About Nupoor Jalindre: Nupoor Jalindre is a second-year Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, currently pursuing her doctorate in the field of Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media. In addition to her studies, Ms Jalindre works as a Graduate Research Assistant at SAS, and recently completed a technical writing internship with Citrix in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has extensive experience as a Technical Writer, having previously worked for companies such as Palo Alto Networks, TIBCO Software Inc., and Technowrites Pvt. Ltd.
Ms. Jalindre graduated from the Pune Institute of Computer Technology in India with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. She earned her master’s in 2017, through the Master of Science in Technical Communication (MSTC) program at North Carolina State University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Nupoor Jalindre] I completed my undergraduate degree (BE) in Computer Engineering from the Pune Institute of Computer Technology in India. Right after college, I started working as a Software Developer for a start-up company. I worked with different programming languages like Java and C++, designing applications for electronic fax and video conferencing. After over a year, I realized that although I like programming, I may not enjoy doing it for the rest of my life. That’s when I knew that I needed to change my career focus and this needs to happen soon; the earlier the better.
Since middle school, I was passionate about writing and technology. I started looking for career options which would help me follow both of these. ‘Technical Writing’ emerged out of a casual Google search. After looking at several job descriptions, I knew that this job would be perfect for me. I immediately took up a certification course in Technical Writing (6 months) with Technowrites Pvt. Ltd, in Pune and landed a job with TIBCO Software. As I joined at an entry level, my primary responsibilities were to assist other technical writers in the product documentation work. I learned a lot of things on-the-job. I started getting involved in technical communication organizations like STC and TC World by presenting and volunteering at conferences. After gaining some experience, I decided to pursue a master’s degree to get formally acquainted to the field.
I graduated from the MS in Technical Communication (MSTC) Program at the North Carolina State University in 2017. During the graduate program, I took up a summer internship with Palo Alto Networks to continue gaining relevant experience and to build professional connections in the U.S. I was granted funding through a Teaching Assistantship in the English department. Through the exposure of both academia and industry, I realized that there is a gap in learning that needs to be bridged if students are to contribute to the technical communication industry. This became my goal and research idea which pushed me to getting a Ph.D. in a relevant field. I continued with the research interests developed during the MS program, to pursue a Ph.D. in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media at NC State. This is my second year. I still try to keep in touch with the industry to carry on with my research. I worked with Citrix this past summer on some of their documentation research and development projects. Currently, I’m working with SAS as a Graduate Research Assistant. My interests have grown in the past two years, but with most of them I’m trying to bridge my two worlds together (academia and industry).
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Science in Technical Communication (MSTC) program at North Carolina State University?
[Nupoor Jalindre] Technical Communication is a field where you learn most things on the job. There are several reasons for this. Some of them are 1) technology changes, changing the ways people are developing and publishing information 2) every company handles content and information differently 3) team sizes vary 4) nature of products/services differ. Therefore, it is impossible to learn everything you need at a workplace through a certification. I was formally trained in technology, but not writing. I decided to take up a formal degree which would strengthen my writing skills. Effective writing practices can only be gained in formal training settings. I can say this now, with great confidence because I have been through that transition. My technology background helped me learn the tools and technologies and the MSTC program helped me develop writing skills. These two, according to me, are my biggest strengths as a technical communicator.
Being from a technology background, I was keen on getting a Master of Science degree. The MS in Technical Communication at North Carolina State University is one of the few programs in the United States that offers an MS degree. Most of them offer a Masters in Arts. I looked through the profiles of researchers at the college as well. I was amazed at the work of Dr. Carolyn Miller, Dr. Huiling Ding, and Dr. Jason Swarts and how much it resonated with the kinds of projects that I was working on at that time. It is important that you find someone who speaks your language. I found that in the professors here, just like I had imagined.
Another factor responsible for choosing this program was the funding opportunity. Coming from India, funding was crucial to make decisions about graduate education. The MS program offers funding in the form of a Teaching Assistantship. Not only did this opportunity waive my fees and medical insurance, I gained experience in teaching communication to students in the engineering departments. This proved extremely useful when applying for doctoral programs.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is NC State’s MSTC program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Nupoor Jalindre] The program is well structured and the faculty is experienced in teaching the courses which shapes the student learning experience. There are four required courses that cover theoretical aspects of technical communication viz. theory of technical communication, advanced technical writing (tools and methods), rhetoric of science and technology, and project management in publications. Each class is conducted after 5 pm only once a week. This allows practitioners and part-time students to attend classes without having to adjust their work schedules. There is a wide range of possible electives to choose from like usability studies, information design, science writing, and so on. Being under the English department, students get to pick from a variety of English classes as well. I completed the Digital Humanities certification while doing my coursework which added a lot of weight to my Ph.D. application. Research projects in all the courses made my portfolio strong.
Another requirement of the program is to gain the equivalent of one semester of relevant professional work experience. Internship coordinators within the department help students to land an internship to complete this requirement. The university is located close to the Research Triangle Park, which is home to a lot of giant companies like IBM, Cisco, SAS, NetApp, RTI International, and so on. I took up a full-time technical writer summer internship at the end of my first year in the Bay Area of California. There, I gained a lot of relevant experience and got an opportunity to network with professionals in the industry. The internship helped me apply skills like usability testing, document design, and information design that I had developed at school to real world problems. The experience also made my resume stronger.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Nupoor Jalindre] The dissertation equivalent in the MSTC program is called the capstone project. The nature of the capstone project allows students to make something instead of writing a thesis. Students in my cohort tied up with various industries to pick projects for their capstone. I utilized the connections I made during the summer internship to pick my project. In California, I met with Tom Johnson, the author of the blog ‘idratherbewriting’. He was working on a project, developing a documentation theme using Jekyll and other open source technology which could replace traditional help authoring tools. I assisted him in conducting some research for developing this project. In the process, I got a chance to apply skills developed at school as well as learn technologies that were new in the industry at that time. Although the project timeline did not work out completely, I feel extremely obliged to have worked with one of the most creative and successful writers in the technical communication field.
My suggestions to students in their final year would be first, to start thinking of the capstone project as early as possible. That does not mean day one in the program, but having an idea about what they are interested in and keeping their eyes open for potential opportunities that can be converted to capstone projects would take them a long way. The faculty are always useful and willing to support students. However, it is important to ask the right questions that can lead to the students’ progress. Completing a project should never be the only goal. Learning and inculcating practices and values at each step of the project that take you closer to the goal, should be the primary objective.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from NC State’s Master of Science in Technical Communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Nupoor Jalindre] Some of the most useful takeaways from the program were to keep learning. Technical communication is a field that keeps changing constantly. Keeping oneself abridge with not just the technologies, but also the concepts is extremely important. The personal and professional connections built during my MS have been valuable until now. I made some very good friends. We are still in touch. Having a community helps in the exchange of ideas and keeping up with the changes happening in the industry. The Carolina STC chapter meets close to campus once every month. Some students get involved with STC which is good for building connections and establishing a support network in the community.
I decided to continue along the avenues of research by getting into a Ph.D. program. Concepts in theory and research in professional writing and rhetoric of science and technology have proved to be extremely useful in my research work. However, I also take jobs in the industry whenever I get an opportunity to. I have been able to apply concepts and skills from advanced technical writing and editing and publication management for technical communicators classes in those places. I think the combination of skills developed during MSTC have and will always help me in various walks of life.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting North Carolina State University’s MS in Technical Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at NC State or another university?
[Nupoor Jalindre] To students considering the MSTC program, I would suggest that you get involved in everything as much as possible and as early as possible. The faculty are great. Look for research opportunities with them. Look for part-time/freelance technical writing assignments that you can showcase on your portfolio. Keep your resume and CV updated, always. You never know which opportunity may come when. The NCSU Libraries are a great source for a wide range of knowledge bases, technology trainings, and testing environments. Utilize them to the fullest. Keep yourself engaged in activities which may or may not be directly relevant. I completed the DH certification as well as teaching certification. Although I found both these things irrelevant at the time, they made up for a killer Ph.D. application.
For communication students, my suggestion would be to keep building connections. Facebook and LinkedIn have the potential to change your life. Utilize these platforms to become a part of the community you are interested in. This will feed into your knowledge and expose you to opportunities that you never thought possible. Maintain a professional online portfolio/website. Try to take up as many research projects as possible. Present at conferences. These activities will help you stand out in a crowd of applications with a similar academic background. Follow blogs and journals for the field of your choice. The smallest things can give you the greatest ideas. One last tip: graduate programs can be hard. Physical and mental health are always important. Nothing is worth giving up on that. Because, in the end, everything works out.
Thank you, Ms. Jalindre, for your excellent insights on North Carolina State University’s Master of Science in Technical Communication program!