PSU Alumna Michele Curtis in her office at Caterpillar, Inc.
Michele Curtis, Service Information Engineer

Caterpillar, Inc., Peoria, Illinois
2001 B.S.T. in Automotive Technology
Minors in Technical Writing and Business Administration

My job at Caterpillar Inc. as a Service Information Engineer consists of developing and electronically authoring service information for delivery to dealers and customers worldwide. The materials we author in the Parts and Service Information Development Division within the Product Support Division include

  • Operation and Maintenance Manuals
  • System Operation Manuals
  • Testing and Adjusting Manuals
  • Specification Manuals
  • Disassembly and Assembly Manuals
  • Service Magazines
  • Technical Bulletins
  • Troubleshooting Guides (Hydraulic, Electric, and Mechanical)
  • Hydraulic and Electrical Schematics

I have authored System Operation, Testing and Adjusting, Specification, Disassembly and Assembly, Service Magazines, and Operation and Maintenance Manuals on Large Wheel Loaders and Forestry Products. Most of my experience within Large Wheel Loaders and Forestry Products has been with the Power Train systems of these machines. In most cases, authors become product experts by the time they submit their manuals.

PSU Alumna Michele Curtis standing in front of a large Caterpillar machine Some of my duties include working with personnel at various product business locations, some of which require travel to manufacturing and/or field sites to conduct hands-on verification of test procedures or product system literature. Some of the places I have visited are Tinaja Hills Proving Grounds outside Tucson, Arizona, our manufacturing plant in Soderhamn, Sweden, and a mountaintop removal coal mine site outside Logan, West Virginia.

Most of the manuals I have authored have been revisions to the original manuals. During a revision, I add all the updated information and correct any information if needed. Often, though, Caterpillar will introduce a completely new machine, and a manual must be constructed from scratch. These new manuals can be very challenging because deadlines must be met and information can sometimes be hard to acquire. Included in our manuals along with the text are hundreds of photos and graphics. I have become fairly handy with a digital camera and with photo editing. It is important to take several photos on site because access to unique machines can be very difficult. The system we use for editing photos and graphics is Canvas; of course, Caterpillar has put their tweak on it to fit the needs of the authors.

This job has been an excellent learning experience. I spent the first six weeks in training learning all of the computer systems and basics of authoring the information. Caterpillar has their own system that supports the authoring of all service manuals; they even have their own language, Caterpillar Technical English (CTE).

Many students from Pitt State have joined Caterpillar, Inc. in the last 10 years. Now there are over 20 alumni here, and most of them started out as Service Information Engineers. It is not necessary to have a technical degree to work as an author. Several other authors have Business and English degrees. However, it is crucial to have the desire to learn about the machines and learn how diesel engines, hydraulics, and other systems on heavy equipment work. The entire division of Service Information Engineers includes about seven sections, and each section employs about 15 authors. Each section works on a particular family of machine or engine products.

Recently I moved out of Service Information and into our North American Commercial Division as a Marketing Rep. Caterpillar, Inc. is a huge company and offers many avenues of career development. If you have any questions about Technical Writing, being a Service Information Engineer, or Caterpillar in general please feel free to e-mail me anytime.