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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Many of us dread reading instruction booklets but few of us have considered whose job it is to write them. Certainly, a well-crafted manual is a thing of immense usefulness, if not beauty. Enter, the technical writer, a superhero for our time, easily able to translate complex issues into layperson terms.
Arizona State University student Seth Zimmerer, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English (writing, rhetorics and literacies) with a minor in technical communication, is one such hero. The Chandler, Arizona, native hopes to break into the burgeoning field of technical writing upon his graduation this December.
Zimmerer does not feel intimidated or bored by sifting through what some might term “minutia.” On the contrary — he relishes it. As the knowledge gap between creator and consumer widens, demand for capable technical writers will only grow. Zimmerer plans to leverage his way with words and his listening ear to forge a path in helping others transform ideas into language.
We caught up with Zimmerer to ask a few more questions about how he arrived at his academic destination and how he decided what’s next.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?
Answer: My “aha” moment took me longer to achieve than others. Ever since I was young, I knew that I had the capacity to be a good, well-rounded writer. Naturally, I drifted towards classes and subjects that dealt with writing and dissecting literature. At ASU, I initially found myself in film school learning about storytelling and writing scripts. Then, I switched to English with the intention of teaching college and helping others with their writing. It wasn’t until I took a business writing class when the light bulb flickered on and I discovered that business writing, technical writing to be specific, was right up my alley. Writing complex topics and communicating them in a simple manner for others was the perfect fit, so I added a technical communication minor my junior year and am on the path to becoming a full-time tech writer after school.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific moment that helped change my perspective because each day, really, offered something fresh and exciting. I come from a small high school where many people think the same way, so coming to a university as large as ASU was prime for daily experiences which changed my perspective on social issues, cultural differences and the overall way I perceive the world.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: To be honest, I chose ASU because it was close to home. But over the course of my nine semesters here, the reason I stayed is because ASU really did feel like a new home to me. The sense of community found in classrooms and clubs and on-campus jobs is one that I can’t imagine finding elsewhere and helped me feel comfortable as I navigated college life.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Travis Franks (a former teaching assistant in English), one of the first faces I encountered my first week of school, showed me the power of change and demanding a better world. On syllabus day in ENG 105, he had us write down an issue on a notecard which we thought was important. Funny enough, this was the most difficult assignment for me because I didn’t really care about any issues. The remainder of the semester was us focusing on issues that permeate society, and Franks showed us that if we aren’t satisfied with something, we really do have the capacity to call for change. Franks taught me the importance of actually caring about something and inspiring change.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out. Quite frankly, nobody does. Even after we graduate, we are still figuring out our lives, what our quirks are, what interests us, what makes us tick, what we want out of life. It took me three years to finally add a minor that helped me feel comfortable with what I want to do after college. But even then, I’m keeping the door open and know that the person I am right now may be vastly different in five years. So be willing to embrace change, and don’t sweat it if you don’t have it figured out, it’ll come to you — and you may not even realize it when it does.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The Secret Garden — for those of you that know — offers a slice of tranquility in an otherwise populated campus. It is the perfect spot to do homework, read a book, relax or eat a snack in between classes. Occasionally, someone will throw an event in the garden. If you haven’t checked out the garden yet, do it.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Finding a full-time technical writing gig somewhere in Arizona is number one on the list along with getting an apartment and a new car. After a year or so, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself out of state somewhere doing technical writing or whatever else life has in store for me.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If we’re talking larger issues, I would donate to any organization that is fighting the climate crisis. Our time is ticking, so contributing to any group that would help alleviate the effects we’ve brought about to our planet sounds like the most practical thing to do.