Making Technical Writers

As I took my motorcycle back to Lisbon though the leisurely N1 road on the afternoon of Jun 18th, the words of two former students kept coming back to my mind.

I like my new job so much that it doesn't feel like work at all!
— A formerly demotivated mother of three
that had been out of the job market for thirteen years.

Somehow, our humble Technical Communication course had transformed these students profoundly. They proudly gave testimony of that transformation for the benefit and inspiration of this year's students, at the face-to-face workshop that closed months of online-only classes. In fact, we can now state with confidence that the students that engage with the course succeed in getting work in the area.

How did we get here?

In 2009, Rosário Durão proposed a Post-Graduate Course to Faculdade de Letras. The course was never approved, much to her regret.

In 13-Nov-2013, during a lunch to debrief the meetups of Technical Writers at Lisbon, Jaime Vasconcelos suggested that the group could start formal training in the area.

During 2015, I found that ISCTE was not interested in the area. And while a Technical Communication course would fit FCSH perfectly, it would also have to be negotiated between departments, at a time when University departments were eagerly protecting the teaching hours of their own teachers.

The Business School of P.PORTO (ISCAP), however, was now offering an introductory Technical Writing module as part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation Tools.

title When I joined Farfetch at the end of 2016, I also started to travel to Porto on a regular basis. My presence in Porto led to several informal meetings with APCOMTEC leadership and ISCAP and between 2017 and 2018 we had some meetings to create the contents of a future Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Communication.

In 2018, ISCAP and APCOMTEC organized a Summer School in Technical Communicationunder the auspices of TCeurope. The introductory module by João Ribeiro became the backbone of the Summer School, complemented with modules by fellow communicators from France and Finland. Next year, I also chipped in and thought my experience on using comics for business. The Summer School showed that the demand for training went far beyond the students of translation at ISCAP.

Also in 2018, APCOMTEC proposed to ISCAP a Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Communication, drawing on the expertise gathered around APCOMTEC from Synopsys, Bosch, and Farfetch. To save resources, the course shares some modules with the existing Postgraduate Diploma in Specialized Translation and Translation Tools.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Technical Communication had its first edition in the academic year 2019-2020, and follow-up editions in 2021 and 2022. Most students are middle-aged working professionals looking to improve their careers, as opposed to recent graduates looking for a specialization. The course is not really popular: we had just sixteen students in three years. However, these students succeed in becoming employed as technical communicators. The exception so far are the two students that, for personal and work reasons, failed to complete the course.

What now?

You might be next.

Technical Communicators often have a varied work experience that taught them to understand and respect others, and to handle a bit of ambiguity. They enjoy making the right questions to get the details right.

The Summer School is a very good way to figure out if you will fit in. For a modest investment and one week of your time, you will learn from several experts, and then practice hands-on in a friendly environment with plenty of feedback. If you enjoy the experience, you may then want to take the matter seriously and join the Post-Graduate Course on Technical Communication. Again, several experts, plenty of hands-on practice and advice. And you will be ready to restart your career as a Technical Communicator and, perhaps, say the same words: "I like my new job so much that it doesn't feel like work at all."

We'll be glad to help you, or someone that you care for.

— Joaquim Baptista

PS: Thanks to Alexandra Abuquerque for clarifying some details and for organizing everything on short notice.

PPS: My motorcycle meditation on N1 might not be a minor detail at all, and might match the long musings of Tom Johnson.

PPPS: Have you ever seen Nietzsche's typewriter, a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball?

APCOMTEC Summer School 2022 banner

APCOMTEC Summer School 2022

A face-to-face week at ISCAP, Porto, between July 11th and 15th.
The official language is English.

The Summer School features the following workshops:

  1. Basics of Technical Communication, by João Ribeiro, Synopsys (PT) — Monday morning.
  2. Visual Highlight of Features, by Joaquim Baptista, Farfetch (PT) — Tuesday morning.
  3. Creativity & Freedom in Technical Communication, by Thomas Scholz, Bosch Thermotechnology (DE) — Tuesday afternoon.
  4. Simplified Technical English, by Pia Karasjärvi, STVI (FI) — Wednesday morning.
  5. Project, monitored by Pia Karasjärvi, STVI (FI) and Nick Hill, Here (DE) — Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday morning.

The full program also includes:

  • A boat cruise and a visit to the Port wine cellars (Monday afternoon).
  • A networking dinner (Thursday evening).


If you already work as a Technical Communicator, consider attending the workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. You might register and attend just a few workshops, or you can linger through the week and consolidate your knowledge while you network with teachers and other practitioners.

If you are wondering about a career change, attending this Summer School is an unusual opportunity to learn and network with practitioners. In this informal sharing environment, you will discover the work and the people that enjoy that work. Your next learning experience might be the Post-Graduate Course in Technical Communication at ISCAP. Students that engage with this after work course have been securing jobs in the area.

If you just like to make yourself clear, this Summer School creates a welcoming environment where you can learn and practice with other professionals. Technical Communication traditionally attracts people from a variery of backgrounds that discover work that is both challenging and fulfilling, with good career opportunities.


APCOMTEC Summer School 2022
Details of the Summer School, including the Registration Form.
TCeurope Summer School: Visual Highlights of Features
Report on my participation in 2019 on the TCeurope Summer School.
Post-Graduate Course on Technical Communication
Details of the after-work course.