On Halloween afternoon, Mouser’s technical content team was hard at work developing the company’s latest technical articles, ezines, blogs, projects, videos, and web pages. Raymond was staring intently at a spreadsheet, as if populating its content by telepathy. Deb was contumaciously crafting content: Typity, typity, typity…Back, Back…typity, typity…. Joseph had a phone wedged between his shoulder and ear while single-handedly typing 1s and 0s into dialog box onscreen. Rudy scratched his chin as he ogled a new product’s data sheet, only to rubberneck a tray of cupcakes that walked by. Paul arrived back to his desk from a meeting, hung his sports jacket on a hook, and started drafting an email before he even sat down. Ryan, having written seemingly billions and billions of lines of code already that afternoon—with a manner of calm not unlike Sagan—adjusted the volume on his headphones.
Meerkat Manor (the name affectionately given to the team’s pod of cubes) was quiet, apart from the hum of electronic devices and clicking keyboards.
JPaul had gone to the lunchroom for a bite to eat and circuitously walked back to his desk, leaving a contrail of dashed lines behind him that marked his path. As he approached Meerkat Manor, he commented aloud:
“You know it’s raining when you can smell the rain inside.”
The typity typity sound emanating from Deb’s cube suddenly went silent, as if someone hit Pause, leaving JPaul’s words hanging in the air. Then she exclaimed: “Petrichor! That’s the earthy smell of rain. It’s one of my favorite words!”
Joseph’s voice rose above his cube: “Ah, the scent of O3,” referring, of course, to ozone.
Quick to partake in the discussion, JPaul replied: “Being the curious sort, I need to know how to spell “petrichor” and know what exactly it's made from. While I agree I smell ozone, it's not the only thing I smell.”
Paul chimed in:
“I am not exactly a bloodhound. I have neither the ability nor the inclination to follow the scent to the lengths that they will go in time and distance.
However, I do love the smell of fresh baked pizza and chocolate chip cookies!
I, too, notice the pungent smell of ozone wafting through the cubicle forest that is my office environment.”
When Paul speaks, you can actually see the double-spacing between his sentences. It’s true. You should come chat with him sometime. You’ll notice.
Rudy, now eating a cupcake and leaning against his cube, jumped in: “You mean the smell of dirt? I’m pretty sure it’s not all ozone we are smelling! So, does that mean there is a giant hole in the ozone layer right about now?”
Joseph replied: “I'm kinda sure we won't all burn on the next bright, sunny day. But, hey, there is cake! Who doesn't love cake?!”
Rudy raised his half-eaten cupcake in the air, as if offering a salute.
The laconic designer removed his headphones and queried, “Rain?” Ryan twitched his eyebrow once while thinking about the trick-or-treating plans that could be ruined. This was followed by a small shrug of his shoulders as he replaced his headphones and returned to his code.
By then, Raymond had also stopped work, but initially remained seated so as not to disrupt the team’s peculiar conversation. But then: “I don’t mind the smell of ozone or dirt, but the only rains I hear are the “Rains of Castamere.” I should stop binge-watching scary shows late at night!”
In seemingly an instant, Meerkat Manor had gone from a quiet backdrop, interrupted only by the hum of electronic devices and clicking keyboards, to a bustling repartee among diverse technical professionals, stirred up by a quirky observation that was stated in passing.
Those of us who work on technical teams know the scenario and exchange well, even if the esoteric topics and nuances vary. We know the characters, too: The scientists. The engineers. The product experts. The logophile. The programmer. The executive…. A team of keen observers, technologists, mathematicians, futurists, strategists, entrepreneurs, and problem solvers. We’re also reformed perfectionists, purists, and precisionists, although we each can be a fussbudget in our own area of expertise. We’re simultaneously experts in our own roles on the team, yet agile generalists and researchers as well.
And we have to be all these characters because our core industry—semiconductors and components—is extremely diverse in the types of other industries, applications, and solutions that are relevant to our engineer audience. On any given day, we might develop technical content about autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, harsh environments, power management, the Internet of Things (IoT), RF wireless, robotics, mesh networking, computing, open source, data security, Industry 4.0, audio, automotive, and the list goes on and on. Within any topic, we identify the needed focus, key themes, subtopics, and type of content to best present the information. From there, we develop in-depth technical articles, blogs, videos, webinars, microsites, ezines, ebooks, projects, white papers, FAQs, and more, which require an understanding of the technologies and applications, as well as skill in translating those into well-developed, well-designed, well-presented, and technically-accurate content.
As a technical content marketing team, we’re pioneers in that we’re paving the way for changes in the engineering industry by bringing technical content—and the broad scope of expertise it requires—to the forefront. Universities, engineering programs, and technical hiring managers nationwide have been saying for a decade or more that technical competence must be balanced with writing, communication, and collaboration skills. Some of this comes with experience, of course, but new graduates and young engineering professionals are discovering that the demand for those skills is just as high as demand for their technical skills. The trend toward technical content marketing is furthering this requirement and redefining the core skills of engineers and other technical professionals.
Following Raymond’s “Rains of Castamere” comment, the team laughed at the Game of Thrones reference and turned the clever discussions toward the long-awaited release of Stranger Things Season 2 and favorite scary movies. It was Halloween, after all.
And just as quickly as Meerkat Manor was stirred into to a frenzy of friendly fun, it dwindled again as Raymond, Deb, Joseph, Paul, Rudy, Ryan, and JPaul returned to their tasks. Returned to their technical articles, ezines, blogs, projects, videos, and web pages. Back to their dialog boxes, data sheets, emails, spreadsheets, text editors, and documents. Back to quietly blazing new trails.
Deborah Ray joined Mouser in early 2017 as Executive Editor of Technical Publications, bringing more than 20 years of experience in technical publishing. As an author, she has coauthored more than 20 computer books, has published a dozen journal articles, and previously authored two nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Deborah spent 11 years as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TECHWR-L Magazine, the oldest and one of the largest online publications for technical communicators worldwide. As an educator, Deborah has taught graduate courses in technical communication at three universities, as well as undergraduate engineering communications courses, in traditional, online, and broadcast classrooms. She currently serves on the editorial board of directors for IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.
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