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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.
Madison Bales lives and works in Northern California, where she is a retail store manager for Starbucks Coffee Company. This week she is graduating Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a bachelor of science degree in technical communication and a minor in media analysis from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“The Starbucks College Achievement Plan [a partnership between Starbucks and ASU] has allowed me to complete my degree free of charge,” Bales explained.
She is excited to practice the craft of technical communication, in which she finds both passion and purpose.
"Technical communication is all about producing workplace communication that makes technical information understandable and available to many audiences. I chose this major because I want to help make people's daily jobs easier," Bales said. "Thanks to developing technologies, the way we engage each other is evolving: the world is getting smaller and public attentions spans are getting shorter—which means storytelling and brevity skills have never been more valued! I truly enjoy creating descriptions, instructions, presentations, training materials and other documents that have the potential to make technical information engaging for its readers," she continued. "At the very root of being a technical writer are collaboration and consultation skills, since most projects are sharing knowledge the writer may not possess. It's a very interesting way to learn about various occupation fields and communication media choices!"
She said that some of her favorite assignments were ones that required she work with real-world clients. For example, Bales created a full proposal for a training plan for a business: she conducted a needs assessment; researched the company's history, values and successes; developied the content to be taught; and determined the training methods and timeframes. For another client she made comprehensive edits to a union contract and wrote a letter of transmittal.
"The client brought my findings to her board for review and, ultimately, my changes were adopted," Bales said. "The client was very grateful!
“I worked full-time while schooling full-time and I have a piece of advice for those juggling work and school: utilize the professionals in your personal support group to provide perspective and advice,” Bales said. “So many of my projects were collaborative with friends, mentors and peers — this has taught me more about these people and now I appreciate them even more!”
Bales offered some additional insights about her ASU experience.
Question: Why did you choose ASU?
Answer: My scholarship is why I came to ASU, and I stayed because of the incredible level of professionalism and passion from the faculty and administration. ASU is undoubtedly invested in its students, and the impeccable online degree program is what made my education a success.
Q: What’s something you learned while studying with ASU that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: Along the way, I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy the discipline of project management and I may continue further in this direction at a later date. My professors were professional, passionate about their curriculum, inspiring, and invested in my success. I now have professional connections with a few of my most engaging professors and I look forward to utilizing them as a resource in the future.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Most technical communication jobs require both a degree and knowledge in a specialized field. I've been with my company for 13 years and I plan to apply my degree while continuing to work for Starbucks. I've always enjoyed writing, and contributing to the success of my company while doing something I love is a skill that will take me many places. I am most interested in our departments of Retail Operations, Training & Development, Human Resources and Labor Relations.