We’ve made it through another winter and now we’re anxious for the weather to warm up and the flowers to bloom in the spring. Slowly, we’re coming out of our hibernations and back into the outside world, where we can meet new faces and think of new ideas in technical communication.
As we move into February, I want to take time to thank the community we are a part of. The New England Chapter has almost 200 members, and we know many more people outside the chapter. Their participation in chapter events has been invaluable and has given us insight into how we can better provide for technical communicators, from creating programs and workshops to finding new ways to meet technical communicators in the region. To that end, I’d like to report on some community-building updates.
First, I’d like to welcome two people to our Chapter Council. The first is Steve Jong, who previously served on the Chapter Council and was President of the Chapter. Steve heads our Mentoring Program, where experienced technical communicators can give advice and direction to people who are entering the profession or need guidance in their careers so they can advance to where they want or need to be. In addition, Steve has done a phenomenal job taking pictures at our monthly programs and updating the Chapter’s News website with articles on those programs and other events. The Council is proud to have him back on board.
Second, Jason Dickey has been elected Treasurer. Jason has attended many of our programs and has served on the financial committees of other volunteer organizations. He showed the initiative to volunteer at the end of the November program in Canton, Mass., and the Chapter Council unanimously voted him in. We’re lucky to have Jason on board and we look forward to working with him in keeping up with the Chapter’s finances.
We have two programs that involve expanding our community. Last Wednesday, at Champions Sports Bar and Grill in Cambridge, Mass., was our monthly Scribbling Tipplers meeting, where technical communicators discussed their jobs after work and mingled with their colleagues. This Wednesday, February 22nd, we will meet with Ed Marshall in Bedford, Mass. to see his ideas on how to effectively work remotely with colleagues and collaborate with remote teams to complete work on time and with quality.
We’re going to host InterChange 2017 at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center in Lowell, Mass. on October 20th and 21st, 2017. Having the conference in the fall gives us an opportunity to meet people who may otherwise miss it due to other professional commitments in the spring. It also gives us a chance to meet technical communication students who are just starting another year in their studies. We will be putting out a call for presentations and speakers in due time, and we have some new ideas for events that we think you will enjoy.
Enjoy the rest of the winter, and here’s hoping for a beautiful spring in March!
Hello, STC New England members, fellow STC members, and non-members, welcome to 2017. I’m Paul Duarte, the new president of the New England chapter, and I would like to make my first address a request for help.
I am humbled to be in this position. Just two and a half years ago, I was introduced to this chapter while I was a still a graduate student. I’ve had the chance to serve on the Council for over a year, help set up programs, and serve as Vice President, and now I am President. This chapter has really helped me become the young professional I am today and I want to help continue the amazing work and move the profession forward.
Since our Immediate Past President, Nancy Allison, stepped down last summer, the Council has been trying to run the chapter with a reduced headcount. We have no official committees set up, and the Vice President, Treasury and Secretary roles are vacant, which means that the Council has to do more administrative and program work with fewer people and on an “ad hoc” basis.
We skipped September’s program and Scribbling Tipplers, held November’s program after Thanksgiving, and we’re going to cancel this month’s program as well. Also, due to the reduced resources and time constraints, InterChange will be held in September or October, as opposed to March or April.
I have a vision that the New England Chapter can serve technical communicators beyond our immediate membership. We can include people who work in this region, who interact with technical communication in all its forms, to share ideas and come up with new measures to help others in their careers, or help people transition into new careers by adding to the skills they already have.
I’m reaching out to you to ask you for your help to move the profession forward and to grow our community of technical communicators in New England. Here’s what we need to bring the chapter back to full operation:
- Vice President
- At least one more Council Member
- Volunteers for the following committees:
- Programs (including InterChange)
- Membership Outreach
- Website/IT Management
- News Website & Newsletter Writers
- Advertising and Sponsorship
- Mentor Program participants (Mentors)
Descriptions for these positions are in the Chapter Bylaws.
We need to fill our officer positions immediately. Without them, the chapter cannot function effectively. We need a Treasurer who can monitor the finances and a Secretary who can be responsible for the chapter’s correspondence and meeting records. We also need at least one more Council member, so we have at least four people contributing ideas to the chapter’s programs, outreach, and goals for the year. All officers and Council members meet on the first Wednesday of each month to discuss the chapter’s progress and to plan new events and activities for technical communicators in our region.
In addition, we need volunteers for the committees listed above. These are the lifeblood of our community. They are a way for us to network with each other, meet new members, and share knowledge so that we can take it to our jobs and careers.
All of the above positions are a great way to build or hone skills outside your job or classes, and they require no more time than you want to put into them. If you’re interested in any of these roles, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and discuss what role you want to volunteer for. I’ll be glad to hear from you and I’ll invite you to the next Council meeting, on February 1, 2017, where you can meet the other officers and the chapter Council. Do keep in mind, officer positions must be filled by current STC members registered with the New England Chapter.
Creating a Meaningful, Modern Conference
Our goal for Interchange 2015 is to grow the event into one that fits our modern landscape. The new Interchange must meet the demands of a new world of technology.
Since reviving Interchange in 2013, our small, dedicated crew of volunteers has tried to create a conference the meets the needs of our community. Often we make our best educated guesses on topics such as which days of the week to hold the event, how much to charge, and what kind of topics will best serve you. To help us create a valuable event, this year we decided to go straight to the source and ask you what you want.
Survey & Results
This fall, we created a survey and circulated it through social media in an attempt to reach as many technical communication professionals as we could. We received 52 responses, not only from New England technical communicators, but from around the country.
Your opinions have helped us plan for 2015 as we continue to mold Interchange into a vibrant, modern gathering of technical communication professionals. We want to share these results with you so that you have insight into the decisions that were made based on the survey results.
We’ve made some changes to Interchange this year based on what you indicated you wanted from a regional conference. We hope that the change we have made will better fit your needs, and we hope to see you March 27 & 28, 2015 at UMass Lowell.
UMass Lowell has been an excellent host for the last two years and we were pleased to see that almost everyone who responded wanted to return there. In 2015, we will return to the Lower Locks rooms, where the 2013 conference was held.
The 2014 conference was held on a weekend, and we wondered if weekdays might be preferable for our members. Your responses in the survey were divided down the middle, with 27 preferring week days and 26 preferring a weekend. We hope that we have hit on the right solution: for 2015, Interchange will be held on a Friday and Saturday.
The past two years of Interchange have featured traditional speakers giving presentations on a variety of topics. For 2015 we are considering adding a day of workshops and we asked you if you would attend. There was enough interest in a day of workshops that we are going to try to offer at least one all-day workshop as part of Interchange.
If we agree on anything, it’s that we want food and we want it all day. 74% of respondents prefer to have meals provided. Coffee and snacks throughout the day are a must.
Have a food allergy or dietary restriction? Let us know! In most cases we can accommodate allergies and restrictions.
Some of us are lucky enough to work for an employer that will pay for continuing education and professional development, but not everyone has that luxury. Our community is split about 50/50, with half reporting that their employer will pay the cost, and half reporting that they pay their own way.
The New England Chapter is run like a business with budgets and profit/loss responsibilities. We try to keep the cost of Interchange manageable for our community, while maintaining a self-sustaining event. Your response to our question about costs shows us that you respect the value of the experience and education you receive from Interchange.
In 2014, we set our prices and were able to drastically lower them due to a sponsorship from Adobe. For 2015, we priced the conference to make it a self-sustaining event. Hosting a conference is an expensive endeavor. Renting the space, providing food, IT equipment, and all the little things like printing brochures cost money. We’ve done our best to keep costs down and keep this event affordable for our community.
We are offering 2-day and 1-day registrations, and as always, STC members receive a discount. Visit Interchange Registration for additional information, but note that registration is not open yet.
We are actively looking for sponsors for the event to keep our costs down. If your company is interested in sponsoring Interchange, please contact us!
Would you like to present a session at Interchange?
The call for proposals for speakers is open. Proposals are due January 9, 2015. Visit the Interchange web page to submit your proposal.
We look forward to seeing you at Interchange 2015!
First, let me introduce myself, because I’m the new steward of “The Prez Says” blog — I’m Nancy Allison and I’ll be writing both for and to you for the next STC year.
I’ve been in technical communication for 30 years, and it has been a rewarding ride! I started teaching English as a Second Language, but found that there were few full-time jobs paying a living wage. I needed more consistency than that, and I’d also found that I enjoyed writing teaching materials more than I enjoyed being at the head of a classroom. Someone mentioned technical writing to me, I took one evening course, got hired as an intern, and I was on my way! The fields of teaching ESL and tech writing may seem fairly far apart, but the commitment to successful communication underlies them both.
Of the past 30 years, I’ve spent about 8 as a full-time employee, and 22 as a freelancer. In the years that I freelanced, my greatest professional pleasure was meeting new people, learning a little about different technologies, and avoiding the politics and pressures that come with a full-time job. Now that I’m a full-timer, I find that the pleasure of working on things long-term, and getting to know people well, greatly outweigh the pressures that I feared. There is a real reward in staying in one place long enough to watch initiatives develop over the long haul.
Over the past few years, I got involved in another long-term project: STC New England. If you had told me two years ago that I’d be President of the chapter this year, I would have told you to dream on! But there was a need, and I thought it was worth responding to. With the great council members we have this year, I can’t go wrong.
Our theme this year is “Building Careers, Building Community” and I passionately believe in the importance of helping each other — one of the greatest rewards I receive from working with STC is to look around a room after a program and see clusters of people talking animatedly with each other, and know that I helped make it happen. Another is our monthly Council meetings, when we get through scads of work in two hours, with lots of laughter and high spirits. Our meetings are open, by the way, and they’re always listed on the main page of www.stcnewengland.org. Come and join us — let us know ahead of time, so we can feed you dinner!
All of the services and benefits STC New England provides are done in order to strengthen careers in technical communication, and help people to know and rely on each other. That’s why we work on these initiatives:
- Monthly programs
- Scribbling Tipplers social hour
- Documentation Competition
- Spring Conference
- Outreach to students, employers, and potential members
- Expansion of our websites and social media reach
All of this activity is for your benefit, so please help yourself to these offerings! Come to a council meeting, join a committee, email me with your ideas — get involved! I look forward to meeting you at an event this coming year.
2013-2014 has been a banner year for STC New England. Under Emily Alfson’s inspired leadership, we’ve brought back both the competitions and Interchange! In October, we celebrated STC’s 60th birthday with a groundbreaking program that blended the creativity of technical communication with science fiction. Our programs have been well attended and well received, and we’ve extended our reach globally by offering webinars to enchance most live presentations. The Job Bank keeps a constant stream of new job offerings, and the STC New England News web site came online last fall.
You have responded to these offerings with interest and enthusiasm, and you are the reason the Council of STC New England works so hard. Our entire purpose is to offer professional support to our members in the form of learning opportunities (monthly programs, workshops, Interchange), services (the Job Bank, the news site, and the competitions), and professional outreach (student outreach), and networking (all of the above, plus Scribbling Tipplers).
How We Do It
You might be surprised to find out how few people pulled off all this work: Most of the time, a core of two or at most three determined people was involved in each project.
They did it because:
- They knew technical communicators in New England could use an infusion of professional support
- They are personally committed to strengthening our profession.
- Most of the time, they had fun doing it.
- They had the leadership and support of Emily Alfson, who encouraged us when a more timid leader might have pulled back. Emily’s vision for the Council was instrumental in everything we achieved.
As the new STC New England President, I will continue these initiatives and strengthen our reach. If you have been excited by any of them and want to contribute, please get in touch with me or any Council member, and we will be glad discuss your interests and possible time commitment.
A New Initiative: Speakers’ Boot Camp
Keep your eyes open for a new initiative that is dear to my heart: Speakers’ Boot Camp. I want to help a new generation of people develop professional presentations that they can deliver to STC New England and other organizations as well. If you’ve thought about presenting, but have never had a strong reason to work up a presentation, Speakers’ Boot Camp is for you! Please consider saving a Saturday in October for this workshop – and stay tuned, more information will be coming in the summer!
Elections Are Coming
In the next few weeks, we will be holding an online election for Council members. If you are interested in serving as a Council member, or as a volunteer who is not formally on the Council, please get in touch with any Council member. We will be glad to hear from you.
Come to the Celebration
On June 18, we will hold an end of year celebration at Waxy O’Connor’s in Lexington, MA. Come to hear about the past year, think about the coming year, network, and have some fun. We will have dinner and an open bar. If you haven’t come to a program so far this year, come to this one! It will be a relaxed, happy gathering, and everyone there will understand your tech-writer jokes!
See you there!
It is bittersweet for me to announce that I am relocating to Detroit, Michigan for a new opportunity, and leaving Boston and the New England Chapter of the STC. I will hand over the presidency to the capable hands of Nancy Allison one month early, passing the gavel at the May program meeting. I have a new challenge waiting for me with a new company, and a city and a state that could use a helping hand. It is an exciting time, but also a little sad to leave a place that has become a second home.
Before I go, I want to share how I came to be here in the first place. In 2006, I was transferred from St Louis, Missouri to Billerica, for my job at APC. I knew one person in the area when I moved, and my tech pubs team was located in Denmark, so I was quite on my own in this strange place. I was lucky enough to have my company send me to the 2006 STC Summit, so I ventured to Las Vegas, won $300 in the casinos, and met a few people along the way.
In the elevator at Bally’s, one of passengers saw my name tag, which included my new city of residence, Nashua, New Hampshire. He mentioned that he was president of the Boston chapter of the STC and invited me to attend a meeting. As a new resident, anything “in Boston” meant getting lost, suffering through horrible traffic jams, and taking my life into my hands driving with the locals. I gave it little thought and moved on. Later at the conference, at the Honors Banquet, I recognized the man and went to say hello. While I chatted with the people at the Boston chapter table, some crazy guy with a camera snapped this photo.
Flash forward to 2014. The New England chapter stepped up its social media presence, and Immediate Past President Rick Lippincott posted a link to his Flickr photo album of the 2004 Summit on the New England Facebook page. While browsing through the photos, I stumbled upon a picture of myself, sitting at a table with Greg Bartlett.
Never burn bridges, they say. You never know where you path will take you. Good advice, though overused, and often ignored. In this case, it was true. I had no idea that eight years later, I would be attending the Summit again, this time also in the desert, in Phoenix, Arizona, representing the New England Chapter as President, receiving a Community of Excellence Award with my fellow chapter members. One of whom was Rick Lippincott, the guy who took the photo in 2006.
In two weeks I will be starting a new adventure, this time in my home state of Michigan. I expected to stay in New England for two, maybe three years, and it’s been almost nine. I’ve been fortunate to meet many wonderful people, and a good deal of them through the Boston, Northern New England, and now the New England chapters of the STC. It has been a pleasure to connect with so many wonderful people, and talented colleagues. I will miss you all.
I will continue my role as Immediate Past President remotely and will continue to contribute to the New England chapter, and start will volunteering with the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the STC in the fall.
There is no need to say goodbye. Instead, I will see you soon.
This year, 2014, is the busiest and most active that this STC chapter has seen in a long time. All of this is possible because of the very hard work of a few individuals. The Council has been working hard since the Crossover meeting last August to put on all of these events for our chapter and for the technical communicators of New England. The entire Council has been hard at work this year and it shows with all of the chapter’s accomplishments.
The majority of this effort is done behind the scenes. The many hours of meetings and phone calls, of problem solving and debating, the flood of emails that come when a new challenge arises … it is a lot of work. Why do we do it? Because the rewards are worth it. There is satisfaction in working on a team and working toward goals and finally accomplishing those goals. We are working together toward a greater good for all of us. It doesn’t hurt that John caters our Council meetings with amazing homemade gourmet food. The food is really, really good.
I want to shed some light on all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and tell you about a few of your Council members who have been working hard.
Kurt Kroeber volunteered to join the Council and to chair the 2013 Technical Communication Competition. Kurt had been involved with the competitions in the past, but since they had been dormant for several years, he had to rebuild and reorganize the whole production. With a few guides along the way (thank you, Mark Decker and Mike Nelson) he organized the competitions and coordinated the training and judging locations for the Online competition. I helped out with the Technical Publications category. The result was a successful competition with local entries and entries submitted from throughout the country. Kurt put in a tremendous amount of time and work into the competitions, and we are both happy to wrap up the year with the Awards Presentation at the March chapter program.
Nancy Allison jumped into her Vice presidency with energy and vigor and true dedication to improving the chapter program meetings, finding new and interesting speakers, and reaching out to our wider audience with webinars. She has worked tirelessly this year to put the most successful programs that the chapter has hosted in many years. In addition to the monthly meetings, she also coordinated with Ed Marshall to put on two sold-out workshops in the fall. Nancy has also been volunteering her time to the Interchange committee, and is gearing up to run the chapter elections in the spring.
John Sgammato has become the webmaster, a membership crusader, and the personal chef of the council meetings. He started the Scribbling Tipplers social hour and cultivated it into a huge success. He caters each council meeting with gourmet, homemade, and delicious meals, and hosts us at the office where he works. John has focused a lot of his efforts on maintaining and building our membership, he has convinced some former members to return and has brought many brand-new faces to our events. His efforts are mostly behind the scenes, but the results are visible in the growing audience at our events!
Rick Lippincott has served on the Council for many years now, including two as President (he was the last president of the Boston Chapter and the first president of the New England Chapter), and two as Immediate Past President. Just when we thought he might want some time off, he volunteered to run Interchange! This year, he is growing Interchange into a two-day event with an impressive list of speakers. Over the years, he has guided this chapter through some lean times, through a merger, and into the growing organization that we are today. Rick was also a pioneer in Social Media for our chapter, he often posts as the @STCNewEngland on Twitter.
Art Campbell created the STC New England News Site that you are reading right now. Initially, the Council wanted to bring back a newsletter and Art’s suggestion was to modernize the idea of a newsletter and created this dynamic News site for the chapter. (It is also a great opportunity for us to learn WordPress, a valuable skill that looks good on a resume. Another example of the behind-the-scene-benefit you get in STC NE — you learn new technical skills that might apply to your job or your next job.)
January is a time of renewal. A new year brings a new start and we resolve to eat less, exercise more, take time to relax and smell the roses. It also brings the time to renew your STC membership! Or join or join again, if you were a member in the past but aren’t current.
I am often asked to describe the benefits of being an STC member. In fact, about half of the people who attend our events aren’t STC members and there is often discussion about the value of being a member.
- Support your local chapter. When you become an STC member, and select the join the New England Chapter, a portion of your membership fee comes back to our chapter. We use this money to fund our events, our monthly program meetings our workshops, and InterChange.
- Networking. People. Face to face contact. Perhaps the most valuable resource that I have from the STC is the people. At a local level, our monthly programs are a great way to network with colleagues, meet new people, or put your resume in the hands of someone who is hiring.At the international level, the STC Summit introduces you to technical communicators from all over the world who are dealing with the same challenges that you are – and they might have a solution! I’ve had the pleasure of attending three Summits and I honestly say that I leave them with a renewed sense of excitement for my work and it comes from the people that I meet. The same applies for our local meetings!
- Access to STC resources. When was the last time you learned something new that could improve your work, or help you land the next opportunity? The Society has an impressive library of webinars and education resources. Each month they host several new webinars on various topics related to our field. If you’re feeling a little stuck or like technology is changing faster than you can keep up, try attending a webinar and keep your skills sharp.
The holidays are upon us. This is a time of celebration and family. And crowded parking lots, long lines at every store, and holiday music creeping into our ears every place we go. Before you know it, you’re putting lights on the house humming Jingle Bells to yourself until your fingertips start to freeze while sipping on a gingerbread latte. These times can also be a little stressful, so here is our Technical Writer’s Holiday Survival Guide to get you through the holidays with minimal stress, and maybe even a little relaxation.
Every day the mail carrier brings a new stack of holiday greetings, tidings of joy, and news of family and friends near and far. And since you are still in editor mode from your 60-hour week, you can’t help but to analyze every one of them for grammatical errors. Come on, admit it! Somewhere in between season’s greetings, school pictures of children, and that one relative who sends a detailed account of every single activity the family did in the past year, you find yourself with red pen in hand, adding commas and striking misused gerunds.
Put the pen down. Enjoy the news from near and far that actually arrives in the mail. Real mail. Paper mail! Let the typos go and take a deep breath. There is no deadline to meet, just enjoy!
The holiday festivities abound with parties, happy hours, dinners, buffets, and cookies everywhere! At these gatherings, we celebrate and reconnect. Until someone asks you what you do. You cringe, knowing what is coming next.
“Well, I’m a technical writer.”
“Right. So… what do you do?”
“Well, to put it simply, I write instruction manuals.”
“You know no one reads those, right?”
We’ve all had that conversation. Take this as the perfect opportunity to refill your glass of eggnog and to bite the head off another gingerbread cookie.
Those Holiday Pounds
All of these social gatherings inevitably lead to the dreaded holiday weight gain. Fear not! Before 2014 even settles in, you will be right back to chasing your SMEs, furiously typing away to meet the next deadline, and pulling your hair out when that engineer asks why you can’t just cut-and-paste your content from the product spec?
If that doesn’t work off those gingerbread cookie calories, fear not! The next Nor’easter is right around the corner.
Lights! Inflatables Santas riding polar bears! Your neighbors ultra-megawatt display that lights up the entire street (and shines right in your window!) The outdoor holiday decorations are in full swing.
But your lights are up first and fastest on your block! Why? Because you probably planned your design, checked the inventory from last year’s lights, bought some new ones, and pulled out the diagram of the lighting set up that you did last year!
Your lights from last year still work because you stored them properly, just as it said in the instructions! No burned out bulbs here, you knew to connect only three strings together before blowing a fuse?
Yup, that was in the instructions too! No mismatched, half-blinking, half-solid, half-burned out strings of lights on your house.
You got all that done on time, on budget, and within the power rating of your home circuit because, as a technical writer, you are unfailingly organized, efficient, logical, and detail-oriented. And you read the manual!
Happy Holidays from STC New England!