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

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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

The Voice of Energy: Communication in Engineering

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Jonathan Vogel is a chemical engineer at Citgo Refining in Lake Charles, LA

About Jonathan

In 2016, Jonathan graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in chemical engineering. He now works full time at Citgo, with whom he previously interned, as an engineer. Throughout his experience in the field, Jonathan has used his technical knowledge and communication skills acquired at Tech to work through several issues, such as safely recycling chemical waste streams and getting the plant back in operation after a lightning strike.

The field of engineering attracted Jonathan from a young age. Growing up, his taste for applied math and science was developed through television shows such as Mythbusters, and through his fascination with space and NASA, which consists mainly of a collective group of engineers working together to do incredible feats.

Different Forms of Workplace Communication

Jonathan’s job as an engineer is to facilitate in the production of energy from crude oil, a complicated and multi-stepped process. Jonathan only works on a single section of this process, but because the operation of every section depends on that of every other section, it is vital that there be effective communication between the different parts of the plant.

Email

A large part of Jonathan’s job is writing emails to other engineers outlining the changes he makes and observes. This allows for other parts of the plant to compensate for changes in the process without ruining product or endangering workers.

Presentations

Jonathan must also keep his bosses and managers informed on the status of his work so they can be well equipped to make executive decisions. For instance, when Jonathan analyzes system performances to see if maintenance needs to be done, he has to give presentations to management detailing the process, the total cost, and why it is necessary. This allows the managers to analyze the cost effectiveness and productivity of new designs.

Face-to-Face

Although the operation of the plant relies heavily on email, Jonathan says that the most important form of communication is the face-to-face interactions with the operators and engineers. Many of the operators have been working on the units for decades, so a lot can be learned by talking with them. Furthermore, he says “it’s important to have a comfortable relationship with the operators so when you ask them to do something they don’t understand, there’s no resistance.”

The Challenges of Communication

Jonathan explains that poor communication can hinder productivity in a plant, and even cause alarm. For instance, he says that “you have to be aware of your word choice, because using the word ‘leak’ instead of ‘drip’ implies a different connotation.” This ambiguity could send an inaccurate perception of the issue to the management.

It is also important to make sure your written documents are clear and accurate. Every email he writes and safety audit he fills out are kept on file, and if there are discrepancies later, his bosses can find them. The paper trail he leaves must be honest so that he can not only help avoid accidents, but also prove that he isn’t responsible in case of one.

The Role of Technology in Engineering Communication

The development of technology in the engineering field helps keep plants in better communication, thereby making them safer and more efficient. Jonathan describes a technology called EELS (Electronic Event Logbook System) that monitors the conditions and changes made to a process. This data can then be shared or printed to allow the engineers and operators to discuss the reactions to turning a valve or changing a temperature.

Jonathan’s Expectations and Realizations

Jonathan was well prepared for the technical aspect of his job, but was surprised by the amount of communication it required. He advised that young engineers entering the workplace “learn to communicate well,” because “communication skills are just as important as technical knowledge.”

Andrew Pousson, guest blogger

Communication: Marriage and Family Therapy

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Dr. Amy Yates

Have you ever felt alone, stressed, or filled with anxiety? Have you ever felt like you have so much to say, and there is no one to listen? Well, I know the answer to all of your questions. This answer comes in the form of a woman with experience, integrity, and confidence: Dr. Amy Yates. One of her many accomplishments is when she became a certified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Yates, has helped many families all over the world. In 1996 she even moved overseas to continue her career in making others life better.

Marriage and Family Therapists encounter different challenges within their field of work. Dr. Yates in particular struggled at one of her jobs. She worked with a company who was run by partners. They would disagree and argue, which left her stuck in between all of their commotion. This made it difficult for her to communicate issues to them. Another challenge MFT’s face is the state laws around the scope of their practice. One question Yates mentioned includes: “Can we diagnose a client? If not, how can they treat them?”

“Communication is extremely important in this field of work,” says Dr. Amy Yates. Trust, collaboration, and transparency are all most effective ways to communicate within this field. When working with clients Dr. Yates prefers to take a Narrative Approach. With this method she helps her client create an alternate perspective or story. This is to help them see that life can be different than it is at the moment and will get better.

Therapists are required to do paperwork and case notes, because everything has to be documented. Yates stated, “You have to be very careful about documentation.” Case notes have to be very detailed. Anything a therapist documents in their sessions can be subpoenaed.

“In therapy you should never ask questions that seems as if you are giving them advice.” This sounds strange, because when you think of therapy you immediately think of giving advice. Yates informed me that “giving advice to a client is what their mother, significant other, and best friends do. I am their therapist and they are paying me to be a professional.” Therapists should not give advice, but guide their client in making the best decision for them.

Therapists and clients have special and complex relationships. Yates mentioned how important it is for the therapist and client to be open. She said, “Secrets are okay to have until the client has reached a level of confidence, but a therapist should never keep a secret from their client.” Building a relationship with someone takes a lot of trust. If a therapist is withholding information from their client, then it makes it difficult for the client to trust them. To start a client and therapist relationship correctly it is important to go over what is expected from both the client and therapist. There should never be a time when the client/therapist have to guess their roles.

All therapists have certain skills. There are times when they don’t have the necessary skills to help a client. In this situation there are necessary actions that has to take place. Dr. Yates stated, “I would refer them to a better resource and walk them through the process of letting me go.”. This statement seems as if the therapist is forcing the client to fire them, but in actuality it is to help their client get the help they need.

Communication is a key factor for Marriage and Family Therapists. Yates stated, “Helping people realize they already have what they need to solve their problems makes my job worthwhile.” There is definitely more oral communication that comes with this profession than many others. It is very important that communication between therapists/clients are clear and therapist are careful with their written communication.

Tianna Turner, guest blogger

Technical Communication in Teaching

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Mrs. Madden, in blue, helping students at Ouachita Parish Junior High for STEM Day.

Teaching requires oral and written communication daily no matter what level of the education system you are teaching on. I was able to get an insight of just how much communication teachers have to be prepared for when entering the classroom.

The Interviewee: Mrs. Diane Madden

Mrs. Diane Madden is the Associate Director of SciTech and a UTeach Professor here at Louisiana Tech University. Before she came to Louisiana Tech she taught everywhere from Virginia to Lincoln Parish schools. Mrs. Madden has taught elementary, junior high, and college students throughout her continuous teaching career. She has taught subjects ranging from art to Earth Science to even education classes.

Oral Communication in the Classroom

Oral communication plays a big role in the classroom. Teachers communicate orally with students and even coworkers on a daily basis. Mrs. Madden talks about how you have to be careful with your words and annunciation to get through to students. She says, “You have to know your audience.” By knowing your audience, it makes it easier to communicate with the students. She explains that for elementary kids you have to use a simpler vocabulary rather than a larger one like you would use for college students.

Written Communication Teachers Face

While oral communication plays a big role in the classroom, written communication plays a bigger role. Mrs. Madden explains how written communication is integrated every day when teaching. It is integrated through bell-works, lesson plans, worksheets, grant writing, and much more. “Written communication is important because you deal with students, parents, and faculty,” said Mrs. Madden. Teachers must watch their grammar and express themselves clearly to get the message across, if not the message is lost.

The Process of Grant Writing

A big part of technical writing that Mrs. Madden faced as a teacher and even the Associate Director of SciTech was grant writing. Grants require a great amount of technical writing skill. Mrs. Madden expressed that it is very time consuming. A big grant takes around “40 hours.” It even takes collaboration with others most of the time. She explained how you have to orally communicate with others to make a grant successful. Sometimes it is difficult she said because you must be concise in your work and collaborating with others is challenging when disagreements arise.

Oral Vs. Written Communication

While both oral and written communication is challenging in their own way, Mrs. Madden says written communication is harder. She expressed how when writing to students they may not always get what you are saying, so you have to think like them to get your message across. Mrs. Madden explained, “Written communication is the hardest because you have to go back and check yourself and look at what it’s telling you.” A big key in written and oral communication is making sure the audience is addressed correctly.

Growing is a Part of Teaching

Mrs. Madden has been in the education system for 20 years, and she said she is always growing as a teacher and through her technical writing skills. “Even though I learned a lot there is still time to improve,” stated Mrs. Madden. Teachers grow through new teaching methods everyday while also improving their communication skills. By being a teacher growth is not a foreign thought, it is a part of what makes the job successful and an even better communicator.

Destiny Rivet, Guest Blogger

 

Communication in the Workplace: It Could Save Your Life

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A plant environment can be a very hazardous place to work. Scalding hot pipes, moving parts, high voltage wires, and falling hazards can make a power plant a very dangerous place to work without proper precautions. I was able to speak with William Bennett, who is an electrical engineer working in the power generation industry, about what role communication plays in plant operation and safety.

Gas fired plants, like the one pictured here and Union Power Plant, provide power to their customers while having lower emissions than coal fired plants.

About Will Bennet

Will is a Louisiana Tech alum and earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering in 2010. He is a production technician that operates and maintains the Union Power Plant in El Dorado, Arkansas. This natural gas fired power plant is the largest combined cycle plant owned by Entergy. Will’s responsibilities include maintaining safe operation, maintaining compliance with regulation of various operating parameters, and maintaining effective communication with Controlling Authorities.

Communication’s Role in the Plant

Will describes technical communication in a plant environment as of the utmost importance. He has to communicate with multiple entities within the plant daily, such as Dispatching, Transmission/Distribution, Technical Support, Planning/Scheduling, Engineering Compliance Manager, Environmental, Safety, and Plant Manager. Will described one major form of communication used within the plant that ensures worker safety and increases the effectiveness of communications: the Three-way Communication Procedure. In three-way communication, the sender states the message to the receiver. Next, the receiver acknowledges the communication by repeating the message to the sender. The receiver must restate any critical information exactly as it was stated by the sender. If the receiver does not understand the sender’s message, they must ask for clarification. Finally, the sender acknowledges the receivers reply and verbally confirms to the receiver that the message is correct and properly understood. Then the receiver can perform whatever action is being requested. If the sender does not understand the receivers reply, the sender must verbally indicate the two do not understand each other, and then the repeat-back process must start back from the beginning.

Communication’s Effect on Safety

A power generation plant can be a very hazardous work environment. Will describes communication as “very” important to the safety of plant workers. He says, “The Three-way Communication procedure is used so that both parties have a clear understanding of the request/action being taken”. If a miscommunication were to occur, people could be injured or killed. Will says, “If there was a breakdown in communication it could possibly lead to a catastrophic event”.

Technological Advances in Communication

Will pointed to several ways that technology has improved communication in the work place. He mentioned radio, phones, email, logbooks, and documents for reporting (Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) as advances that have led to more efficient communication. When asked how technology has contributed to worker safety, Will said, “I think the two biggest contributions are speed of communication and the formalization of technology uses for a communication standard”. He went on to say that, “the increased speed of communication now allows for a response to a certain condition to be carried out to reduce the effects of or prevent incidents. As for the formalization, there have been tools and guidelines that have been put in place to ensure clear roles and standards will be upheld to minimize the potential for incidents to occur, such as the Three-way Communication Protocol”.

Effective technical communication plays an essential role in any workplace. A breakdown in communication might lead to the loss of a client, drop in sales, or the loss of your job. For Will, though, a breakdown in communication could lead to the loss of life or limb.

 

Jacob Hogue, guest blogger

Communication for Financial Advisors

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John Guilbeaux, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

 

John Guilbeaux is in his 18th year of being an Edward Jones financial advisor for the Sulphur, Louisiana community. John is a soft-spoken individual with the presence that is someone you can easily trust your grandmother to be served by without the worry of him getting the best of her. He attended McNeese State University where he studied history while also working at a local bank. In his time at the bank he began to fall in love with dealing with clients, meeting new people, and the many aspects of finance. He then changed his major to Business Management then eventually receiving his degree in such. John felt he would thrive as a financial advisor because he wanted to help people with their best intentions in mind. I have had the privilege to interview John about the communicating with clients and peers in the financial service industry.

Importance of Verbal Communication

When I asked John about the importance of verbal communication he replied, “[Verbal] Communication is the most important trait a financial advisor needs to be successful. You have to be comfortable speaking to people.” The importance of communication for financial advisors is paramount to survival in the saturated markets of today. If you are not able to effectively communicate the difference in complex financial instruments to people, you will have trouble building a successful book of business. Being confident in yourself and being knowledgeable is something that many clients look for when choosing an advisor.

Importance of Written Communication

John also talks about the importance of written communication for financial advisors stating, “… mostly important when preparing to meet with a client to discuss where we believe their portfolio is heading.” Presenting your client with a clearly written report on the status of their portfolio is something he sees as an important part of customer service. Written communication is also important when receiving information about mutual funds, certain bonds, and other investment information from the company’s analysts. If the information is clear and gives reason as to why these have been selected, it allows the advisor to be able to relay this information to their clients without having to sell them on a blind investment.

Selecting a Medium of Communication

Knowing when to use formal or informal communication is something that “comes with experience”. When you are prospecting clients you want to be professional and show them that you are serious about your job. Making prospective clients trust you with their retirement is not easy by any means and showing them that you are credible takes time. Once that individual becomes your client, you can move to a more informal approach when in conversation. This takes out the advisor-client status and helps you to relate to the client on a more personal level so you can better serve their financial needs. When writing to peers, Edward Jones has a “family feel” to the collaboration of their advisors. The advisors are always in contact about various topics and this drives the medium of communication to a constantly informal approach. Edward Jones does not push for competition between their advisors and this allows for them to assist each other when helping their client.

Final Thoughts

With communication being a key determinate for financial advisors, especially those beginning their practice, John recommends “meeting as many people as you can.” The more times you can repeat your sales pitch to people, the more comfortable you will be approaching new prospects. Being told no is something that will happen nine times out of ten but when that one person says yes; you need to be prepared to assist them to the best of your ability with their best interest in mind.

 

Thomas Breaux, Guest Blogger