baton being passed

Where are the millennials?

As a mid-20 something millennial, one of the first things I do when I get to a conference is take a big look around the room. I first check to see if I know anyone, as it’s always great catching up with someone you haven’t seen since the last conference. The next thing I do is check to see if there are any other millennials attending the conference. What I’ve noticed about most tech comm conferences is that this number is typically low. And by low, I mean count-on-one-hand low. I’ve been observing this phenomena since my first conference. Now that I have three conferences under my belt, I can confirm that my suspicions are valid: the millennials are practically nowhere to be found!

Technical writing is the new sexy

The first thought that comes to mind is that this is a ‘branding’ problem on behalf of the technical content community. To a young and hungry recent grad looking to make a name for themselves, titles like ‘engineer’ and ‘product manager’ can certainly sound more attractive for anyone looking to get into technology. Let’s be honest – for someone with little to no knowledge of the technical communication industry, technical writing doesn’t sound incredible sexy. However, I believe that with the right framing and context, we can generate more interest in pursuing this field as a career among millennials.

One part of this framing is conveying the need and demand for high-quality technical writers. In this digital age, new tech products and platforms are released (and updated) constantly. It’s no surprise that technology plays an integral role in our lives. These products and services are completely useless if the end user, doesn’t understand how they work and how to use them effectively! In my opinion, it’s safe to say that the demand for good technical writers will only rise in the coming years.

Good technical writers have an impact and make a difference

I think it’s also important to stress just how much of an impact a good tech writer can have on the world around them. For example, imagine the satisfaction of writing API documentation for a service that is used by developers hundreds of thousands of times per day – that technical content has just impacted the lives of a tremendous number of people. Tech writers can even end up saving lives by creating the documentation attached to medical devices such as pacemakers. If the writing/instructions associated with that device are not clear and easy to follow, there could be serious harm, if not death. By promoting the importance technical writers have in today’s society, I think we can garner more interest in the field from millennials.

Who will the baton be passed to next?

To sum up why I’m discussing attracting more millennials in the field, I’ll leave you with a mental exercise. The next technical communications conference you attend, take a good, long look around the room at everyone. Ask yourself, “what will this room like in 10 years from now? How about 20 years from now?” It certainly won’t look the same. As the current industry leaders and veterans begin to plan for their next steps (hopefully retirement!), who is going to continue propelling this field into the future? I think this is an important question for anyone serious about technical communications. We should do our best to increase millennial participation to ensure that when the baton needs to be handed off to the next runner, they are already in place to hit the ground running.

Evan Marchand