Why Technical Communication?
The importance of effective communication skills for engineers and scientists cannot be over-emphasized. Penn can provide you with a world-class engineering education, but without the ability to effectively express your ideas, they are a nothing more than prisoners of your mind. The goal of the Technical Communication Program is to hone the verbal and written communication skills that are necessary for success in any career - engineering or otherwise. Working with TCP to hone those skills adds an invaluable element to any forward-thinking student’s educational experience at Penn.
Professor of Practice
Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program
Jin Chung (CIS ’11)
Software Developer and Business Analyst at UBS
Whether I'm programming trading tools or managing a six-month project, proper communication within the development team as well as between the business and the various technical teams is of the utmost importance. Proper communication needs to be succinct yet sufficiently thorough, all the while catering to the audience (whether business or technical) in a prompt manner. Such communication can reduce unnecessary delays tremendously, amounting to significant gains in productivity and even building team cohesiveness.
Shubhagata Deb Roy (BE ’12)
Forensics Technology Solutions Associate at
I'm currently a Forensics Technology Solutions (FTS) Associate working for PricewaterhouseCoopers. While I spend a good chunk of time working with all the technical tools, I have to keep consistent and detailed records of what I do at every step of the way. This is to ensure quality in our work and also to keep track of the logic behind my thinking. On a regular basis, we update our clients and explain where we are in our schedule. As I get to work with a lot of people from varying technical backgrounds, I need to be able to communicate in a very flexible manner keeping the audience in mind at all times. Expressing my understanding of this at the interview helped a lot. I even had a brief discussion about my role at TCP with one of the interviewers.
Dorsey Standish (MEAM ‘12)
Design Engineer at Texas Instruments
Coming in [to SEAS] I was a decent but not-very-confident writer. I also had absolutely no confidence in my presenting skills. Taking EAS500 gave me confidence in my abilities and helped me hone my skills for the technical field. Then, my experience in TCP only enhanced those skills and helped me quickly recognize common mistakes/tendencies. As an intern last summer, I stood out because of my technical communication skills - in fact, I led in-house design reviews and even presented my work to outside consultants. In these instances, not only my engineering work but also my ability to put together and present a good PowerPoint presentation was essential. As I continue to work in a similar job as a full-time employee, I have already been assigned roles in editing and sending out technical documents. I really enjoy these assignments because they allow me to use my technical skills in combination with my writing and communication skills.
Alex Greer (MEAM ’09)
Specification Sales Associate at DSA Lighting
I have worked as an Outside Salesman for two different companies in the high-end architectural lighting industry. Every day I practice and refine what I learned as a TCP Fellow in both the spoken and written word to effectively explain product features, break down technical details, and relay critical feedback to the manufacturers I represent. Diction, delivery, and organization have all been absolutely crucial - especially in a sales role - to effectively promote myself and my business.
Chris Prairie (MEAM ‘10)
Project Engineer at Thielsch Engineering
As the project engineer, it is my job to oversee the surface preparations and inspections, document findings, make on-site recommendations to plant personnel regarding repair and replacement of components, and then ultimately to generate a detailed formal report. Obviously this entails use of a lot of the technical communication skills I developed while working as a TCP Fellow. In industry, it is important to be concise but provide enough detail to a client, especially when writing proposals, scopes of work, and field reports. Even a long formal report must be organized in such a way that the reader can quickly deduce the relevant inspection results and recommendations while being able to easily locate details if necessary. All of this must be done in a timely manner, and I am often working on multiple jobs at once. Having technical communication expertise in my background was a major advantage when I interviewed for this position.
Zach Zarrow (CIS ‘12)
Program Manager, Microsoft
I am a Program Manager at Microsoft, working on Microsoft Office. Technical communication is 90% of my job - Between e-mails, meetings, presentations, partner interactions, scenario writing, and specification writing, being able to communicate technical concepts and ideas is paramount. The better you are at technical communication, the easier it is to get management to approve your ideas, and the closer the developer will come to accurately building out your vision. The "receiving" end of technical communication is crucial, too: Talking to other engineers and rapidly learning about their new technology or product feature is a daily occurrence.
Mallory Jensen (MEAM ’10)
Nestle Purina Research & Development, St. Louis
I worked in Allentown, PA at a Nestle Purina factory for 1.5 years just after I graduated and relocated to St. Louis in January of 2012. As part of my training program in Allentown, we had to write several reports about our understanding of the factory and how to manage it. These were judged by the department managers and were a requirement before we could move on to new positions. In my current research role, we frequently write summaries of trials we run and reports about our research projects. Technical communication is important for all of these, as are oral presentations on projects.
Sample Job Listings
This is a representative sample of the communication-related skills and capabilities employers are seeking from candidates.
“Exceptional presentation, communication, writing, analytical, and problem solving skills”
Mars & Co. Consulting | The PFM Group | Laserfiche
“Excellent technical writing and communication skills”
XYNTEK Inc | Kitchen & Associates
“Strong oral expression and writing skills, including the demonstrated ability to write concise prose”
PIMCO| Citi | Lazard Freres & Co. LLC | Miller Buckfire &Co.
“Excellent written and oral communications skills”
Central Intelligence Agency
“Applicants must also possess strong written and oral English communications skills”
Architecture Technology Corporation | Central Intelligence Agency