fault of the organisers. I’d seen some of the presentations before (I attended UA Europe in the summer) and I needed to have a few conversations with people while wearing my president hat. Overall, though, another excellent conference. Some of the take-aways:

  • Diversify – if you can do something your competitors can’t (competitors either in the job market or amongst your colleagues), you have an advantage.
  • Keep up to date – you may have years of experience, but being a wizard in Word Perfect and in working practices of the 80s isn’t going to get you far.
  • Embrace your inner nerd – if you’re fortunate enough to have one. We are often told (or at least, I have been) that we shouldn’t be too technical. We write better user documentation if we are closer to them than to the developers. But there’s nothing wrong in being technical if your audience is technical, and in any case, being technical in your own niche (for example, XML, CSS, DITA, HTML...) can be a definite advantage.
  • Things are changing quickly – but there are always some who for various reasons choose to (or have to) keep doing things in a more traditional way. If there are sound reasons, that’s fine - but don’t just keep doing it the way you’ve always done it just because that’s the way you’ve always done it! Some of the things that are now being done in production environments (virtual reality and so on) are amazing.
As president, I also had the privilege this year of presenting the Technical Communication UK Awards to some very deserving winners. The challenges overcome to produce some of the winning entries were inspiring.