Posted in Uncategorized

What’s in a name, like architect and strategist and designer?

Deciding who does what on a ship is not an easy task. (Photo from Star Trek: Prodigy)

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I know I don’t write here much any more, but life, as they say, has been busy.

I was going to write up something today, and saw that I had a few drafts of things that I had intended to finish later. So, before I start anything new, I thought I might fix up some of these drafts, and post them first. Perhaps this will get me back on the path of writing in her more often again.

The following post was started in February 2020–yep, right before the pandemic really clicked in. I was back in job search mode at that point, and with the pandemic only starting to make itself known, who knew this would be a big issue for me.  Even two years later, this is still a sticking point for me, and this general perception hold up. 

One of the frustrations that I have with job searching (beyond the actual job searching itself) is job titles and finding the right fit. I’ve found that in the last ten years that I’ve been looking either for permanent positions or contract positions that titles are a huge misnomer–literally. And instead of things becoming clearer, they’ve become worse. This, in turn, makes it difficult for those of us in the tech comm world to find something appropriate based on our experiences and skills at times. In some cases, certain industries have stolen terminology from another or the job from another and muddied the waters, so to speak.

Let me give you some examples.

My brother is an architect–the regular kind that makes designs blueprints for buildings and understands engineering and stuff. Years ago, when he decided to move to a new location and find a job, everything he was finding was for information architects, not his kind of architect. What do we even call what my brother does now? He eventually found a job, but it was after going through countless information architect jobs that he found the real architect jobs.

Nowadays, things haven’t changed. I think for a technical communicators, it’s even harder. There are now UX architects to add to the mix as well. Or in the case of strategists…social media and marketing have dominated that and taken that over. If you look for a job as a content strategist now, it’s not going to be for someone who understands content management and understands how to best organize your content for maximum output results. It’s usually a marketing job. Now before you jump on me and say, “Well, content marketing jobs are ‘in’ right now,”–I know. After hearing overtures about it for years, I took some initiative to get a credential in digital marketing a few, and now I’m bombarded with jobs in my inbox for marketing positions. And any content marketing position is usually looking for a person with a marketing/business background and experience who understands content strategy and management with marketing as the primary responsibility. It’s not the other way around, which I’d be game for–someone needing a content strategist/manager who could help them organize what marketing campaigns they’ve already come up with. Those latter types of jobs don’t exist or are very rare.

The world of technical communication is constantly morphing, and it’s difficult enough to keep up with all the changes in tech and the needs of the tech, let alone be able to find a job in tech with all the various titles and overlapping responsibilities that venture into other fields. I think about all the undergraduate students coming out with a technical communications degree only to find out that they probably should have learned about 5 different programming codes, know how to build multimedia and training, and have some specialty in an industry like financial, pharma, manufacturing, etc. While technical communicators can be all that, most of us aren’t. For example, I know how to manipulate web-based codes for HTML, CSS, XML, Javascript, and PHP. Can I write any of it? HTML to a degree, yes. The others–in dribs and drabs for some things, and not at all for others. Most jobs want software developer who can write. They are out there, and I know several. But I’m willing to bet that your average technical communicator coming out of school is not that.

The other thing about technical communicators is that we have overlapping skills, which muddies it up for us as well. Yes, as I said, knowing a little bit about programming languages can help–even if you aren’t writing APIs or software documentation, but what about having some basic graphic design skills, instructional design skills, or UX design skills? How many technical writers know how to use a content management system properly and understand how it works? We need to be able to be multifunctional like a really good pocket tool, even if we only use some of those tools more often than others. I don’t know how many times I would fill in and fix graphic design items, or end up fixing items in a CMS or KMS because I understood how to tweak the back end HTML. So am I a programmer? A graphics designer? More skills that we acquire make use more relevant and useful, but it makes the job searching based on keywords and metadata more difficult, for sure. 

We know that technical communicators are a valuable commodity. We are multi-talented, we do have great skills and experiences that can help companies produce great content. However, if employers decide that they want a jack of all trades that has skills that most would find impossible with job titles that can’t be understood to describe the job clearly, then how are we going to be found?

What are your thoughts? Include your comments below. 


Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

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