MA/MS in Technical and Professional Writing: Alumni

Ken Blom
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2017

After completing his undergraduate studies in English, Ken decided to attend the Technical and Professional Writing Master’s program to gain insider knowledge and learn business skills that would allow him to have a career in writing. He currently works with UnitedHealth Group as a research consultant where he designs, implements and creates documentation for healthcare-related research projects. Ken cites the program with preparing him to collaborate on projects with a wide variety of people in diverse backgrounds, including software developers, doctors, data scientists, statisticians and more. Specific learned skills that have been helpful in his professional life include technical editing, document design and courses that incorporated professional development. Ken encourages graduates to dress, act and communicate like a professional, and to be confident and know their worth when pursuing roles in technical writing.

Cathy Heslin
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2017

As a professional who had worked in graphic design fields for years, Cathy Heslin decided to attend Portland State University for the Technical and Professional Writing Master’s program while concurrently getting an MBA. Cathy now works at The Fiction Tribe, a creative agency in Portland where she serves as an account manager, with responsibilities including copywriting, social media and proofreading, among many other duties. Looking back, she highlights the usefulness of learning XML as well as the practicality of the technical-based coursework as key points, stating that, “Good writing is only half of what you need to be successful in your job.” Cathy encourages current students to attend panel discussions and to seek extracurricular opportunities within the program, as they are a great resource which can lead to future connections.

Aaron Thayer
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2015 

Aaron Thayer is a technical writer with Smarsh, a SaaS company with offices in Portland. His work there consists of creating, editing and planning content, including generating HTML content for the web and developing internal and external documentation for their knowledge base. During his time in the Technical and Professional Writing program at PSU, Aaron appreciated his courses in information architecture and content strategy, and he credits the program with:

  • Helping him see multiple paths to solve a documentation problem
  • Putting the end user’s usability in mind
  • Focusing on business limitations within an organization’s vision and available resources

Michelle Malkasian
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2015 

Michelle has been a nerd since birth and has been writing nearly as long, so when she discovered the two could be merged in technical communication, she dove in headfirst and never looked back. She is currently employed as the Technical Content Specialist in PSU's Office of Information Technology and manages all of the University's IT help resources. She is passionate about producing accessible content, creating innovative web development solutions, and promoting the advancement of women in STEM fields.

According to Michelle, "being in PSU’s program gave me an opportunity to develop a wide range of technical communication skills that I use on the job every day. Beyond the learning I did in the classroom and internships, I was able to network with current industry leaders and build relationships with future colleagues who sat beside me in class. My time in the program built the foundation I needed to hit the ground running in the techcomm industry."

Tony Andersen
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2014 

Since finishing the PSU Technical and Professional Writing program, Tony Andersen has become the director of marketing and public relationships for Lifeafar, located in Medellin, Colombia. Tony manages a team of six, who are responsible for international exposure, boosting occupancy rates for vacation rental portfolios and attracting global investors. The biggest takeaway for Tony from the program was learning, as he calls it, “The number one most important lesson for professional writers: less is more and say it better.” Tony encourages students to not only hone their writing skills, but to sharpen their graphic design skills as well, in order to stand out beyond other writing professionals. For current and future students, he advises staying active within the program and recommends using every class as a stepping stone for the future.

John Morrison
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2013 

John Morrison is a Senior Technical Writer for CDI Corporation, an East-coast based company that places IT specialists, technical communicators, and Web content developers with client companies worldwide. Morrison serves in an information architecture, content strategy, and DITA authoring role with Intel in Hillsboro and is a full-time, salaried employee of CDI. CDI manages the Web space, much of which is centered in Hillsboro, and employs approximately 140 people in Web-related roles at Intel.

Morrison attributes his recent good fortune to:

  • Selecting PSU’s Technical and Professional Writing program for a mid-career transition
  • Attending STC-WVC meetings while in grad school and joining the administrative council when approached about a position
  • Attending industry trade conferences, such as LavaCon, while in graduate school, and the STC Summit in 2014 in Columbus, Ohio
  • Having great friends and colleagues!

Melissa Amos
MS in Professional and Technical Writing, 2010 

Melissa Amos is an experienced technical writer with a passion for crafting useful, compelling communication. She's currently employed at Puppet Labs, where she documents enterprise software, consults on user interface text, and helps develop standards and processes for the technical publications team. Previously, she worked at McAfee/Intel Security, where she served as lead technical writer for an enterprise mobile product. An interest inventory she took as an undergrad suggested technical writer as one of her top career choices; she didn't pay attention at the time, but stumbled into her dream job anyway. 

For Melissa, PSU’s Professional and Technical Writing program helped her to: 

  • Build a strong foundation of technical writing principles. 
  • Customize a specialization -- usability and information architecture that fit her  interests and career goals. 
  • Make connections with other technical communicators. The program indirectly led to her first official job as a technical writer, and has provided other opportunities since.