Education/Training, Computer Software/Web
By Mitch McDonald
Many experts in the field of academics say that incoming freshmen in 2009 never knew life without the Internet. The digital age and technological evolution makes each successive class exponentially tech-savvier. But what if professors are unable to match students’ electronic experience?
For Ted Halm, Ferris State University’s Web Content Manager since 1996, using the latest technologies to communicate makes him suited to meet the demands of a client base that is perpetually logged-in.
After graduating from high school in Okemos, Ted stayed close to home to receive his bachelor of arts from Michigan State University in Telecommunication in 1978.
“I was interested in landing a job in the exploding field of sports journalism, with an eye on sports radio commentary and crossing over into sports writing and journalism. This was just before the dawn of ESPN, and there was great anticipation of a fertile job market,” explained Ted.
While not a technical communicator in the traditional sense, Ted uses his strong writing background to promote FSU and foster communication between its alumni and current members.
In 1979, Ted joined FSU’s Sports Information Department, became News Editor, and then transitioned to the position of University Webmaster. To ease this transition, Ted cited a few helpful hands he’s had along the way.
“My early mentor was Dale Hobart, who was the first FSU Webmaster and trained me for the job,” claims Ted. “I was also fortunate to learn skills from a variety of graduate students who I employed over the years from the Masters in Information Systems program.”
Ted begins his usual day at the office around 8 a.m. “Typically, I have a set of projects that always keep me busy, but on most days, I answer calls and requests and act on them if they are a higher institutional priority than my standing projects, said Ted. “Most days I do not get out at 5 p.m. and usually work an additional half-hour to two hours in the quiet of the office.”
Ted was forced to make a career change as journalism evolved into a predominately online media. About 13 years ago, Ted realized that his writing and editing skills would not suffice as the ascension of the Internet began. The tale of Ted’s two interrelated career paths is a microcosm of the duality that all technical writers face. Despite no longer being a traditional journalist, Ted still deals with the daily deadlines that are ingrained in working for any high profile organization.
With constant change as the only certainty of the World Wide Web, managing FSU’s web content is sure to keep even the most seasoned of professionals on their toes. According to Ted, instead of focusing on one particular web program’s version and changes, one must know multiple media platforms. Ted cites Adobe Photoshop and HTML programs as the industry standard in terms of clean and organized online publications.
In addition, he believes social networking cites are the next progression in how people will communicate through the web. He also added, “The most radical innovation in my field is continuous innovation itself. The technology continues to move at a rapid pace. Most web applications are constantly being revised and updated.”
It is hard to say what’s in store for the technical communicators of tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: being versatile enough to work in both print and electronic media will surely weed out pretenders from professionals. While it may be premature to write-off newspaper copy, cell-phone technology now allows consumers to receive real-time updates on stories. As is the case with all technology, it will increase exponentially, and become cheaper at the same time. Another Internet won’t come along, but luckily for Ted, we now know of one professional who was able to make a career where others were afraid to adapt.