Jason Hayashi recently graduated with a degree in technical and professional communication from UNT. In this Q&A, he talks about his experience being part of the tech comm program.
Note: the interview has been edited for clarity and length.
A conversation with Jason
Why did you choose tech comm?
Initially I had started doing creative writing around age 13. Of all the people I knew, though, only one or two of them were doing creative writing full time. I figured technical writing would be a more reasonable and lucrative alternative. And then once I found out that the foundation of tech writing is explaining things to people and helping make things easier for them, I thought, You know what? I really like this!
How would you describe tech comm?
The way I boil it down to its very basics is like this: "Technical communicators explain stuff to people." Then I list off some examples of technical documents they'd be familiar with like infographics, instruction manuals, textbooks--all sorts of things. Technical writing is everywhere and people just don't know it.
How do you plan to use your degree after graduation?
I'm still looking for what I'm supposed to do, but in this program I found that I really liked user experience and user interface design. I'm going to start looking at internships, and then hopefully by the end of 2023, I will have a full-time entry-level job in the UX industry.
Do you prefer UX or UI?
That's a tough one. Obviously there are some key differences between the two. I like working in UI design platforms. When I first used Adobe XD for example, my eyes lit up and I thought, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life. But I know obviously you can't get to that very important step of UI design without doing the user experience research first. I like doing the research, discovering all the problems, and then figuring out how to fix them. I think solving those problems visually is a very interesting and fun challenge.
What is something unique or important that you have learned so far while studying tech comm?
It's a field that is kind of taken for granted. Some people don't understand why it's important, but making sure that everything is easy to use and accessible is very important for us to be able to live our day-to-day lives. If the UI was all messed up on something like Amazon, people would say, "Oh whoa, great. Now I can't buy my groceries." I think tech comm is kind of the unsung hero of society in a way.
Another important thing I've learned about tech comm is how important group work is. Lots of people don't like group work, but tech comm is group work. Because we all have many hats that we wear and different skill sets we've built, we need to coordinate and work together. Obviously I love working in a group because that's my career. That's tech comm.
Does being a people person help?
I don't know if I would go so far as to describe myself as a "people person." I have a bit of social anxiety. But I found that if I find the right person, things just kind of click. For example, before this interview, I was talking with someone from a school club. We were just rambling on about stuff like manga. I ended up chatting with them at the elevator for a bit. They said, "You're a really cool person." I replied "Thanks. I like you too." Usually that sort of thing ends up happening to me.
What has been your favorite class in this major?
That's a tough one. I think some of them ended up working really well together when taken at the same time. For example, in proposal writing, I had to do a business plan, and mine just so happened to include social media, which was the focus of another class I took that semester. So that ended up working out well. I think my favorite combo of classes was the user experience class and the visual communication class. I really enjoyed them. But my favorite class of all was Dr. Lam's class where we started learning HTML and CSS.
Why was TECM 3300: Information Design for Electronic Media your favorite?
The first part, of course, was learning the code. For one of our major projects, we had to create an entire website from scratch. It's really nice that I can say, "Hey, that's something that I did." Then in the second half of the semester, we did a collateral project with an actual client, which was really cool. Also, I had just about the best team I could have ever had in my time studying here. I knew all the people really well, and everyone was situated where their skills were best suited. For example, I was in the design area because I studied design a bit, and my friend AJ, who is also an IT major, was doing the programming. So it was just a really nice team.
What are some skills you have learned?
I guess one thing is now when I look at things like books, fliers, or other things, I think, How could this be better? For example, now I notice a marked difference between books written by technical communicators and ones that aren't. I'll look at several paragraphs on the page and think, This text would work better as a bullet list. Or, after taking Dr. Cosgrove's visual communication class and learning about principles of design, whenever I see designs around campus, I'll think to myself, "OK, this one's doing pretty good, or maybe I would move this a bit more, watch the margins more, arrange it differently, or have it be a different color. Stuff like that. It's made me a lot more aware of how the deliverables in my day-to-day life could be better.
What are some benefits of this major?
I guess one of the major benefits is how it gives you a taste for a lot of different careers that you could get into through this field. I've learned a variety of different skills, like proposal writing and social media. I've also learned some HTML and CSS, and I got to work briefly with XML in the content strategy class. In that class, we also learned a bit about localization and cultural differences. Honestly I think that the variety of courses is a major benefit.
What do you find interesting about the tech comm major?
One of the interesting things about the major and the field as a whole is how close you get to everyone. You cannot have beef with anybody because they'll probably be there until you--or they--graduate. Overall, we're very close knit. Also, once you hear about some industry professionals, those names seem to pop up over and over again. For example, in the content analysis class, Dr. Smith had us reading research papers and as I looked through them, I thought, Oh I know that person and that one and that one.
Can you briefly describe your experience with tech comm at UNT?
I think I was about halfway through high school when I decided I wanted to study technical writing (that's what I knew it as at the time). So I did a lot of searching for places that offered tech comm and found UNT that way. As far as the overall experience, it has been overwhelmingly positive. I've learned a lot of very applicable skills and made a lot of great connections with faculty and students alike. And if it weren't so expensive, I would probably do it all over again!
Any advice or comments for prospective students?
If you're not a tech comm major and you have to take a tech comm class, please listen to your professors and get involved. Even if the class doesn't directly apply to what you think you should be doing for your major, you can learn some really valuable skills that you can translate to your field of study.
For tech comm majors, first of all, congratulations on finding tech comm! The best advice I could give would probably be to do a lot of networking. Every one of your classmates is a prospective connection. Especially in the 3010 class [The Profession of Technical Communication], really talk to those industry professionals who visit class. Do some networking of your own in your free time if you can. Don't let this opportunity pass you by like I did. We also have access to LinkedIn Learning classes for free. So if you really want to learn some additional skills outside your coursework, please take advantage of those classes too.
"As far as the overall experience, it has been overwhelmingly positive. i've learned a lot of very applicable skills and made a lot of great connections with faculty and students alike."
"Technical writing is everywhere and people just don't know it."