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An Interview with Craig Baehr

I had the opportunity to speak to the President of the Society of Technical Communication, Craig Baehr on a few topics.

We live in a time of great change, but, then again, everyone from the dawn of time to the present has done so. The difference is in those who are aware of those changes and those who are not.

If you are reading this blog, active in STC, or are planning to become active, then you are aware of the changes going on around us. With that realization, we need to find out where those changes are leading us. Changing effectively takes time and resources, something we all have precious few of.

With this interview, I wanted to start understanding change regarding technical communication and where it could be going.

Craig Baehr explained, “I always had an interest in coding and an interest in technology.”

Baehr said he took courses in technical communication as part of his undergraduate degree. Between 1988 and 1992, he attained a Bachelor’s of Arts in English with a Communications Studies and Journalism Minor from the University of New Mexico.

“After graduation,” Baehr explained, “I started working for the US Army Corps of Engineers as a technical writer/editor. Then, I started my graduate work, going to school at night, while working for the Corps of Engineers. It took me about ten years.”

Baehr would attain his Masters in English Professional and Creative Writing and, later, his Ph.D in English, Professional Writing and Rhetoric.

Baehr explained technical communication is in a growth phase.

Baehr said, “Fields of discipline develop over time. Salary databases show growth in the field of technical communication. We're seeing more courses made available at accredited universities around the country for technical communication, including online. All of this points to growth.”

Baehr added, “We're seeing more growth as companies begin to go virtual more. Covid-19 has shown us new ways to communicate and work.”

When asked what he thought about artificial intelligence's effect on the field, Baehr said, “I think it will help us in a positive way. It's a part of our lives as is. Some of us might be coding and programming it.” He added, “It will help with research and production and we will be developing strategy with it. It will only increase our opportunities. It may take away the rote things, but it will also expand the things we can do.”

Being part of a professional organization is not just an opportunity to network. As a professional organization, STC offers various programs to help members develop their careers. Through the organization, a person can more effectively shape their career.

Baehr explained, STC and its Chapters and SIGs offer short courses, webinars, a certification program and, of course, access to our publications, Intercom and Technical Communication. He pointed to Summit, held once a year as just another source of information.

Baehr explained the short courses last around four to six weeks. They include tech comm fundamentals and technical editing courses, which are very popular, as well as some one-off courses. He added STC offers courses on preparation for the professional certification examination, too. He said all of the trainers teaching the courses are members of STC. He said the courses offered by STC are often selected based on surveys taken by members of STC.

Baehr explained the goals of STC for 2021. According to him, they were improving membership goal and experience, strengthening and growing STC communities, and ensuring STC and the discipline's vitality and growth.

After going through this information, I felt I was beginning to see the greater and brighter picture of technical communication. The year 2020 was a terrible year for everyone. The events of that year have led to a great deal of anxiety about the future. A great way to combat that anxiety and redirect ourselves to more productive actions is by gaining good information.

Hopefully, that starts here.