By Greg Buckner
With a college foundation in both math and the fine arts, Megan Roth’s career as a technical communicator is an example of an unusual career path.
Beginning in her days at Kalamazoo College in the late 80s, Megan never considered a technical writing career, as she was pursuing a degree in fine arts and a concentration in women’s studies. During college years, Megan completed an internship in Grand Rapids for a non-profit organization. Megan said the experience led her to make many discoveries about herself.
“I enjoyed working with the staff and the children,” said Megan. “I didn’t necessarily care for the politics and the slow pace of getting things accomplished, but it made me realize things about myself.”
Following her internship, Megan was still on her original plan of getting a job in fine arts. It wasn’t until she met Pat Sweeney, the head of The Bishop Company, that Megan got involved in technical communication. The Bishop Company, located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, produces instructional and procedural documents for companies.
When Megan first met Pat, she had no interest in technical writing. But following a couple of conversations, Megan became interested in taking a job with The Bishop Company. At the time, however, there were no positions available for Megan to take.
After three years of doing computer work, Megan met with Pat again. This time around, Pat offered Megan a position as a publisher at Bishop. But Megan didn’t feel that was the right opportunity for herself, so she declined the position. It wasn’t until 1995 that Megan finally accepted a job offer from Pat, a position as the Account Manager for the Delphi Saginaw Steering facility.
“It was the right position at the right time,” said Megan. “I got to work onsite in the plant, and it was a challenging and fun job.”
Megan is now the president of Explainers for The Bishop Company. In her current position, Megan focuses on educating potential clients on the importance of good work documents for their work force. Megan also spends a high percentage of her time working with her team of employees to continue innovation of their products.
“We have a great team of very talented people, and I mostly just try to help them think of new ideas,” said Megan.
For Megan, a day of work is very rarely ever the same. She spends a considerable amount of her time traveling to meet with clients. From Chicago, Illinois, to Tucson, Arizona, Megan has to travel across the country to meet with clients.
When Megan isn’t traveling, she spends her time meeting with her team members to discuss projects for clients and focusing on ideas and challenges of the projects. Even when Megan isn’t taking part in meetings, her time is dominated by communicating with clients through telephone and email. Safe to say, Megan doesn’t particularly have a fair amount of free time.
When Megan started with Bishop, electronic documents were just beginning to be the norm. With the evolution of the Internet and advances in technology, Megan has had to adjust to the many ways technology has shaped her industry.
“The advent of widespread internet use and the use of online training and document delivery has completely changed how we work,” said Megan.
When Megan looks back on how her career has unfolded to this point, she believes that she has found a job she enjoys and one that provides a valuable service to clients. But if Megan had to change one thing, she wishes that she would have had more education in effective data management.
As someone who didn’t have a technical communication career in mind in college, Megan has found out firsthand how strong communication skills can land you in a career in technical communication. If Megan had one piece of advice for current technical communication students, it would be to learn and develop as many skills as possible.
“You’ve got to keep your mind open to learn new skills when you have the opportunity,” said Megan, “You need to look for broad applications of skills because you can’t count on getting a job at a big company.”