While I am late I thought I would still my 2 cents into the pile.
As was mentioned before, and now you are encountering, Tech Artist means a lot of things to different people. I am no different. But being a tech artist is about attitude, “Are you willing to do WHATEVER it takes to get the art in the game or deliver the art to film?”. Are you autonomous and pro-active? If you can honestly answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you are a tech artist. That was simple
The next part is not so simple. How do you get the rest of the world to recognize what kind of TA you want to be? There are just so many options! You can be as technical as you want to be or as creative as you want to be. The best programmers I have ever encountered were TAs. Similarly, the best fine artists I have ever taught were TAs. You can be as social or as isolated as you want to be. Do you want to work with one type of asset or do you want to be involved with all of the assets? The entire spectrum is yours. Ultimately, if you are not ONLY creating motion graphics, keyframe animating characters, or Modeling and painting characters, props and environments, then you might be considered as a tech artist. This is where you really need to dig deep into your soul and decide who do you want to be, for the moment.
When you work as a tech artist, you’ll be working in one of 4 topic areas: Pipeline, Animation/Rigging, VFX or lighting/Rendering. (yes I realize there are technical animators that deal with everything from Hair to MOCAP to procedural motion … but that is still not keyframe animation). There is a fifth area and I consider them as unicorns. These are the rare breed who have spent 5 years doing each of these 4 catagories, professionally. These folks can call themselves generalists. When you have 20 years of professional experience and have mastered each of the 4 topic areas, you are generalist.
The next question is where do you want to work? If you must be a generalist and you don’t have that 20 years of experience, you can’t work in a AAA studio. Nothing fries HR brains more than generalists. You justy can’t exist in their versions of reality. Of course there are generalists working in AAA studios but they did not go through HR on the way in. They used their years of professional connections to get their job. If you must be a generalist, stick with smaller studios. They love and appreciate generalists. Most importantly, they know what to do with them.
Long story short, Market yourself exclusively as the type of tech artist you want to be and the oportunities will open for you. You must brand yourself as a tech artist then start doing tech artist things. If you have to go in as a specific artist then evolve into a tech artist role … go for it. Of course you’ll want to do what Theodox sugested and learn everything you possibly can. Always be growing and learning