Roger Gelwicks is a 2014 graduate of the Professional Writing program. He currently works as a Technical Writer & Trainer at the University of Central Arkansas.
What is your current job? What responsibilities do you have in this position?
I am currently the Technical Writer & Trainer for the Information Systems & Technology division of the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). As the position’s title implies, my responsibilities are split into two parts. First, I develop help documentation so that university faculty, staff, and students can use technology better on campus. Second, I organize and deliver training sessions on technology-related topics for faculty and staff.
What skills are necessary to succeed in your position?
Writing and speaking skills are important, of course. But I’ll throw a curveball in here. For this specific position, I think empathy is crucial. UCA is full of faculty and staff who have to use technology every day for their own job functions. Many of them have worked in their jobs longer than I’ve been alive, however. So when I train someone on how to use a new tool, I have to be patient and understanding when it takes him longer to buy in and want to learn the tool. You can always explain something in a simpler way, and everyone learns at different speeds. But once someone hits the “lightbulb moment” and can confidently practice the tool, that’s the goal.
How did the Professional Writing program prepare you for this job?
I can say without any hyperbole that I can trace everything I do in this job back to a course I took in the Professional Writing program. The Style & Mechanics course taught me how to write more effectively, and Instructional Design I and II both prepared me well for training others on technology topics. CU’s Professional Writing major uses hands-on projects to put head knowledge to work, and with this solid mix of both theory and practice, that’s unique among most professional writing programs.
What kind of creative opportunities do you have in your position?
Since I am the first technical writer ever for the division, I’ve had complete creative control over every aspect of my training sessions and materials. From a writing standpoint, I can choose whether or not I want to use the Oxford comma (yes, I do use it) and what visual elements will make the materials more effective (fonts, images, etc.). Without any documentation or training infrastructure to start with, this posed an exciting challenge to design everything from scratch. But it makes it all the more rewarding when someone leaves a training session glad that they came.
What advice would you give a student just entering the Professional Writing program?
Never underestimate the power of good writing, as most people do not have this skill. It can open more doors than you think. And as technology changes, so will the technical communication field; always keep learning new things, and your career will be an adventure in the best way possible