Message from STC Office and Board Candidate, Lisa Pappas

lisa.jpgDirector-at-Large Candidate

by Lisa Pappas, Candidate for Director-at-Large

STC Leadership Challenge: Reaching Out and Reaching In

As a member of STC and the Carolina Chapter for nearly twenty years, I have witnessed dramatic change in our profession. While technical communicators have always worn many hats, now we seem to have exchanged classic fedoras for propeller beanies. As a candidate for the Director-at-Large position, I want to share with you my vision of STC’s leadership challenge.

In response to globalization, out-sourcing, and the ever-increasing rate of technology change, our profession has been diversifying. We still share attributes, but opportunities for specialization have multiplied. The effect on STC has been, I fear, to disperse group identity and shared mission. In the next few years, to evolve and thrive, I believe that Society leadership must ask its membership both to reach out and in.

We talk of “telling our powerful story,” but to whom? We need to raise awareness of our organization, our profession, and the value both provide. One way to do so is to reach out to related organizations. Many STC members also belong to other professional organizations, such as Usability Professionals Association (UPA) and American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). I propose that joint members engage in cross-organization publications. For example, in April 2007, Karen Mardahl, my co-manager in the AccessAbility SIG, and I submitted an article for the UPA newsletter, The Voice (see “Seeking an Accessible and Usable Survey Tool” available: http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/upa_publications/upa_voice/volumes/2007/april/access.html). Efforts such as this can help other professionals learn about our society and recognize what we offer.

We also need to raise awareness of our value to employers of technical communicators, including organizations that contract with technical communication consultants. One way is by recognizing members’ contributions and alerting employers to those. I would also like to see the Society sponsor research to provide quantitative evidence of added value. For example, could we demonstrate that technical publications written and edited with translation in mind were in fact more efficient and less costly to translate?

A third way that we should reach out is through volunteerism. Our technical communication skills can be invaluable to non-profits who might not otherwise have those skills. For instance, we could encourage Society members to contribute to standards organizations. I have, for some months now, been an invited expert of the W3C Protocols and Formats working group, as an editor on the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) suite (see WAI-ARIA Introduction, available: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria). Through that effort, I have introduced others to Society for Technical Communication and demonstrated the value a technical communicator can contribute.

In addition to reaching out, however, I believe very strongly that the STC leadership must reach in. Our membership is diverse and for the Society to remain relevant and resilient, we must evolve to meet those disparate needs. One way diversity is served is through the virtual communities, our SIGs. We need to do a better job of supporting these virtual communities in order to retain and grow membership and to strengthen our group identity.

Drawing on my extensive experience as a technical communicator, I want to contribute actively to our Society’s evolution. I ask for your vote in March. To learn more about me: