Volume 42, Issue 6

February 2003


Features

Seven Habits of Highly Effective STC Members

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Analyst, Hewlett-Packard Company

Much has been said about Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People since its publication over a decade ago. Corporations buy the book for their managers, and everyone from politicians to authors, CEOs, and entertainers sing its praises.

Recently, a colleague of mine sent me an article that piqued my interest: "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers," by Kathryn Riley. Riley provides an insightful interpretation of Covey's seven habits as they apply to writers. Her article has inspired me to come up with my own "Seven Habits of Highly Effective STC Members." Continue reading to discover seven sure-fire ways to get the most out of your STC activity (and the key word is activity).

Habit 1: Attend Meetings Regularly

Lurking on chapter mailing lists can get you only so far. Put a face to your name and introduce yourself to your fellow communicators! We STCers love the art of gabbing. It's a passion. And we like to share our passions. Is the meeting topic one that you already know inside and out? Go anyway. You never know what you'll learn from your peers at an STC meeting. Who knows? You might even manage to have some fun.

Habit 2: Volunteer for Chapter Committees

Your local chapter could not exist without people like you. Join it. Foster it. Cultivate it. Care for it! I can't count how many times fellow STC members have shared stories about how their volunteer time has benefited them ten, twenty, or even one hundred fold. Your STC chapter is not only a means to strengthen you skill set and resumé material, it's also a way to truly impact the lives of others.

Habit 3: Write for Your Chapter Newsletter

Again, your chapter newsletter would not exist without submissions from chapter members. As a paying member of the STC, you invest in your chapter newsletter. How many investments thrive without regular contribution? Whether you're a new or senior member, publishing your name in front of your colleagues is never a bad thing. Added bonus: newsletter writing is a great way to bolster your portfolio!

Habit 4: Support Your Local and Regional Student Chapters

I cannot say enough about how important it is to support aspiring technical communicators. With my own student experience so fresh in my memory still, I can testify to the incredible impact that my STC mentors have had on my career. In fact, were it not for my STC mentors, I would not be in STC and I would not be a writer. I'm not asking you to donate your pension plans! Share your experiences, offer your guidance, and encourage colleagues to participate in STC.

Habit 5: Attend Annual Conferences

Attend the STC Annual Conference at least once every three years. Sure, it's best to go every year, but in the real world, not all of us can afford that investment every year (which is why we have Habit 6). The Annual Conference is your opportunity to expand your horizons beyond your chapter or region. The sheer scope of the conference guarantees that you will meet valuable contacts (from all over the world) and learn something new.

Habit 6: Attend Regional Conferences

Attendance at regional conferences is particularly important if you can't make that year's Annual Conference. Try to attend your regional conference every other year. It gives you an opportunity to graduate from smaller, more focused chapter meetings to a larger gathering with more topics.

Habit 7: Join Another Professional Society (in Addition to STC)

Put simply, don't put all of your eggs in one basket. STC is a dynamic organization because our members are so knowledgeable and diverse. By joining and maintaining activity in other organizations, you're broadening not only your horizon but also that of STC.

References


And the Winners Are . . .

STC Competition Awards

by Deborah Crockett, Documentation Project Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company

Hmmm...how many entries would we receive this year? Year before last there were 161, and last year there were 135. With an economy that is still down, how many would there be? Surprisingly, there were 133 entries, only two fewer than last year, for STC Houston to ship to Georgia for judging.

STC Atlanta judged our entries and awarded only 58 awards, as compared to 84 awarded last year by the Southwestern Ohio chapter.

This year's awards included 36 Merit, 19 Excellence, and three Distinguished Technical Communication awards. The Distinguished entries were sent on for international judging.

The presentations were made on Friday, February 7, at the 2003 Awards Banquet held at the Hilton Houston Westchase & Towers. The committee tried something different this year. It not only sent letters telling winners in advance that they had won, it also told winners exactly what award they would receive.

Hats off to Deborah Silvi, general manager of competitions, and her team, who worked tirelessly for eight months to ensure that the competition and banquet were a success. Special commendation goes to

Click here to see the winners.


Texas Tech Job Fair

by Aubrey L. Hardman, President, Texas Tech University Student Chapter

The Texas Tech University student chapter is hosting its Annual Technical Communication Job Fair on Friday, March 7, at Texas Tech University.

This year, the TTU Technical Communication Program has eight undergraduate students (BA) and four graduate students (MA) who will be graduating in May and are looking for employment. Also, other BA and MA students who are not graduating this May are seeking industry experience through internships. They are potential future candidates for positions, so they will value learning of company expectations for employees while there is still time for them to adapt their course schedules to meet company goals. All of these students are eager to enter industry and make valuable contributions to organizations.

Since 1976, Texas Tech has offered the most comprehensive technical communication program in Texas and has a long history of student achievement. The students have established the reputation of making successful contributions to many organizations because of the skills they gain from the TTU Technical Communication Program.

According to Joy Goodreau, Team Lead in Information Development of the Linux Technology Center at IBM, "By practicing my writing skills in different situations while in TTU's program, I was able to make better use of IBM's investment in me by taking on writing projects immediately and with little supervision." As Goodreau indicates, the TTU Technical Communication Program goes above and beyond other programs and professions in training its students to become professional, effective, and efficient writers.

Scott Sellers, an Information Developer at BMC Software, supports this program when he says, "My focused coursework instilled process basics that give me an advantage against writers who earned degrees in journalism or even technical writing degrees from other programs."

The students who graduate from the TTU Technical Communication Program truly shine, and companies will benefit from participating in this year's Job Fair. For registration and more information, visit our web site at www.english.ttu.edu/stc/if/if_home.htm.

Regular Features

Volunteer of the Month–Phaedra Cook

by Dorothy Murray, Independent Contractor

Phaedra Cook is the STC Houston Volunteer of the Month for February for her work on the awards competition. She helped recruit judges, build judging teams and scheduled attendees for the judging workshop. Phaedra also built the master lists of winning entry information, verified contributor and entry information and assisted with the banquet set-up.

As a new member, Phaedra got involved and met other STC members by volunteering. Deborah Silvi, general mangager of the competitions, praises her enthusiasm and competence: "Phaedra has been my right-hand person thoughout this year's competitions. In addtion to her regular committee activities, Phaedra saw gaps in several processes and worked to resolve the issues and make the activities successful. She identified areas where I needed help before I knew I needed help, and helped me accomplish the tasks. Phaedra was a large part of the success of this year's competitions."

Phaedra was a Journalism major at the University of Houston and then studied graphics and layout design at Houston Community College. She earned a Certificate in Technical Communication in 2000. She now owns a consulting company, Gecko Media, that provides both documentation and documentation design. The company submitted entries in all three of this year's competitions: Technical Art, Online Communication, and Technical Publications. It won several awards, including Best of Show in the Technical Art competition (Houston entries were judged by STC Atlanta).

Phaedra's designs are displayed on Melanie G. Flanders' web site, www.knowledgemastersinc.com. Melanie wrote the content, and Phaedra designed the site, as well as the cover of its featured book, Unleashing the Power of FrameMaker 6.0: Mastering the Basics.

When she is not creating award-winning designs, Phaedra explores Houston for good ethnic restaurants. She is particularly fond of Indian food. A serious animal lover, she volunteers with Homeless and Orphaned Pets Endeavor (HOPE) and fosters homeless dogs.

We are pleased to recognize Phaedra as STC Houston Volunteer of the Month, and we would like to encourage other new members to become active by volunteering.


Director-Sponsor Report

Interesting Times, Interesting Measures

by Rahel Bailie, Director-Sponsor, Region 7

We've been living in "interesting" times, as the saying goes, and many of us feel that we've had about as much interest as we can tolerate, thank you very much. Chapter meeting attendance has been down, and the popularity of technical presentations has decreased while the popularity of career cafes and career management days has increased. In any conversation between three technical communicators, at least one is unemployed, about to be unemployed, or thinking about a career change.

So, after attending the first STC board meeting of 2003, I've returned with renewed hope about the employment scene and have chosen to pass along a little good news to start the year off. Between meeting sessions, we (board members from the various corners of North America) greet one another with the usual gambit, "Hi, how have you been? How's business?" We trade notes on the health of our local chapters, the chapters in our region, and the status of our own employment situations. My conclusion is that things are getting better.

My optimism is cautious. Companies tend to stay battened down, and their willingness to spend on technical communication is a tenuous commitment at best. Some companies are outsourcing their work. Others are looking for writers to work at bargain-basement salaries. A number of companies are looking outside of North America for their technical communication needs.

Yet, despite these trends, I hear stories that encourage me. A writer mentions that her temporary contract is rolling over to regular employee status. A contractor has lined up work for the first time in months. Someone else's company is stabilizing and might add a new person during the coming year. Demand seems to be on the rise.

The job market won't be the same as the heyday of the 90s. In fact, the job market might never look the same again. It might get better, but in a different way, a changed way. How we cope with those changes will indicate our success in responding to the new marketplace. Are we willing to look beyond our core skills to our extended skill sets? Can we look at the trends and determine how we can fit? If we've let our skills fall behind, are we ready to do what it takes to catch up? Can we make the switch to being free agents? Do we have a personal "brand" that identifies us? Are we broadening our horizons in what we read, in where we look for contacts, with whom we network? In other words, do we know how to re-invent ourselves for this new market? Are we willing to learn?

This column is far too short to be helpful in setting out a roadmap for participating in the recovering economy. Besides, a vast number of existing resources are available for the taking: Fast Company at www.fastcompany.com, Career Lab at www.careerlab.com, and Career Intelligence at www.career-intelligence.com are just a few of the online resources that turned up as the result of a simple Google search. The idea is to actually have a roadmap, study the new landscape, and determine where you want to go and how you're going to get there. The rest, they say, is a matter of interest.


From the President

The Scholarly Side of STC Houston

by George Slaughter, Information Developer, BMC Software

With all the emphasis on professional development that we have in STC Houston, it might be easy to forget that there is a scholarly side to our chapter. This month's column will focus on the research and publishing work of STC Houstonians.

Publishing, Presenting, and Prospering

STC Houstonians have made names for themselves in STC publications over the years. Just over the past 12 months, our colleagues Linda Oestreich and Ann Jennings have published articles in the monthly Intercom magazine. Linda's article, published in the March 2002 issue, discussed four stages of career development. Ann's article, published in the May 2002 issue, discussed how sentence diagramming can be an effective writing tool and offered tips on how it should be taught.

Paul Mueller, our chapter vice president, has an article in this month's edition of the quarterly Technical communication journal. Ann Jennings and Jeff Staples have book reviews in the journal, and Jocelyn Williams, who serves in many capacities for STC Houston, will soon have a book review published in the journal, as will your chapter president.

Publishing your research is one way to help others master knowledge for success. Presenting your research at the STC Annual Conference is another way. Our chapter will have several speakers at this year's STC Annual Conference, which is set for May 18-21 in Dallas. Our May 13 chapter program meeting will give you the chance to preview some of those presentations.

What Do You Say?

Many new STC members ask how they can get involved in chapter activities. The answer is so simple: write for our publications! Writing for our newsletter, or our web site, or one of our Society publications provides you with opportunities to meet leaders in our profession, develop your writing skills, add to your portfolio, and learn new things that will help you—and your colleagues—master knowledge for success.


From the Editor

The Importance of Competition

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Analyst, Hewlett-Packard

A significant part of this issue of Dateline Houston is devoted to recognizing individuals and teams who won awards in the 2003 STC Houston competitions. This year we had 133 entries! To some, this may signal that 133 people were looking for another accolade to hang on their wall or a few more minutes in a spotlight. Perhaps that's true. To me, it means that 133 people were willing to put their work, indeed their reputations, on the line to learn. To reach. To rejuvenate. To compete.

Merriam-Webster defines competing as "to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective." What is the objective? At some level, the intent is as individual as each entrant. However, the result is the same. Every entry is judged by the same criteria, by impartial judges, in the same time frame, and in a similar field. Every competitor receives judges' comments and scoring, regardless of whether their entry won an award.

Good or bad, your work is critiqued by colleagues. How often do you get a chance to ask fellow professionals to drop what they're doing and review your work away from all other distractions? I'm sure you get tired of hearing that you should think outside the box. But we get so boxed in by our everyday lives and tasks, that STC competitions are a rare chance for growth that is made available to us every year through this chapter.

So in October, when it's time to think about next year's competition, I hope you'll make the conscious choice to refresh your outlook, rejuvenate your work, and reach for the stars in the STC Houston competitions.

Chapter News

March Program Meeting

Melanie G. Flanders and Carol Hidinger will present to our chapter on their recent trip to China, sharing their experiences and perspectives about technical communication opportunities there.

Join us for what is sure to be a fascinating and informative evening about internationalization opportunities for technical
communicators.

Send your questions to Cindy Pao at cindypao@earthlink.net.

Place:

Hilton Houston Westchase and Towers
9999 Westheimer Road

Date:

Tuesday, March 11

Time:

5:30 p.m. networking (hors d’oeuvres)
6:20 p.m. announcements
6:30 p.m. program

Cost:

$10 (members)
$13 (nonmembers)
$3 (student and unemployed members)
$6 (student non-members)

Drawing:

A drawing for various prizes is held at the end of each general meeting. Proceeds benefit the Marx Isaacs Student Scholarship Fund.


STC Houston Launches Past Presidents Club

by Deborah Long, President, Long Communications

At the December 2002 meeting, the STC Houston Administrative Council approved a proposal for initiating a new group within the chapter—a "past presidents club."

This concept of a special activity for former chapter presidents was first raised a few years ago. At issue: how do you keep former presidents involved in STC Houston activities when they've "been there, done that?"

Often, a sense of burnout occurs after what for many members has been a three-year commitment (vice president, president, and immediate past president). While former presidents might not want to maintain an active role in running the affairs of the chapter, going to club events can help "keep the juices flowing."

Organizing the Club

The rules of the club are simple:

Former presidents have much combined wisdom to offer current administrations and can draw from their historical perspective when the chapter is faced with difficult situations. Their experiences, observations, and advice can be an invaluable resource for the chapter. Having "been there, done that" carries a lot of credibility.

Obviously, confidentiality must be a key aspect of the club. Serving as chapter president can be a lonely and demanding role, with various competing interests to satisfy. In the midst of turmoil, the current president can rest assured that any expressed concerns will remain in strict confidence with members of the club.

An anticipated major benefit of forming the past presidents club is its motivational factor for other members. The club may help inspire more STC Houston members into running for office and gaining the experience required to become chapter president in the future. It is nice to know that assuming a role of such importance continues to be valued for many years after service.

Launching the Club

As immediate past president, Deborah Long championed the idea among chapter leaders and will lead efforts to make the past presidents club a reality.

The STC Houston past presidents club held its first get-together on Tuesday, February 18, at Empire Cafe, 1732 Westheimer. Deborah was in touch with former presidents to personally invite them to this special event. For more information, contact Deborah at dlong@bigcity.net.


Employment STK Session Report

by Steve Shriver, Contract Writer, Kelly Engineering Resources

Judging from the rave reviews, the Employment Share-the-Knowledge session was another big hit on Saturday, January 10. More than 40 participants came out between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to partake of the presentations.

Terry Devlin of Bernard-Haldane converted a new legion of fans to his soft networking techniques. As expected, his counsel hit the current market right on the head.

Our immediate past president Deborah Long had a popular (and practical) presentation on the shotgun approach to networking for a job, delivered with her usual dose of infectious enthusiasm.

Maria Fee and Cindy Pao teamed up to deliver a knockout with their portfolio show. Their presentation was practical, down-to-earth, and well-received by all in attendance.

In the fourth corner was a wealth of knowledge and expertise on resumés—how to put your best foot forward. Several resumé reviewers were on hand throughout the four hours to round out the show.

Many reviewers came from beyond the technical communications industry to offer their unique views from the perspective of human resources or a staffing agency. For example, Lori Schaub and Mary Crowe were on hand from the Integrity Group. Other staffing professionals who donated their time and considerable expertise included Rahilla Shatto of Aquent, Mike Novosad of DKL Technical, and Larisa Tidwell of Spherion.

Also supplying reviews were Bobby Dempsey of the Communicators' Network, Linda Branam of Aesbus, and Debra Marinelli of the University of Houston IT support staff. Several STC members volunteered their time and energy to the resumé committee, including Jo Carol Gau and Jim Hunt of BMC Software, Deborah Crockett of HP, Mac Katzin, and Ron Kirk.

We are also indebted to Employment Committee Manager Gary Foster, who invested countless hours in organizing and recruiting the talent to produce a successful STK for the second year in a row. Thanks, too, to President George Slaughter for delivering his usual dose of enthusiasm and energy to keep things running smoothly.

Most of all, we are grateful for all the participants who took time out of their Saturday to invest in themselves and their careers. It was a great program—one that promises to be repeated.

Society & Industry News

STC News

Taking the Dis out of Disabilities–Special Needs SIG Seeks Support

Just a reminder as the STC membership renewal process creeps up on its February 28 deadline—the Society's newest SIG, the Special Needs SIG (SNSIG), is still looking for new members to support it in its twin missions:

A detailed mission statement is available on the STC web site.

The SNSIG has already made significant progress: a comprehensive web site (see www.stcsig.org/sn/index/shtml); an online newsletter (first edition is posted at www.stcsig.org/sn/newsletter.shtml); and extensive support to the 49th STC Annual Conference, including publication of Guidelines for Persons with Special Needs and an Addendum thereto, a successful progression, and several articles in the Proceedings (conference materials available at www.stc-orlando.org/prodev/49notes/SNC.asp).

But there is much yet to do, and to accomplish it, the SNSIG needs more people. It is looking both for active members to join their initiatives and for patrons, whose affiliation will help the SIG secure the budget it needs to fulfill its objectives.

If you want to support the SNSIG, you have two options:

In either case, to be added to SNSIG's newsletter or listserv (or both) without delay, contact Daniel Voss at daniel.w.voss@lmco.com or jvinegar@myranch.com.

Sandi Harner Runs for Second Vice President

Editor's Note: The STC holds its elections every spring and allows candidates to submit position statements to chapter newsletters. Dateline Houston does not endorse any candidates but encourages all STC Houston members to read the statements and participate in the elections. Look in next month’s issue for statements from the other second vice president candidates, Suzanna Laurent and Deborah Sauer.

The position of second vice president of STC is a very important one because the person elected will automatically become first vice president and then president. I would appreciate your vote for second vice president of STC.

My experience with STC began in 1984 when I became a member. In 1985, I developed the technical and professional communication major for Cedarville University, where I have now taught for more than twenty years. In 1988, I chartered the Cedarville University student chapter, which I have advised since its beginning. The value that I have received from my membership in STC is immeasurable. Through chapter meetings, publications, and conferences--both regional and national--I have learned so much while developing a professional network as well as a network of friends.

I began my involvement on the international level in 1992 as manager of Sigma Tau Chi. That quickly led to managing of the Jay R. Gould Award, judging in the Ken Caird Student Article Competition, reviewing proposals for the STC Annual Conference, and onsite judging in the International Technical Publications Competition. I am currently serving my fourth year on the STC Board of Directors as Assistant to the President for Academic and Research Programs. In that capacity, I am responsible for eight committees.

I was named Fellow in 2001, received the Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication, and named Associate Fellow in 1996.

As full professor at Cedarville University, I have directed the technical and professional communication program since its beginning. My responsibilities, in addition to teaching a full course load, include developing curriculum, securing and supervising full-time and adjunct faculty, advising students, supervising independent studies, placing and supervising student internships, and advising the STC student chapter.

In addition, I have served as an independent consultant, contract writer, and trainer since 1976. In 1997, I received the STC Faculty Internship Grant and worked as a communications manager in a technical marketing communication firm. In 2002, I co-authored Technical Marketing Communication, part of the Technical Communication Series published by Allyn & Bacon/Longman.

For almost twenty years, my passion has been to prepare young people to make a significant contribution to the profession of technical communication. That role has kept me focused on core competencies, emerging technologies, and communities of practice. My position on the STC board for the past four years has provided many opportunities to work at the Society level with initiatives such as research grants and special opportunities grants, as well as chapter-level activities in helping to develop mentoring guidelines and education committees.

In the last few years, the growth of communities of practice has broadened our traditional definition of technical communication. This is evidenced by the significant growth in the STC SIGs--which now number more than 20, with a total membership of 26,441. If we are to be effective as the leading professional organization for technical communication, we must actively embrace those nontraditional groups such as technical marketing communicators, usability experts, instructional designers, web designers, and others who make up the workforce of today's technical communicators. The challenge is to help employers and employees alike to perceive them as the technical communicators they are.

I believe that all these experiences prepare me to fulfill the responsibilities of the second vice president of STC, then first vice president, and finally, the president. The Academic Vice President at Cedarville University and my Dean and Department Chair have pledged their full support should I be elected second vice president. This support will be evidenced by a decreased teaching load as well as financial support for the travel involved in the position.

When it is time to vote in the STC election, please take the time to go online or mark your ballot and vote for Sandi Harner—STC second vice president.

For more information, see www.sandiharner.com.


Educational Opportunities

Content Management Strategies Conference

Washington, DC, April 28-29

JoAnn Hackos and the Center for Information-Development Management announce the Content Management Strategies Conference in Washington, DC, April 28-29.

Speakers include industry expert consultants, tools developers, and people working on real content-management and single-sourcing projects. You'll learn about providing usable information, developing the information model, planning for dynamic delivery and personalization, implementing industry standards, collaborating for reuse, and ROI measuring, in addition to hearing case studies from companies who have successfully implemented content management or single sourcing.

For the first time, you'll also be able to attend a postconference workshop, April 30, to learn the steps to take in implementing your own single-source solution. JoAnn will guide you through the necessary steps to bring single sourcing and content management to your organization.

You'll be able to get valuable information and see demonstrations by leading content management vendors, such as Documentum, Arbortext, Progressive Information Technologies, X.Systems, Software AG, and more, who will be exhibiting at the conference.

For more information, go to the conference web site at: www.cm-strategies.com or contact:

Gretchen Marks
Comtech Services, Inc.
303.232.7586
gretchen.marks@comtech-serv.com


Networking Opportunities

If you have a networking opportunity to share, please tell us! Go to www.stc-houston.org/contacteditor.htm.

Volume 42, Issue 6

February 2003