The Prez Says:

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Paul Duarte

Messages and missives from STC New England President Paul Duarte

Building Our Community

Paul Duarte : February 18, 2017 11:18 pm : BlogArticles, News

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STC New England President Paul Duarte

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.

Headshot of Steven JongSTC

Our new Council member, Steve Jong

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.

Headshot of Jason Dickey

Our new Treasurer, Jason Dickey

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!

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A New Year, a New Prez, and a Request for Help

Paul Duarte : January 6, 2017 11:55 pm : BlogArticles, News

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Paul Duarte

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
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • 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 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.

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You Spoke, We Listened – Results from the Interchange Conference Survey

Emily Alfson : December 18, 2014 2:29 pm : BlogArticles, InterChange, News

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.

Where & When 

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.

Workshops & Sessions 

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.

Feed Us

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.

Dollars & Cents 

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!

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The Prez Says: Looking Down The Road At The Year To Come

Nancy Allison : September 8, 2014 8:41 pm : BlogArticles

Nancy Allison

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 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
  • Workshops
  • 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.

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Looking Ahead: New Prez Says Keep It Up And Add More Next Year

Nancy Allison : June 15, 2014 7:23 pm : BlogArticles

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.

And finally,

  • 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!

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