Technical Communication in Engineering

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English1Hugh Smith is an Electrical Engineer that works for a telecommunications company. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Louisiana Tech University. With 20 years of work experience with communication technology, hopefully he can shed some light on the communication process in this “niche service” of electrical engineering.

 

Communicating with Customers

A website that is easy to use and understand plays a big role for bringing in new business. Hugh says, “our customers continually say that our company’s website is better than most.” A website isn’t the only way or even the best way to bring in new customers. According to Hugh, “my company mainly relies on referrals and recommendation from satisfied customers to bring in more business.” In engineering, like any field, communication is vital to maintain good business and also for bringing in new clients. This is especially true when new customers see a business for the first time.

 

Communicating with New Employees

When joining a company, how well you understand your role in the company can greatly affect how well you do. It can also affect whether or not you choose to stay at the company. At Hugh’s company new employees are given a detailed company orientation. Written and verbal communication is used to inform all incoming employees about the products the company produces, the team they’ll be working on, the work they are responsible for, and expectations for success. They have over a week to train. This includes specific job training as well as learning the company’s mission statement, its health and safety standards, and code-of-ethics.

 

Language Barriers

Misunderstandings can hinder efficiency in any system. Hugh’s company employs over 7000 people worldwide. His company’s policy for the US “requires that all foreign employees who interact with US employees must speak English as a primary or secondary language”, and they hire translators for international customers.

 

Communication in the Workplace

Effective communication in the workplace helps to ensure that projects are finished on time, and it helps keep everyone up to date with policies or other company changes. Hugh has official face-to-face meeting like in most companies, but prefers other forms of Englishcommunication. He thinks that meeting and presentations have their place in communicating information, but using unofficial
communication, like email, would be more efficient most of the time. Hugh says, “A lot of time is put into preparing presentations to be shared at a meeting, which could have simply been shared and discussed online instead.” He believes that meetings should have a specific and limited topic in and be brief so that there is more time to focus on completing projects.

Hugh’s company uses email every day. It is the most convenient way to schedule meetings, send out company literature, or update all employees at the same time. One of the reasons Hugh prefers online communication like email or instant messaging is because you have a record of what was said. If anything is forgotten or specific information is given about a project, having access to exact words can be useful. Because of the increasing capabilities that smart phones have, they are becoming an important tool for most businesses. They give the ability to text small amounts of information quickly and conveniently, or you can check your email if you are away from your desk.

 

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A Registered Dietitians Take on Communication

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A Registered Dietitians Take on Communication 

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“I was always interested in health and fitness since as long as I can remember”, Said Brittney Horn, RD.  More importantly, she knew she had a passion to help improve the lives of her loved ones and others who struggled with health challenges. This passion led her to choose the field of Nutrition as her life-long career.

Brittney Horn is an Outpatient Dietitian that works for University Health Hospital in Shreveport, LA. She received her Bachelors and Masters in Food and Nutrition at the University of Southern Mississippi. She also completed her dietetic internship with her alum as well. Brittney has been working in nutrition for the past 5 years and is surprised at how fast that time has past! I guess that’s what happens when you are doing something you love!

Adapting Communication

Most Dietitians meet with patients each day. Each person is different and they must adapt communication skills so that they are as effective as possible. Brittney is no exception, she claimed that many of these skills were learned in her Nutrition Counseling class that she took in college. One unique skill she learned was how to use the SMOG readability formula to improve the way she wrote things for people on lower reading levels. This formula is used to assess a document based on features such as how many multiple syllable words existed in that work. Using this information, it can estimate how many years of education one needs to read that document. “I make a lot of handouts, pamphlets, and packets for my patients….I have a low literacy population so you have to be careful with verbiage and word usage”, said Brittney.

The Importance of Communication

Brittney says that good communication is “very important” in her field. Proper communication ensures that a patient receives the right care. She explained that in the health field there are many “gaps” when it comes to patient care. By this she means that a patient comes in contact with many different healthcare workers and each one must communicate with the next so as not to leave a gap. She expressed that these communications can be as important as “life or death” in some cases.

Communicating with Technology

Technology is prevalent all around us and is especially evident in the hospitals. “I don’t do much handwriting. Our hospital is all electronic records at this point”, Brittney said.  She talked about the need for technology and its improvements but says that “being able to do face-to-face communication is key”. She explained how much easier she thinks it is to sit at a table with colleagues and be able to quickly and efficiently communicate ideas. Although pagers seem to be a thing of the past, some things will never change. Being able to communicate with other humans without the “middle man” of technology will always be a timeless communication skill.

Ashley Gillespie, guest blogger

FOLLOW THE RULES: The Role of Communication in a Franchise

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Curves GymA Curves Fitness Club: Trainer (Left) and Members

 How does someone go about opening a franchise? According to Sean Dwyer, “You actually just go online and apply, but you have to [be able to] pass a number of strict qualifications.” “Mostly, it has to do with your wealth, really your net assets” Dwyer says of the qualifications. “They [the franchise] want people that are not going to go bankrupt,” he adds, “and the people that have franchise experience obviously get a first choice over those who don’t.”

Who is Sean Dwyer?

Sean Dwyer is an associate professor of marketing, and he has franchising experience from two Curves fitness club franchises that he founded and managed with his wife from 2003 – 2009. He has been working at Louisiana Tech University’s College of Business since 1996. He has a very knowledgeable business background, having earned a BA in economics, an MBA in finance/international business, as well as a Ph.D. in marketing. He also has experience with businesses from working as an associate investment manager, a certified financial planner, and as a business broker.

What was Sean’s Driving Motivation for Franchising?

“We [he and his wife] were broke,” Sean says, “and we had [private] school tuition for my kids that we were having trouble with.” After reading about the franchise’s low cost and innovative setup in an article, he said “This is going to work. I know a good business idea when I see one.” His gamble would go on to pay dividends. Curves was later recognized as the fastest growing franchise chain the U.S. by Entrepreneur magazine in May of 2005.

How Does a Franchisee Communicate with a Franchisor?

Franchisees typically communicate with franchisors verbally and in writing. According to Sean, “The franchisee communicates with the franchiser through email and then through the franchise regional representatives.” He also said that these representatives “…would come through to make sure you’re doing the right thing, [make sure] you’re not selling something other than the franchise.”

How Does a Franchise Communicate with Their Staff?

Sean said he always wrote directives to his staff that included “Any changes in our policies, changes in our operations, new promotions, [and] new products.” According to him, this was “The best way to communicate to them, any changes or additions to our business, was to type it up, in writing, and make them sign their name.” Dwyer found written communication easier than verbally communicating via meetings. He said meetings were difficult because “You can’t get 12 people to come to one or even two meetings because, you know, people have commitments.”

What is Communication’s Role in Customer Relations?

Dwyer’s favorite way to draw in new customers was by using flyers. This is because he found them “…inexpensive and effective.” He also used ads and promotions as other ways of driving in customers. To keep customers, however, Dwyer said he would “Write up new contests [or] new promotions in-house for the members” which “…kept them coming.” Sean considered that hiring “…people who could communicate well, who were likeable” was essential. This was so when they’d stand “…in the middle of a circle of people working on machines…” and talk the whole time, and they would thereby be able to form relationships with the members. If a customer got angry, Sean handled it by following the franchise’s list of rules on “…how to verbally handle angry customers” or using “…an apology note that we would write if needed.”

What Life Lessons has Sean Taken from Franchising?

One life lesson Sean has taken from franchising is “Put others first, and everything else will take care of itself.” He has also taken away the principle of “Follow The [Franchise] Rules.” This is because he believes that when you buy a franchise “…you’re buying a blueprint for success.”

Devin Locke, Guest Blogger

To Protect, Serve, and Communicate Effectively

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Pictured above: Officer Demarkes Grant (left) and Officer Terrence Richardson (right) of Shreveport Police Department

 

People worldwide rely on officers of the law to protect their community while being both fair and just. Officer Terrence Richardson of the Shreveport Police Department has worked hard to live up to these expectations in only a short amount of time. As a “rookie” who has only worked as an officer for eight months, Officer Richardson had no idea what this job entailed.

 

About Shreveport’s Finest

His initial motivation to become an officer of the law stemmed from simply wanting to make a difference in the neighborhood that he grew up in. A Shreveport native, Terrence has been a student, a sales associate at a retail store, and worked as a mail carrier before deciding that these jobs have not offered him the stability or fulfillment that he desired. He decided to give Shreveport Police Department a try when openings for patrol officers became available. He explained his initial feelings before joining the police department saying that, “[he] knew that [he] had to do something more to make an impact on the community that [he] was raised in, although [he] was nervous about being in the line of duty”. Officer Richardson overcame this nervousness and successfully joined the SPD.

Types of Communication in Law Enforcement

When asked how important communication is in the law enforcement field, Officer Richardson stated that, “communication is definitely integrated in about 95% of everything that I do. I would consider it the most important part of this job.” He uses and experiences many forms of communication, specifically verbal/oral, nonverbal, and written. Terrence’s list of daily duties include constantly being in contact with dispatchers and his fellow officers through use of a radio and computing system, non verbally communicating with fellow officers, orally communicating with people, and communicating through paperwork.

Oral Communication

Oral communication is essential in the workplace for Officer Richardson. Communicating as clearly, quickly, and proficiently as possible to both his coworkers and to people in general help make situations run more smoothly. If clear, this form of communication creates a sense of trust between the two parties and leaves little room for misunderstanding. This is especially important in encounters that could potentially be troublesome for the people involved and the officers who respond to these situations.

Things that are Better Left Unsaid

Another form of communication that is not often considered in careers is nonverbal communication. Officers must learn certain gestures and movements that could easily indicate the point that they are trying to make, without using words.

Importance of Written Communication

Written communication is also a key to success in the police department. A daily stoolie, which could be considered a call log, must be completed and signed by sergeants for each officer at the end of their shifts. Officers are also required to fill out a report for each call that is taken. This report details the officers’ explanation and interpretation of the calls that they respond to throughout the day. This information is pertinent to court officials in the legal system, insurance companies, or the police department themselves. It is imperative an accurate account is taken for each case that patrol officers work on.

Difficulties in Communication

Surprisingly enough, technical communication is not often used in this line of work. Officers often use slang and short hands which people interpret from their reports. This is one area that needs improvement. Richardson says, “There is a need for more technical communication so that officers can learn to conduct themselves more professionally.”

Take-Home Message

Overall, communication has played a vital role in Officer Richardson’s professional life which has helped to improve communication in his personal life. He values what he has learned in his career because it has helped him become more understanding when dealing with people.

 

Asha Washington, Guest Blogger

Communication in IO Psychology Education

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Dr. Steven Toaddy – IO Psychologist and Professor

Dr. Steven Toaddy is an Associate Professor of Social Sciences here at our very own Louisiana Tech University. He works for both Louisiana Tech and for a company partnered with Louisiana Tech called AROS (Applied Research for Organizational Solutions).  AROS is a consulting firm for people looking for organizational solutions.

 

Dr. Toaddy’s Credentials

Dr. Toaddy has received three degrees in his lifetime including a bachelors in psychology, a masters in IO Psychology, and a Doctorate in IO Pschology.  He also, as stated earlier, is referred to as the associate professor of social sciences at Louisiana Tech University. But the question that’s on most people minds is, what is IO psychology?  IO psychology stands for industrial/organizational psychology, which is a discipline of psychology that applies psychological theories and principles to organizations.

 

Communication in Education

Dr. Toaddy said that in an educational environment all forms communication are vital to succeed.  He stated that he tends to use oral and written communication in his teaching activities, which include lecturing,  facilitating classroom activities, and communicating with students about questions or concerns they may have.  He also provides in the form of written communication a syllabus at the beginning of every quarter, a course schedule, activity descriptions, grades, and assignments.  Graphic communication is also utilized, yet not as much as those mentioned previously.  When teaching how to graph certain functions needed in IO psychology, graphic communication is then utilized.

 

Workplace Communication

Within his workplace, AROS, Dr. Toaddy communicates with his colleagues and graduate students via email and face to face communication.  He said that his favorite form of communication by far was email, due to its simplicity, organization, and speed of communicating. “Graphic Communication seems to be utilized more in IO compared to other disciplines of psychology,” Toaddy said. He stated that with what our field requires of us we must communicate large amounts of information into digestible amounts so that it is practical and can be learned quickly and concisely.

 

Comparing Formality and Tone Between Students and Colleagues

When commenting on the formality of communicating between students and colleagues he said that there was no difference from a formality standpoint.  The only thing that changed in respect to communication between students and his colleagues was the tone of communication.  He said that when students come to see me I have the assumption they are there for my help and betterment of themselves or to gain understanding.  “So, I tend to have a sort of didactic approach when speaking to them,” he said. However, when communicating with his colleagues and coworkers he said they tend to know the same information as him so there is less of a didactic tone and is more based on efficiency.  It is important to note these differences because between students and colleagues the level of skill and understanding is drastically different, although his formality doesn’t change when communicating with them.   They both receive the same formality even though tone may change dependent on the situation.

 

Publications within IO Psychology

When asked about how often Dr. Toaddy published he explained that he published professionally on a quarterly basis.  He said that he rarely publishes scholastically and when he does the process is a lot more in depth and tenuous. He said that when publishing anything the first thing you come to find is there are many wrong ways to write an article or journal. Once you know those wrong ways, that leaves you with all the right ways to publish pieces.  If you operate within those parameters then the time it takes to publish is based on the editor and his or her staff.  I then asked him if he reads over his colleague’s publications and how he may utilize the information attained from them.  He said he tends to read their quarterly publications when they come out and focus primarily on things pertaining to his research and in his area of expertise.  He said he reads on those areas for about a week or so and then utilizes them where he sees necessary.

 

Advise for Up and Coming IO Psychologists

The last question I asked Dr. Toaddy what would you tell someone looking to pursue a career in IO psychology about communication? He said, “The thing I recommend, is intimacy and transparency across all media.  I am not so sold that formality and grammatical appearance is necessary.  I would say be less formal, more direct and more intimate, so don’t hold back uncertainties or let awkwardness get in the way of communication. If you have an objective go pursue it.”  This advice is in my opinion very useful in any career that uses communication in the workplace a lot.

 

Donovan Henry, Guest Blogger

 

 

 

 

Architects Communicating with a Variety of Audiences

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Mr. Brooks (far left) and I (far right) with a mockup for the ARCH 335 project

Robert Brooks is an associate professor at Louisiana Tech University in the School of Design, teaching both architecture and interior design courses.  Both before arriving in Ruston and since, Mr. Brooks has worked in an architecture firm/office setting either as an intern, project manager, or director. His firm, Studio Brooks + Emory, LLC, formerly Studio Brooks, LLC, was founded in 2005 and has continued to today, having done projects in and around the area, such as the Co:Lab house. The Co:Lab house, built initially for a Tech student, has since been transformed into a studio building for the School of Design under Mr. Brooks’ direction. Through the ARCH 335 Design Build program, Mr. Brooks has helped to foster relationships in the community and build charity projects as seen fit.  I have the privilege to be in Mr. Brooks’ class this quarter for ARCH 335 Design Build and got a chance to sit down with him during the hectic schedule associated with the class.

COMMUNICATING IN THE WORKPLACE

As Mr. Brooks explained, most in house workplace communication happens in an informal way. “99% of all internal communication happens face to face or via text message”, he said. Skipping formalities and really getting to quick communication is paramount to making as many decisions as are required to keep a project running at top speed. Communicating with co-workers in message services such as GroupMe means that no one is out of the loop on decision making for more than a few hours and makes slower communication methods such as email inefficient. Communication in the workplace has become so quick and efficient, in fact, that it hardly breaks down if ever. As he put it so simply,” The best way to solve communication issues is to communicate!”

COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC

As ideas leave the firm walls and is distributed to the public and the clients in particularly, communication becomes more important. As Mr. Brooks put it, “All communication is dependent upon the audience in which it is intended. We generally know our subject material well enough to tailor its delivery to the intended audience. Most of the language used to talk to our engineering consultants is technical in nature, while the language used to communicate with our clients is generally persuasive in nature, and the language used to communicate with collaborators is generally informal in nature.” Again in this area of communication, technology shows its ability to solve problems at large. “Technology has made it much easier to communicate complex ideas, regardless of physical location. We have even presented work to a client over their mobile phone using a PowerPoint app. Technology has also made it easier to quickly and effectively customize presentations for specific audience groups.”

COMMUNICATING IN ACADEMIA

As a professor as well as a professional, Mr. Brooks has a special perspective on how to communicate with fellow architectural minds, albeit developing minds. “Generally I have to be much more patient with students than I do with any other contact group”, Mr. Brooks said, to which we both responded with a chuckle. Because formative places for architecture such as academia are the roots of new ideas these days, Mr. Brooks ended the interview with a statement on a better future with change. He articulates, “The biggest change I would like to see is not between architects and clients, or architects to architects… but rather I would like to see academia engage the public more. Academia has the potential to help change the world for the better. But unfortunately, most academics are only talking to each other rather than the people that they could benefit the most.”

Cody Pate, Guest Blogger

Technical Communications in the Telecommunications Industry

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(Dr. Amy Heitzmann with her son Logan)


I was staring at my phone, because I knew right when the clock turned two, I was going to get an important phone call. Sure enough, like clockwork, I was getting a call from the great Dr. Amy Heitzmann. She is the reason many are able to read this blog, perhaps you too. She provides the service for her customers to utilize the internet and talk on the phone. I was very excited to get her thoughts and experience on technical communications in the telecommunications industry.

About Dr. Heitzmann


Dr. Amy Heitzmann is from Leo Indiana. She has three wonderful children Logan (20), Grace (13), and Olivia (9). She works full-time as a Senior Network Engineer for Frontier Communications (formerly Verison) in Fort Wayne Indiana. She has been employed with Frontier for nearly 18 years. She adjunct teach at one of the local colleges as needed. She likes having the opportunity to communicate and interact with the younger generation as they look to enter the work force.

The Path From Business to Engineering


She began her career with a Bachelor’s of Business from the University of Saint Francis and accepted a full-time internship with Frontier. They encouraged her to accept a position as an administrator in the engineer group, which opened the door for her to work her way up to now a Senior Network Engineer. Being able to speak face to face is an important part of her daily job.”I love being able to be in the field interacting with customers and fellow co-workers, while still balancing the office work required. This job offers me a variety of experiences each and every day,” stated Dr. Heitzmann.

 

The Importance of Written Communication


She writes a good amount on a daily basis ranging from emails, documents, and proposals required within her job. Being able to provide correct information to protect and secure the network from damages is very important to her work. She double checks her emails to make sure she has not included anything that customer/co-workers might misunderstand. “Being able to communication clearly and effectively can be the difference in a successful or struggling employee. There are some situations where it is critical that conversations are documented in writing,” explained Dr. Heitzmann.

Overcoming Challenges of Communication


The market place is extremely global, which can cause many different issues in communicating. Many different factors play a role in this challenge, ranging from time zone differences, language barriers, and differences in cultural. Whenever possible, she tries to meet with co-workers and customers face to face. If time zones are a problem, she adapt to their timeframe.

 

When she first started in her career, she was nervous to talk to people who had more authority than her or individuals of the opposite sex. “Someone is always going to have something to say about you, but if you are forthcoming and honest your best foot is usually ahead,” Dr. Heitzmann advised.

Dr. Heitzmann’s Communication Preference


“To this day, I believe being able to communicate face to face verbally is the best form because it relieves some of the challenges that can be associated with written communication, social media, and texting,” stated Dr. Heitzmann. She believes communicating face to face allows some of the misunderstandings that can occur with other means of communication to be eliminated. So much is lost in texting and emotions can be misunderstood completely.

Words of Wisdom


Dr. Heitzmann added at the end of the interview:

“I think all situations are different and you have to learn to adjust to a variety of settings in the work force.  It will not always be easy and sometimes you will be frustrated beyond means, but you have to learn to control your emotions and march forward.”

Arthessius Hampton, Guest Blogger