Last Wednesday (October 26th), another tech writer and I woke up extremely early and drove down to UT San Antonio. We presented information about NI and technical writing to three technical communications classes. UTSA's tech comm concentration is a part of the Communications department, as opposed to some other universities where the tech/professional writing program is a part of the English department. That's part of the challenge with recruiting from universities; the tech comm / English departments are in various states of completion and organization (not to mention funding).
The trip was a lot of fun. The other writer, Lori, and I covered roughly the same topics in each class, although we tailored the approach to the subject of the class. For example, in the Writing for New Media class, I spoke about the move towards HTML-based documentation vs. the tradition of PDF-based documentation. In the design & layout class, Lori contrasted the layout of the cRIO hardware documentation with the layout of the fold-out posters for applications like Measurement Studio. I talked mainly about the atmosphere and culture of NI, for which we've won awards (come to think of it, I didn't mention the FORTUNE 100 awards. I will next time.) I also got to explain the Control Design & Simulation products I document. That was a first for me, as I have spoken only to friends and family about the products, never to a larger group. I hope my descriptions were accurate ;-)
Basically, we tried to give an impression of what technical writing life is like at NI - working with engineers, researching upcoming products, organizing the documentation, performing usability testing, things like that. We emphasized that the job is not just sitting in front of a computer and entering edits. Of course, that's part of it, but in the long run just a small part.
Although the trip fell under the umbrella of recruiting, the goal of the trip wasn't necessarily to recruit students. We mainly wanted to see how interested the students/faculty are in having us come down every so often. Judging from the response we got, I think we were successful and should continue to visit their campus in the future. In each class, students asked us questions after we'd finished speaking, which showed us that the students were at least curious about tech writing as a career. We left some surveys with the professor so the students could tell us their opinion directly.
The whole trip was fun. I like that technical writers initiate and manage the interview/recruiting process, as opposed to leaving everything up to HR. I definitely look forward to doing more recruiting events. Next week, the STC chapter from Texas Tech is visiting NI. I'm involved with showing them around (and taking them to dinner, of course!) so I'll post about that after they visit. We have a bunch of tech writers from TTU; in fact, I think I'm the only one in the group who didn't go there. Oh well, they'll just have to forgive me for going to another Tech :-)