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Dateline Houston is the newsletter of the Houston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, a nonprofit organization. Ten issues are published each year (September through June).

Luette Arrowsmith
newsletter@stc-houston.org

Cathy Bettoney
Melanie Boston
Jamie Diamandopoulos
Jim Hunt

President, Cindy Pao
president@stc-houston.org

Vice President, Nicole Wycislo
vicepresident@stc-houston.org

All chapter leaders

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www.stc-houston.org
www.stc.org

Vol 44, Issue 4

March/April 2005


Features

Learning from Others: The Right Prescription for Content Management Success

by Scott Abel

Pharmaceutical companies work hard to discover marketable treatments for illnesses of all types and severities. In order to accomplish these feats of scientific wizardry—and deliver shareholder value—they must learn to better manage an almost insurmountable amount of content.

It's been said that pharmaceutical companies make two products: drugs and documents. In addition to the content found in most organizations (marketing, HR, financial, sales, legal, training, etc.), pharmaceutical companies must meet myriad regulatory requirements governing the creation, management, publishing, and archiving of the content they use to get healthcare products approved for sale. These regulatory requirements create even more content: compliance documents, business and manufacturing process documentation, computer system validation packages … the list goes on.

Enter Content Management

Reducing the time it takes to produce documentation that gets a new pharmaceutical product onto the market can drastically increase the revenue the product earns for the company. While patents protect pharmaceutical discoveries, after patents expire drug formulas are fair game for generic manufacturers, who reproduce them without the costs of research and development. Every day that a product is not being sold brings lost opportunity costs. Some drugs have a lost opportunity cost of millions a day.

Content management helps to streamline and shorten the documentation process for pharmaceuticals. Smart drug companies are embracing content management throughout their product lifecycles, and are saving big bucks by getting products marketable faster. While content management benefits organizations of all types, it also presents a host of challenges, which forward-thinking organizations work to avoid.

Let's examine a few of the biggest content management mistakes.

Starting without a strategy

Too many content management projects start off without a strategy. Project initiators embark on a mission to procure or build the “right” CMS (content management system) software without a clue about what the system must do to provide a return on investment. A well-developed strategy is key to the success of the content management project, and it takes up-front planning.

The first step in developing a content management strategy is gaining a broad understanding of the types of content your organization creates, and of your content life cycle (creation, review/approval, management, delivery). Starting with a strategy may seem foreign to those who are accustomed to requirements-based IT projects—that's why it's also crucial to recognize that content management is not simply an IT project. It's a business project that, properly implemented, can deliver an excellent return on investment (ROI).

What‘s the best content management strategy? Your mileage may vary—the best I've found is the “Unified Content Strategy”, the focus of Ann Rockley's book, Managing Enterprise Content. Rockley's strategy is clear-cut and simple to understand. It's been adopted as a best practice by multinational corporations, educational organizations, product manufacturers—even content management software firms. I've used it with clients in the pharmaceutical and medical device arenas to help those organizations map out content management initiatives with content as the focus, and the payoffs have been significant.

Do yourself a favor: start with strategy.

Letting software vendors get too close

Don't start your CMS project with product demonstrations or online vendor seminars. Software salespeople are trained to sell, not to understand your needs. Don't let software vendors define your problems for you; they'll do it and you'll be sorry later.

Instead, consider hiring an independent, vendor-neutral content management consultant, or creating such a position in-house. This consultant should conduct an organizational needs analysis that examines the needs, dangers, opportunities, strengths, goals, and challenges you're likely to face, as well as a content audit, which gives an accounting of the information in your organization by using a representative sample of your content.

A content audit analyzes how content is used, reused, and delivered. The importance of this step cannot be overestimated—a thorough content audit helps to prepare your organization for the scope of the project by examining the information you currently create (as well as the stuff you hope to) to determine structure, breadth, organization, and potential areas for reuse. It also acts as a reality check, and can be an eye opener for those who thought there was little value in examining content in the first place.

The results of these activities should be detailed in a report which includes recommendations for moving forward.

Selecting the wrong team

More often than not, content management project teams are relegated to the IT department. Content experts are consulted, but are not intimately involved, and are seldom included in decision-making. This is a big mistake.

Content management is not an IT project. Content management project teams must be diverse and should include a range of involvement from those with a stake in the outcome (users of the content, producers of the content, and others). Most IT pros lack the experience needed to shepherd a complex content management project to successful completion. Just ask system integrators who specialize in one CMS product line or another how many projects they've had to go back and fix after the local IT department, or the software vendor itself, botched things up.

Be smart. Involve as many people from as many functional areas as possible. And do it from the start.

By delaying the technological aspects of your project, staving off the salespeople, and leveraging the experience of those who know your content, you'll go a long way to improve the likelihood of a content management success story. Learn from the mistakes of others by strategizing, tuning out the vendors, and asking the real experts what they know and need.

Scott Abel is a technical writing specialist and content management strategist whose strengths lie in helping organizations improve the way they author, maintain, publish and archive their information assets. Scott is a frequent presenter at industry and professional service seminars, an instructor at IUPUI Community Learning Network, and immediate past president of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), Hoosier Chapter. Scott is also a member of the Drug Information Association (Document Management, e-CTD, and XML committees), AIIM (the Enterprise Content Management Association), The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture (“AIfIA”), and a founding member of Content Management Professionals (CMP Pros). You can reach Scott via e-mail at abelsp@netdirect.net. Scott's website: www.thecontentwrangler.com.

 


Networking Works

by Charlotte A. Hoaks, Technical Writer, JDA Consulting

Today's job market demands that job seekers be creative and have an edge. The Internet and newspapers offer a limited number of job openings. If you have exhausted those openings to no avail, there is another opportunity: networking.

We've all heard the word, networking. But how do you apply it to your specific situation? Simple. Tell everyone you meet that you're looking for a job. That's networking.

Don't beg for a job. “Desperately Seeking” may work for Susan but not for job searching. Being upbeat and just sharing or gathering information is the key.

This past year I spent several months applying for technical writing positions, to no avail. My working career has been divided between computer-aided drafting for the engineering industry and technical writing. Working in the engineering industry provided lots of opportunities to write, in addition to maintaining skills in the latest CADD technology.

Despite my crossover proficiency, writing was seldom my primary function, which left prospective employers questioning my suitability for a dedicated writing position. For the right job I have great credentials, but finding that position has proved to be a challenge.

That's where networking came in. I had mentioned my lack of employment at a church function and someone sent me the STC link, suggesting that I look into the group. I attended the STC Houston meeting in September. This was the first networking link to my current writing position.

At the STC meeting I met a writer who was leaving her job. We visited, and she shared background information about the position she was leaving (my second networking link).

A contractor called about the soon-to-be-vacated position (the third networking link—I was referred to him by a fellow writer who knew I was job searching).

I can attribute networking to one more step by adding that I worked with one of the interviewers and he “put in a good word” (my fourth networking link).

Add to that the specific information that helped me gauge my interviewing comments to better fit the job from visiting with the writer at the STC meeting, and I was employed by October 1st. Take out a single contact, and I would still be looking for a job.

If you're job-searching, talk to everyone you meet about your job search and your expertise. Don't be afraid to share your needs; people love helping. It's in our nature. Be friendly. Don't whine or complain about the situation, just share information.

Never ask for a job outright or put the person you're talking to on the spot. Even if he's president of the company, it won't happen. He'll refer you to Human Resources and avoid you like the plague in the future.

These types of questions will get you information: Have you heard of any large writing projects at You-name-it Company? Is your company hiring additional writers at this time? Does your company use writers? Does your company have an information development department?

Carry business cards, and don't be afraid to give them to people you meet. (Be sure to put on the card that you're a writer.) The person that you give the card to may not be able to help that week but in two weeks may be required to find a writer or may talk to someone who was assigned the task. It would be disheartening to hear later that because someone couldn't remember your name you lost out on an opportunity.

Another unique approach to job searching that I gleaned from my first STC meeting was the use of a “T-letter.” Resumes are a necessary tool, but prospective employers have to read through lots of information to see if your skills match their needs. The T-letter provides the information that the employer needs in an easy-to-read format. I used networking to get my current position but received several calls as a result of the T-letters that I sent out.

Networking was the key. I may not have found the perfect job, but my current position is a step in the right direction while I look for that elusive “ideal” job.

Sample T-Letter

Provided by Terry Devlin, BH Careers, at the Employment STK

The “T” format provides an easy key to the information on your resume, allowing the employer to see at a glance how well qualified you are.

Terry recommends that you always use a T-cover-letter for your resume when you respond to a job listing.

Dear Mr. Freeman:

I am sending this letter in response to your search for a Flooring Sales Manager.

I have more than ten years of experience in the industrial coatings field, with heavy emphasis on concrete protection in the chemical, food, water processing, manufacturing, storage, and automotive industries. I have worked closely with engineering firms, “specing” my products to projects, and have developed strong relationships with numerous contractors in the Texas-Oklahoma area.

I have taken the liberty of matching my qualifications to the job requirements below for your review.

Requirements

My Qualifications

A proven track record of sales success.

More than 16 years of successful technical sales experience.

The ability to evaluate a market and develop a business plan.

Exceptional analytical skills and highly experienced at evaluating customer needs.
Involved in numerous new product rollouts.
Proven ability to develop marketing plans.
Experienced in market penetration strategies and market share improvement plans.

Capability to implement the business plan.
etc.

Proven record of success executing to plan and developing markets and territories.
etc.

 

I look forward to discussing this position with you in more detail.
Sincerely,


STC Board Has a Hot Time in Houston

by Deborah Long, Courseware Editor, BMC Software Business School

STC Houston rolled out the red carpet as it hosted the STC Board of Directors meeting in January. A highlight of this four-day event was the welcome reception held at the Canyon Café, a Southwestern-style restaurant in the Galleria area known for its spicy Mexican fare and hospitality.

STC Houstonians enjoyed the opportunity to mix and mingle with Society President Andrea Ames, her Board members, and other Society dignitaries in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. This “open house” allowed local members to learn more about what is happening at the Society level and what the future holds. It also gave Board members the chance to meet members of one of STC's most accomplished chapters.

At the reception, it was announced that STC Houstonians Melanie G. Flanders and Pat Bishop were both named STC Associate Fellows. The rank of Associate Fellow is conferred only upon senior members who have attained distinction in the field of Technical Communication. Members do not apply, but are instead nominated for this honor.

The actual Board meetings were open to the public, as well, and some STC Houston folks did sit in while policy was being set and decisions were being made. Cindy Pao , STC Houston president, and George Slaughter, a past president, remained close at hand to ensure that things went smoothly.

As with any event, a lot goes on behind the scenes to make it all unfold in a seamless manner, and our Board Meeting Host Committee did its magic (including a welcome basket provided for each out-of-towner). A special thanks to Jim Hunt, George Slaughter, and Jocelyn Williams for their leadership in organizing a wonderful, memorable weekend for the STC Society officials in Houston . We look forward to the Board's return sometime soon.

Photos of the Reception for the STC Board of Directors

by Deborah Long, Courseware Editor, BMC Software Business School

From left to right, STC Houstonian Melanie G. Flanders, STC President Andrea Ames, Region 5 Director-Sponsor Linda Oestreich, and STC Houstonian Donna Marcotte enjoy a moment at the welcome reception. Melanie was named STC Associate Fellow at the reception, along with Pat Bishop, not pictured.

 

STC Houstonian Bill Gearhart, left, welcomes STC Executive Director Peter Herbst and Region 4 Director-Sponsor Robert Dianetti to the reception. Peter is based in Arlington, Virginia, where the STC office is located. Robert is from Hudson, Ohio.

 

STC Associate Fellow Jim Hunt, STC Treasurer Mary Jo Stark, and Assistant to the President/Technology Doug Woestendiek were among the dignitaries at the reception. Mary Jo is based in Denver, and Doug is based in Connecticut.

 

 


Styles in Legal Documents

by Tracey Deison

Styles are commonly used in technical writing and design to format text and create visually unified and appealing documents. Styles are particularly useful when applied to long projects such as manuals, guides, and books. As a student in upper level English courses at the University of Houston–Downtown, I have encountered the academic love of the use of styles, and have been left to wonder just how useful such a tool is to the legal industry.

In the legal field, as with any industry, each law firm, individual attorney, and legal assistant is part of a large spectrum of different ideas on organization and work production. While many firms use templates and styles to standardize work product, some firms do not. In firms that do not use styles, each attorney has his or her own formatting preferences and the issue of style use within documents is a matter of personal choice.

In the case of personal choice, the benefits of using styles to format documents must outweigh several factors for it to be perceived as a worthwhile tool.

  • The legal industry is very form driven. Legal documents are often simply a compilation of forms. These forms are preformatted, kept handy in “form files” on the computer and are inserted into documents as needed.
  • Legal documents, particularly in litigation, are simple. The format of a typical pleading is governed both traditionally and statutorily and consists of a case style at the top, double-spaced text with centered roman numerals between sections of information, and a signature line.
  • Time is another factor. Every legal assistant has heard this: “I don't care how it looks, I have to be in court in ten minutes.” In the rush of the moment, both the attorney and the legal assistant look for a form. Since the form is preformatted, formatting is seldom a consideration.
  • Attorneys are increasingly computer savvy and many produce some portion of their own work. Thus, the format of the documents produced is consistent with that attorney's own computer skill level and formatting preference.

Considering each of the above factors, the key to making styles a preferred formatting choice lies in proving that styles enhance both efficiency and the visual appeal of the work product. In many cases where the documents are short and simple, or where the attorney is producing the document, styles are not used. They are deemed useless when simple tabs, indents, or double-returns will produce the desired result. In these cases the benefits of styles do not pierce the “if it's not broke, don't fix it” mentality.

However, there are factors that make style formatting a beneficial choice. As technical communicators can attest, using styles helps regulate the look and feel of documents with little effort. This benefit can be most fully realized in the production of long contracts and real estate documents. Any document that has layers of information or varying levels of indention is an ideal candidate for use of styles. Styles control the appearance of paragraphs of text and thus help to keep a document intact during round after round of revision. This is a definite plus when adding, deleting, and moving text. Without a tool to help regulate the look of the document, layers of indention and formatting can get mixed up and cause confusion to the reader.

Styles can also help in the production of tables of contents. Instead of marking text, one simply chooses to generate the table of contents from the styles. This is a very beneficial feature, particularly when text additions contain new headings. Updating the table of contents is then simply a matter of the few “clicks” it takes to update the table of contents, instead of a matter of remembering to mark new headings and then updating the table of contents.

Undoubtedly, the use of styles entails a little planning, but the benefits are worth a little bit of work at the front end of a project. And, while we have discussed the benefits the attorney and legal assistant gain from styles formatting, the greatest benefit of all actually goes to the reader who gains a clear and even road map through the text, guided by structured layers of indention and formatting. This is a true courtesy in a profession where clarity is often lost.

Interviews with:

Angie Osborn, Legal Assistant
Richard Yount, Attorney
Bill Voss, Mandamus Staffing Solutions, Inc.
Arlette Giuliano, Director of Education, Bradford School in Houston

Submissions for approval with:

Charles S. Turet, Jr., Attorney
William L. Van Fleet, Attorney
Bill Voss, Mandamus Staffing Solutions, Inc.
Arlette Giuliano, Director of Education, Bradford School in Houston
Dolores Brooks, Legal Assistant

Tracey Deison is a legal assistant with 14 years' experience and a student at the University of Houston-Downtown working toward her degree in Professional Writing.

Regular Features

From the President

Thank You!

Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

Friday, February 4 was the annual awards banquet. It was spectacular! The company, the service, and the food were unbelievable. I had such a good time!

Being a part of such a big event is such an honor for me. So many people put in time and–let's just say it–work so that everyone could have a good time.

Our chapter does that all the time. People plan, organize, execute, and clean up. In this column, I'm going to thank everyone I can think of for their dedication to this organization.

Starting Last Spring…

Thanks (English) to last year's nominating committee: Verna Dunn, Pat Bishop, and Paul Mueller.

Muchas gracias (Spanish), last year's Admin Council: Jocelyn Williams, Monica Waddell, Wayne Schmadeka, Rebecca Taylor, Phaedra Cook, David Remson, Nicole Wycislo, Danell Landes, Erika Frensley, Robin Jackson, and George Slaughter.

Then in the Summer…

Xie xie (Mandarin Chinese), this year's Admin Council: Nicole Wycislo, Monica Waddell, David Remson, Lisa Alvarado, Melissa Britt, Mary Gwynne, Linda King, Angela Livingston, Jennifer Smith, and Rebecca Taylor.

And Through to the End of This Program Year

Merci beaucoup (French), Linda King, John Turner, Angela Livingston, Jessica Dickerson, Verna Dunn, and Lori Buffum, for your work on the monthly program meetings.

Go raibh maith agat (Gaelic), Mary Gwynne, JoCarol Gau, and Mac Katzin for your work with all of the volunteers who have come forward to make our chapter better.

Danke schön (German), Angela Livingston and John Turner, for arranging locations for some of our chapter functions.

Kamsa hamnida (Korean), Deborah Silvi, for serving as our Historian.

PILAMAYAYE (Lakota), Mike Wessles for working on our chapter processes.

Evharisto (Greek), Rebecca Taylor, Karen Graber, Joy Owen, Erica Thomas, Jean Cameron, Jimmy Killingsworth, Jackie Palmer, Morgan Kelley, Maricarmen Foster, Melanie Flanders, and George Slaughter, for your work for the Brazos Valley satellite.

Mahalo (Hawaiian), Marilyn Barrett-O'Leary, Steve Brunet, Charlotte Curtis, and Elise Hagan, for your work for the Louisiana satellite.

Toda raba (Hebrew), Jocelyn Williams, for managing the CIC SIG. Hvala (Serbian), Jocelyn Williams and all of your speakers, for the CIC-SIG STK.

Bahut Shoukriah (Hindi), Ann Jennings, Molly Johnson, and Lloyd Shuh, for working with your students to introduce them to STC and help them get involved.

Grazie (Italian), Ann Liggio, for keeping STC involved in the community.

Domo arigatou (Japanese), John Reynolds, for your work on our chapter online directory and mailing labels.

Kob chie (Laotian), Lisa Alvarado, Linda King, Deborah Long, the Integrity Group, Jocelyn Williams, and Trena Fellers, for working on the mechanics of the competitions. Takk (Norwegian), to all of the following judges: Rob Weaver, Karen Farrell, Erika Frensley, Jessica Dickerson, Jim Casey, Veronica Davila, Mark Stevens, Maricarmen Foster, Morgan Kelley, Jan Brantley, George Slaughter, Lori Buffum, Alyssa Fox, April McAnespy, Meredith Tabor, Susan Tacker, Patricia Golemon, William D. Rizer, Anne Wollam, Jocelyn Williams, Lisa Alvarado, Louise Horton, Crystal Rawls, Dean Liscum, Cheri Mullins, Mary Gwynne, Sandra Rybarczyk, Camden Coyle, Deborah Long, Karen J. Ball, Peter French, Ross Doyle, Debora Fisher, Adam Questell, Julie Hamilton, Jessie de Jong, Melanie G. Flanders, Patrick Wilson, Rick Sanchez, Trena Fellers, Aimee Kendall, Lisetta Lavy, Yvonne Wade Sanchez, and Patrick Rockecharlie. Whew!

Dziekuje bardzo (Polish), Gary Foster and Terry Lindsay, for managing the Employment Committee. Spasibo (Russian) to the following individuals for their work on the Employment STK: Gary and Anella Foster, Lori Schaub, Terry Devlin, George Slaughter, Jocelyn Williams, Linda Price, Jewel Darby, Ron Kirk, David Woody, and Susan May.

Fa'afetai (Samoan), Yvonne Wade Sanchez and Lisetta Lavy, for your service on the Membership committee.

Mahadsanid (Somali), Anne Smith, for administering a mean listserv.

Tack (Swedish), Erika Frensley, Brandon Plunkett, Erica Thomas, and Royce Hogan, for your work on the web sites for our chapter and satellites.

Kabkoon krup (Thai), Judie Guy, for answering the chapter telephone line.

Tesekk ür ederim (Turkish), George Slaughter, Jocelyn Williams, and Jim Hunt, for showing the STC Board a good time during their meetings in Houston.

Dyakuyu (Ukrainian), Deborah Silvi, Jim Hunt, Pat Bishop, Deoborah Long, and Paul Mueller, for working on changes to the chapter bylaws.

Cam ôn (Vietnamese), Paul Mueller, Lee Turner, and Tom Howard, this year's Nominating Committee.

A Very Special Thanks

There are two special groups that I want to thank, and they are my newsletter and publicity crews! They have done so much this year, and they're still at it! THANK YOU, Linda Branam, Cathy Bettoney, Melanie Boston, Jamie Diamandopoulos, Jim Hunt, Laura Johnson, Erica Hoskins, and Jewel Darby. Thanks, Luette Arrowsmith and Tanya Handy, we miss you!

I Don't Want to Leave Anyone Out

I apologize in advance to anyone I've left off of my list. Please, don't take it personally. Blame it on my faulty bookkeeping, and send me an e-mail pointing out my error.

I'll thank anyone I missed—by name—in my next column.

Teamwork

So much of what happens in STC Houston involves teamwork. I feel the teamwork when I come in to any event, and it makes me proud. I'm especially proud when someone tells me how much they enjoyed or learned at an event because I can tell them that a great team is responsible for it.

Last Thoughts

To my crew from the banquet —Jocelyn Williams, Lori Buffum, Deborah Long, Ann Jennings, Linda King , Jennifer Smith, Terry Lambert, Mary Gwynne, and Paul Pao: You inspired me to write this column. YOU ROCK!

I realize that my column this time around is long. But that's good, isn't it? Just look at how many people I get to thank this year!

The year isn't over yet, either. I'll get to thank a lot more people by the end of June.

Is there something you'd like me to address in this column? Send an e-mail to president@stc-houston.org.


From the Guest Editor

Expand Your Horizons with Blogs

by Rebecca Taylor, Product Marketing Manager, Hewlett-Packard

After a particularly frustrating day working on a large group project, I complained to my sister that one of my colleagues just wasn't seeing the bigger picture. I said, “She has such a 404 mind in a broadband world.” When that comment was met with a suffering silence, I glanced up to my sister's blank stare. She looked me over and just said, “You are such a geek. Even your insults are web-based!”

Folks, I'm here to tell you that being a geek isn't so bad. In fact, you can use it to your advantage! One of the many ways to geek out and benefit from it is to patrol the Internet for blogs related to your interests. Blogs, short for web logs, are web sites formatted much like a diary by one or more authors. Most often, you'll find a series of postings arranged in descending date order. Blogs range from personal and small to corporate and large. I was introduced to blogs by Wil Wheaton, the object of my teenage idolatry. After all, to a teen-aged geek, Ensign Crusher (on TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation ) was the ultimate in dreamy!

Blogging quickly became a phenomenon in personal publishing. Everyone had a way to reach out to the world with the click of a mouse. But there's more to blogging than reading about what Wil Wheaton spoke about at his last convention appearance. Blogs have become a cheap and effective way of sharing knowledge. Software companies, like Macromedia, have used blogs authored by their software developers as a technical support forum. Hewlett-Packard recently launched a few executive blogs to help educate users on the company's software development strategy. Magazines and news services use blogs authored by their premiere journalists to attract a loyal readership. Blogs are now a way to conduct business and educate the masses.

As it's a research interest of mine, I was shocked to see how little mention blogs have received in our STC technical communication community. A quick search of Technical communication and Intercom reveals only two basic mentions of blogs, one in an Intercom Editor's note and another in an article introducing blogs as a basic tool for Internet research. Some of you may have visited the STC Transformation blog, which was started by the STC Transformation committee to solicit feedback from and offer updates to STC members. (Note: The Transformation blog has since been retired.) Beyond this, I have seen no mainstream STC attention to blogging as a tool for technical communication.

As professional communicators, our interest in blogs should be as potential contributors, researchers, and trendsetters. With the explosion of the Internet, we became experts on writing for the web. While blogging becomes a standard means of communicating, we will need to become experts in this mode of communication as well. As researchers and learners, blogs will be become a device in our learning toolkit. More and more blogs are devoted to technical writing and communication topics—they're just out there for the finding. As user advocates, we are in a unique position as a profession to establish expertise and guide the technology and usage standards as they evolve. For example, knowledge management is a natural focus for technical communicators. Blogs offer an exciting platform for knowledge management—it's up to us to make the connection and advance the possibilities.

Join me in the STC Forum “Learn about Tools & Technologies” to discuss blogs.

Blogs mentioned in this article

Technical writing blogs

Chapter News

January 2005 Program Meeting

Positioning Yourself for Today's Market

by Deborah Long, Courseware Editor, BMC Software Business School

What a great way to start the New Year! The beginning of 2005 is a perfect time to take a look at your job search strategy and position yourself for today's market. STC Houston chapter members were led through this exercise at our January 2005 program meeting with the guidance of Stacie Clark, a recruiter from iFOCUS Corp.

The evening's session was interactive, as the audience asked and answered pertinent questions stimulated by Ms. Clark's presentation of such topics as self-assessment, taking responsibility for your career, and seeking new opportunities. Résumé tips were provided, including advice to more senior members to list only the past 10 years of work experience. According to Stacie, the hot industries in Houston are health care, and oil and gas, with small to medium-size companies most apt to hire technical communicators right now. Why? Because they cannot afford to go “global” and are not currently off-shoring IT services.

A valuable piece of self-assessment is to ask others for feedback on how you are perceived. For example, “How do I show up in the world around five things—meeting expectations, being a team player, having a professional attitude, doing quality work, and basically what works/doesn't work about me?” Another step is to establish your strategic skill set, and then target specific companies in your job search, making it a point to find out contact names. It seems that internal referrals are more effective these days than relying solely on Internet job boards. Ways to meet individuals who can potentially refer you to a hiring manager include “strategically” volunteering for a specific industry's professional organization and working as a part-time consultant in your field of interest.

Stacie urged us to present ourselves as a “solution” when attending networking sessions. She suggested coming up with a 60-second, or less, pitch about your attributes. It helps people help you if they know exactly what value you can add. And don't forget those cover letters. Even when e-mailing a resume, it is recommended to have a compelling statement about why you should be hired, along with your contact information.

Stacie's handout supported her presentation with additional tips for landing your next position. Good luck to those members who continue to search for that “perfect” job!

To learn more about iFOCUS Corp., go to www.i-focuscorp.com .

Pat Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders Named STC Associate Fellows

by Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

Pat Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders, both STC Houston senior members, have been named Associate Fellows by the STC Associate Fellows Committee and the STC Board of Directors.

Pat and Melanie will be recognized formally in May at the STC Annual Conference Awards Banquet in Seattle.

Pat: Mentor, Trainer, and Contributor

Pat has been a technical communicator for 26 years and a member of STC for 21 years. She has held both writer and manager jobs, and is currently an Independent Freelancer on contract at BMC Software.

Pat started her STC career with STC Atlanta, joining the Houston chapter in 1991. Before leaving Atlanta, Pat served as their President and the Currents Conference Manager. Since coming to Houston, Pat has served as the Membership Committee Manager, the Technical Publications Competition Manager, Nominating Committee Manager, and as Director of both Satellites and Membership.

Melanie: Author, Community Leader, and Educator

Melanie has been a technical communicator for 26 years and a member of STC for 16 years.

During her time with STC Houston, Melanie worked on two Region 5 conferences; chaired the Programs Committee and the Nominating Committee; and worked on the Newsletter Committee, the Online Documentation SIG, and the Consultant and Independent Contracting SIG. Melanie has also judged in both the STC Houston competitions and the international competitions.

STC Associate Fellows

STC recognizes senior members for their dedication to the profession of technical communication and to the Society. In order to be nominated for this honor, a member must be a technical communicator for at least 15 years and a member of STC for at least 10 years. Pat and Melanie were nominated and supported by their peers for this honor.

Chapter Holds Important Elections

At the April 12 meeting, STC Houston will conduct two important votes. The first vote will approve proposed changes to chapter bylaws. The second vote will elect administrative council members for the next program year (June 2005 to June 2006).

Our administrative council provides the required leadership, guidance, and structure to ensure that STC Houston continues to serve its members. As STC continues its transformation efforts at the international level, STC Houston leaders need to stay informed and identify ways for our members to benefit from these changes. Working closely with our members, the administrative council leads STC Houston into the future.

If you cannot attend the April 12 meeting, please download and print a proxy ballot for each election and mail the ballots to STC Houston, as directed on each proxy ballot. For more information about the proposed bylaws changes, or to download a proxy ballot, go to www.stc-houston.org/updatescb.htm. For more information about the administrative council candidates, or to download a proxy ballot, go to www.stc-houston.org/election.htm.

Proxy Authorization Ballot

Vote for Proposed Bylaw Changes – April 2005

Please select one of the following proxy options:

I authorize the following member in good standing (please print name), _________________________, to vote in my place in the vote for the proposed bylaws changes.

Name (please print)_______________________________

Signature_______________________________ Date __________________

 

 

I cast my vote or I authorize the following member in good standing (please print name), _________________________, to cast my vote for the selected option in the vote for the proposed bylaws changes.

Name (please print)_______________________________ Signature_______________________________ Date__________________

 

 

I approve the proposed bylaw changes.

 

 

I do not approve the proposed bylaw changes.

 

The proposed bylaws changes are available through the STC Houston web site at
http://www.stc-houston.org/updatescb.htm

Please mail your proxy ballot to:

Paul Mueller
5138 Carew Street
Houston, Texas 77096

Proxy ballots that are mailed must be received by April 11 so they can be counted at the April 12 chapter meeting.

If you are voting by proxy for another member at the April 12 chapter meeting, you must have the ballot verified by a member of the Tellers Committee at the registration table the night of the meeting. All ballots must be cast by the time announced at the start of the April 12 chapter meeting.

Members attending the chapter meeting will receive a ballot at the meeting.

New Senior Members

by Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

According to the STC Bylaws, the grade of senior member is conferred upon those who have held the grade of member for five consecutive years. The following STC Houston members have recently achieved senior member status:

  • Jocelyn R. Campitelli
  • Alan A. Olsen
  • Tiffany M. Skidmore
  • John A. Young, Jr.

Congratulations on this achievement!

New Members

Carolyn Batek

Carolyn Batek has been in the communications industry for five years. Carolyn started writing in-house technical documentation in IT and then moved into the healthcare industry. Carolyn is a technical writer at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, where she creates and edits Donor Collections department SOPs.

Working in a heavily regulated organization makes for an extremely fast-paced and constantly changing environment. Writers must follow American Association of Blood Banks standards and FDA regulations while keeping up with current medical technology upgrades and healthcare protocols.

Carolyn, a lifelong Houstonian (with a brief stint in Huntsville, attending Sam Houston State University), appreciates the opportunity to apply her technical writing skills to a worthwhile cause in the non-profit world.

Charlotte Hoaks

Twenty-five years ago Charlotte Hoaks's first technical writing job included drawing milk jugs in pen and ink, and documenting the production process for a manufacturing company. She has served as a Prime systems administrator, programmed in Fortran, and supported CADD technology, creating the required system, procedure, and program documentation. Using CADD systems, Charlotte wrote company-specific training materials and how-to guides.

Charlotte's current position as a technical writer with a manufacturing company includes writing SOX-compliant IT services policies and procedures for employee online access.

Tanya Valderrama

Tanya Valderrama, a student member, attends the University of Houston–Downtown. Tanya is studying to obtain a Master of Science degree in Professional Writing and Technical Communications. Her undergraduate degree is in foreign languages (French and Spanish).

Tanya works at Shell Lubricants as an administrative assistant. She would like to work with foreign companies or work in a foreign country, using her technical communications degree.

Bill Kelly

Bill Kelly has been a technical writer for 17 years. Most of that time has been spent on power systems and electrical engineering, but Bill has also written documentation about computer software, computer hardware, drilling rigs, and environmental compliance.

Following some schooling and a stint in the U. S. Navy, Bill returned to Houston in 1988. His education includes several years of engineering studies and a Bachelor's degree in Business from the University of Phoenix. He is pursuing an MBA now.

Bill is a technical information developer for Satake USA, a Japanese-owned company that builds optical sorting equipment for the cereal grain industry. Bill reports that the technology is fascinating and he enjoys his job!

Tessa Boyd

Relatively new to the field of technical communication, Tessa Boyd has worked for GHG Corporation as a technical writer on the Safety and Mission Assurance Contract at Johnson Space Center for six months. Before that, she worked on the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project as a researcher and writer.

Tessa is a graduate of Syracuse University and remains loyal to her historical writing and research interests by working toward a Master's degree in History at the University of Houston–Clear Lake.

Daniel Pearson

Daniel Pearson started working as a technical writer with GHG Corporation on the Safety and Mission Assurance Contract at Johnson Space Center in 2004. Now Daniel is a member of a Space Shuttle safety panel, where he produces the meeting minutes.

Previously, Daniel was the bicycle coordinator for Texas A&M University, where he promoted alternative transportation through marketing campaigns and brochures. Daniel is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in Political Science.

John Boone

John Boone is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with a degree in Anthropology. John has 10 years' experience in pharmaceutical QA, mainly in product releases and annual product reviews. John's main areas of interest are information design, procedure writing, technical editing, and consulting. He would also like to learn more about writing fiction.

John is a technical writer at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, where he has worked for two years. He is rewriting all production SOPs for appropriate readability, formatting consistency, and information accessibility.

Shawn Harris

Shawn Harris is a student member attending the University of Houston–Downtown, where he is working toward a Master's degree in Professional Writing and Technical Communication. Shawn's background is in finance and accounting; he is planning on making a smooth transition into professional writing.

Shawn's areas of interest are corporate communication (compliance and documentation), grant writing, business analysis, and publications management.

STC-Houston 2005 Banquet Photos

 

 

Ann, Jessica, Terry

 

Ann, Pat, Jocelyn, George

 

BMC Group

 

 

Brian, Susan, Robin, Michael

 

Jocelyn, George

 

Cindy, Jocelyn, Deborah, Mary

 

 

Crystal, Linda, Cathy

 

David, Monica

 

Donna, Bill

 

 

Hewlett-Packard Group

 

Jessica, Terry, Mike

 

JoCarol, Pat, Ragna

 

 

Lisetta, Rick, Yvonne

 

Maryann, Paul

 

Rob, Melissa, Linda

 

 

 

The Integrity Group

 

Melissa and husband

 

 

 

 

 


Share the Knowledge

January Event

by Jewel Darby, Senior Staff Information Developer, NetIQ Corporation

The STC-Houston Employment Committee and the Consultants and Independent Contractors Special Interest Group (CIC SIG) hosted a Share the Knowledge (STK) event on January 15, 2005 in Tomball, Texas. While Tomball may seem far from some parts of the “Greater Houston Area,” 62 members and non-members thought the drive was worthwhile for this all-day employment and free-agent event.

Gary Foster, chair of the STC-Houston Employment Committee, and Jocelyn Williams, chair of the CIC SIG, coordinated efforts to share knowledge targeted to job seekers and independent consultants. Four speakers at a time presented to intimate groups of 5 to 15 people who, after each hour, could choose another topic, as they rotated to another part of the room. The following speakers presented the morning Employment sessions:

  • Terry Devlin – “Marketing Yourself in Today's Market”
  • George Slaughter – “Adding Value as an Employee (Keeping Your Job)”
  • Jocelyn Williams – “Creating Online Résumés and Conducting an Internet Job Search”
  • Linda Price – “Effective Interviewing”

Using a personal web site as an interactive demonstration of your skills, Jocelyn Williams says, can show off your capabilities better than a résumé alone can. You can't skip the basics, so a résumé, and the importance of providing exactly the information the job description requests, is critical in your job search. Jocelyn demonstrated in which situations you should choose a chronological or a functional résumé.

Terry Devlin, from BH Careers, showed how to expand your network and the remarkable results you can achieve when you tap third-level contacts. By asking friends and relatives (first-level contacts) for referrals to people who might help you (second-level), you move to a realm of greater influence. When you ask for referrals from your second-level contacts (third-level), you move into a dramatically new sphere of influence where remarkable things happen. Mr. Devlin suggests that you can get a job more quickly when you expand your network to the third level and beyond.

Using the analogy of a martial artist, George Slaughter suggested applying Zen lessons to help you improve your perceived value as an employee. One lesson was to "Present yourself with confidence." Easier said, than done, I thought. But then George shared Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi's definition of confidence with the group. Lombardi was a Latin teacher before becoming a football coach, and he said that "confidence" comes from two Latin words. Con is Latin for with, and fidel is Latin for faith. So George translated the lesson to, "Present yourself with faith," making the lesson, and achieving it, more accessible.

Linda Price presented two perspectives of the interview process: as a prospective employee and as the interviewer. In this interactive session, Ms. Price offered tips for how to greet your interviewer with confidence yet remain humble during what can be a stressful situation. Ms. Price and the session participants shared useful and effective techniques to handle this special and important meeting.

The afternoon was devoted to free-agency sessions, including the following speakers and topics:

  • Jatika Manigault – “Defining Your Personal Brand”
  • Joan Bolmer – “Demonstrating Your Value to Clients”
  • James Bratsakis – “Financial Security for Free Agents: Insurance and Retirement Packages”

In an intimate session of five, Jatika Manigault applied her enthusiasm to helping each member of the group discover, define, and refine their personal “brand.” She encourages that only you can be the best you there is.

Joan Bolmer turned the tables on “schmoozing” to practical ways to market yourself, your skills, and your accomplishments so that clients, bosses, and colleagues perceive greater value from everything you do. A professional coach, Ms. Bolmer presents a wealth of practical and valuable information on her web site at www.bolmer.com, and offered attendees a free consultation.

James Bratsakis of Klene and Bratsakis discussed ways free agents can build insurance and financial packages. Because free agents cannot depend on employers to provide benefit plans, it's important that they research business plans, personal and estate plans, and which employee benefit plans are best for them. Mr. Bratsakis offered handouts on a variety of topics, including benefit and contribution limits, IRA and 401(k) plan rollover tips, and a newsletter, Let's Talk Money.

While some attended the informal sessions, Ron Kirk, an independent contractor, David Woody, from Zatric, and Larisa Tidwell from ADE Solutions, a national provider of customized staffing solutions, were available to review résumés and portfolios. These professionals made suggestions to make résumés stronger and help get that all important interview.

Jocelyn Williams, Gary Foster, and their committees orchestrated a superb event. The Tomball Church of Christ building was well suited, offering in-the-round seating areas, and included a spacious kitchen area perfect for serving the breakfast, brunch, and lunch snacks Gary and Jocelyn had arranged. Ron Kirk and Gary Foster also captured the event in photos.

Gary Foster and Jocelyn Williams extend their thanks to Anella Foster, George Slaughter, Steve Shriver, Angela Livingston, Louise Horton, Linda Price, Terry Devlin, Ron Kirk, David Woody, Larisa Tidwell, Lorie Schaub, and Marilyn Smith.

The STC-Houston Chapter Employment Committee plans to host another Employment Share the Knowledge event this summer. Stay tuned to your STC-Houston newsletter for information about upcoming events.

Seminar Speaker Contact Information

Joan Bolmer joan@bolmer.com
James Bratsakis jim@kleneandbratsakis.com
Terry Devlin tdevlin@bhcareers.com
Linda Price Linda.Price@vftis.spx.com
Jatika Manigault jmanigault@deloitte.com
George Slaughter gslaughter@flex.net
Jocelyn Williams jocelyn.v.williams@exxonmobil.com

Share the Knowledge Photos

Anella Foster

Jatika Manigault

George Slaughter

     

Joan Bolmer

Ron Kirk and David Woody

Ellen Raghavan and Susan May

     

Larisa Tidwell

Linda Price

Susan May

 

Society News

STC's 52nd Annual Conference Registration Rates

STC 's 52nd Annual Conference will be held in Seattle, Washington, May 8–11, 2005. Members can register for the conference by using the form provided in the Preliminary Program, which will be mailed with the February issue of Intercom, or online at www.stc.org. Online registration is not yet open.

Full-conference and one-day registration rates are listed below. The last day to register for the conference at the advance rates is April 22, 2005.

 

 

Advance

On site
(after April 22
)

Member

 

495

570

Nonmember

 

655

730

Student or Retired

 

120

175

Member, One Day

 

255

330

Nonmember, One Day

 

335

410

Student or Retired, One Day

 

120

175

Complimentary Membership for Nonmember Conference Attendees

Nonmembers who register at the full conference rate for STC's 52nd Annual Conference, to be held May 8–11, 2005, in Seattle, Washington, will be invited to join STC free for the remainder of 2005. The STC office will include an application for a complimentary membership with the conference registration confirmation receipt letter.

A nonmember can return an application to the Society office by mail or fax; a drop box will also be available at on-site registration at the conference. The deadline to return the application to the STC office by mail or fax is June 30, 2005. The sooner nonmembers forward their applications, the sooner they can take advantage of STC's many services and benefits.

Don't Lose Touch with STC

The Society office encourages all STC members to update their membership information with home addresses, home phone numbers, and home e-mail addresses. Many members provide only their work contact information, and the office often loses track of these members when they change jobs.

To update your membership information, complete the STC address change form at www.stc.org/formAddressChange.asp or contact the office at (703) 522-4114.

Procedures for STC's 2005 Election

The annual STC election will be held in early 2005, and only members who have paid their dues by February 28, 2005, will be eligible to vote. An option on the dues renewal forms and new membership applications for 2005 allows members to receive their election materials via e-mail. In March, members who selected this option will be e-mailed the slate, candidate biographies, and voting instructions. Members who did not select this option will receive these materials by first-class mail. The election closes at noon, eastern time, on April 15. Be sure to renew by February 28 to have a say in STC's future!

Paula Berger, Candidate for 2nd Vice President

by Paula Berger

I want to thank the STC membership for giving me this opportunity to run for 2nd Vice President. Many people asked me to run for this office because STC and our profession need strong leaders. I have been a voice for change and progress in STC for years, I have a clear vision of where our profession and our society need to be, and I have the strength and willingness to lead us through these changes.

This article presents my views on the major issues that STC must address. The ballot materials and the candidate information printed in Intercom offer a brief summary of these issues. You can read more about my views, my STC experience, and my professional experience at www.paulaberger.com.

Providing Better Value to Members

Membership has dropped in recent years, partly because members and employers no longer believe STC provides enough value. We must re-engage technical communicators by redefining and improving our services. This is a major goal of STC's Transformation.

One of STC's primary duties is to foster the career growth of members by defining and supporting career paths they can follow in their own discipline or related ones. Our activities and offerings must focus on lifelong professional development.

  • STC must increase educational opportunities for both newcomers and for senior members. We need to add educational offerings that focus on advanced skills for advanced practitioners.
  • STC needs to develop comprehensive, industry-supported training programs that provides clear value to members and employers. Our strong special interest groups should work with education and industry experts to define curricula for basic and advanced certificates in their disciplines.
  • Webinar topics and other educational offerings must be part of a coherent training structure, with the value of each topic defined in context of the focused training programs.

STC's financial arrangements must respond to the day-to-day concerns of members. Our membership fees must be appropriate and manageable. We must provide additional financial value to members, such as STC discounts on software products and reduced prices at an online bookstore. We should also partner with other associations to offer reciprocal discounts on events and membership.

Promoting the Technical Communication Profession

STC must embrace the multi-disciplinary nature of technical communication. Our diversity is a positive sign that our profession is evolving and we must welcome and support the many disciplines that constitute technical communication. As one society with communities from many related disciplines, we can take advantage of the stronger voice we have because of our diversity.

We must truly lead the profession, promoting best practices and educating the public, employers, and industry about the importance, usefulness, and diversity of technical communication. We must define where technical communication fits in the global business landscape of 2005 and beyond. To better define and increase our business value, we should solicit high-level industry leaders to join a new STC Board of Advisors.

Greater corporate support is key to STC's future. We must aggressively solicit support from companies that understand the benefits of a strong technical communication profession. We must promote corporate sponsorships for education programs, scholarships, and even specific recognition awards.

We must have a strong global presence and actively pursue new members and corporate involvement outside the U.S. Working outside the U.S. and belonging to a chapter in Europe for several years has helped me understand the global business of technical communication.

Other societies exist to support many of the technical communication discipline–user experience, information design, and more. STC needs to look outside its boundaries and interact with other societies. We must build alliances with them, arranging reciprocal discounts on events, offering shared educational offerings, and perhaps even holding joint conferences.

Supporting STC's Communities

Communities have always been a real strength of STC. While many associations boast strong networks, STC is truly unique in the quality of the relationships that members form. Our members are committed professionals who care a great deal about what they do and about each other. STC has been a wonderful part of my personal and business life, with many STC members I consider both colleagues and friends.

We must nurture all our communities and help them thrive. “Seasoned” STC members usually have close ties to their chapters. Now, more people have also developed close ties to virtual communities. All our communities have great value and need to be supported fairly and equitably.

Our annual conference is an important part of the society year and offers wonderful networking opportunities. We can strengthen the conference by updating our approach to reflect our changing community structure. It may be time to align the conference stems with the special interest groups and have these communities take responsibility for defining the offerings in their stems. Perhaps our smaller conferences throughout the year can be based on disciplines and run by larger interest groups, either instead of or in conjunction with regional conferences.

We must also provide society-wide technology solutions that simplify community operations and communication, such as portals, job banks, event listings, online classes, and forums. We must provide additional training and support for community leaders, particularly in light of the proposed changes to the sponsor role.

Improving Our Management of STC

It is no secret that we need some internal changes in STC. The Transformation is a good start, but the STC Board needs to communicate better than it has. The Board needs to listen to members, to invite participation in discussions and decisions, and to explain what the Board is doing. If I am elected, sharing information will be one of my key priorities.

We need to improve our management of the society's resources. STC needs to “open the books” to a greater degree, allowing members to understand how the society's resources are used. We also need to be sure we are deriving the maximum benefit from the STC office and directing them effectively.

Another area for change is the election process. Very few STC members vote, because our election process does not foster member involvement or bring issues into discussion. We should evaluate alternatives, such as requiring all potential candidates to submit petition signatures showing demonstrating member support.

Please Vote

STC is at a crossroads. We need leaders who are not afraid to take the more difficult path if it leads to greater benefits. Please give me the chance to help STC help us all. Thank you.

My Thoughts about STC

by Linda L. Oestreich, 2005 Candidate, STC 2nd Vice-President

Hi, I'm Linda Oestreich, a 2005 candidate for 2nd Vice-President of the Society for Technical Communications. I have been an active, dedicated member of STC since 1979. In 1996, I was honored by the Society with the title of Fellow. For the past three years, I have served on the Society's Board of Directors as Director-Sponsor of Region 5. This article is my way of helping you understand my passion for STC. After reading it, I hope you will vote for me in the upcoming elections. For more information, please visit my website at http://users4.ev1.net/~lloriter.

Relationships and Communities

Our profession and our Society are about relationships and communities. Merriam-Webster says relationship means [the state of] “having an aspect or quality (as resemblance) that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together or as being of the same kind.” Sounds like a bunch of STCers, doesn't it?

Many of you know that the Society is now referring to our chapters and SIGs as communities . One Merriam-Webster definition of community is “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.” Change the word living to working, and we have a perfect fit!

Relationships naturally exist within communities. And communities exist to help their members, to provide support, and to offer growth. Communities have relationships with other communities. STC is about the relationships within, among, and between communities and the individuals in those communities. It is the relationships of the Society that have kept me a member and leader for more than 20 years. If you have heard me speak, you know that I love my work in STC, but even more than that, I love helping others find their passion for STC.

STC helps us be better at what we do. In these days of change, outsourcing, and offshoring, the global community needs us. Technical communication is necessary. As long as we have technology and change, we will need good technical communicators who can provide bridges to understanding.

I believe in the STC community. I believe that the Society provides a path for our success. Just as the work we do provides the words and tools that promote better understanding, I believe that STC promotes excellence in that work. STC communities help us understand our work and ourselves.

A Two-Way Love Affair

Relationships need two-way energy. They need feedback and they need care. I have loved STC for many years, and I have worked hard to be part of its success. STC has loved me back with opportunities. It has provided new employment, higher salary levels, and lifelong friendships that I treasure. I want to be 2nd Vice-President and ultimately President of this Society because I believe in the Society and its members. However, just as we have changed, I believe the Society must change.

I want our Society to be known and respected by industry, by academe, by government, and by everyday people. I want STC to be a recognized acronym—even with people who have never written a users guide, a journal article, a research grant, or a help file. I want our spouses, our children, and our parents to understand the value we bring to the world. We, as members of the Society, can make that happen through better marketing, varied and accessible educational programs, enthusiastic grass root activities, and strong communities. I believe my leadership can help make that happen. As a Society leader, my job is to help ensure that the Society provides you with value.

I will do all I can to make my belief in this Society contagious. However, as a member of the Society, you also must nurture your STC relationships. You can make those relationships strong and reciprocal or weak and unavailable. I am passionate about STC. I believe that passion will help me lead the Society with wisdom and integrity. I hope you believe so, too.

Jackie Damrau Running for Region 5 Director-Sponsor

by Jackie Damrau, Senior Member, Lone Star Community

The elections for the nation have just ended. Candidates won and candidates lost. STC elections are just gearing up with the candidates announced for the various positions available. As one of the nominees selected to run for the position of Region 5 Director-Sponsor, I'd like to provide you with a brief background of myself and four reasons to vote for me as your Director-Sponsor.

My Background

I actually began in STC back in the mid-1980s by becoming a nonactive member of the Kachina chapter. As my son was born, I had to make a decision to let my membership lapse. I returned to STC during the 1993 STC 40th Annual Conference. From 1993 to 1998, I was inactive as I was progressing through my educational pursuits. In 1999, my life opened up and I slowly became involved with the Lone Star Chapter (LSC). Since that time, I have grown in my knowledge, experience, and leadership skills. I'm currently serving as the LSC president with my term ending in May 2005. I am a member of the Competitions and Public Relations committees, as well as Contributing Editor for Technically Write.

At the Society level, I have served as an international publications judge (2000–2003), a Technical Communication book reviewer (2003–present), an ID&L and Management SIG core team member; and a Management SIG core team member and its Managing Newsletter Editor.

My STC awards include one chapter Technical Publications competition award, two chapter newsletter awards, and two Chapter of Distinction awards.

I have a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Coast University, Santa Ana, California, and an MBA from Amberton University, Garland, Texas . I have held positions from a legal secretary to a technical writer/trainer to an instructional designer/developer. I have worked in the government, public and private sectors, as well as in academia. Industry knowledge spans from photovoltaic research & development to telecommunications to business soft skills training to animated multimedia training help solutions.

Here are the reasons I feel that you should vote for me.

Reason #1: Transformation

Vote for me because I believe in and support the Transformation initiative. Overall, I feel that this change is necessary for the Society to remain a vibrant, functioning professional organization. Change never comes easy!

As the Society continues on its transformation path, I'll be there for all the Region 5 chapters, communities, and special interest groups (communities of practice) to help you go through this transition as painlessly as possible. With effective leadership and member willingness, we can meet this with open arms. I'll be your elected spokesperson to raise your concerns and try to get answers from the Board and Society.

Remember, I have your interests at heart, as well as that of my own community.

Reason #2: Member Value

The Society has taken the first step in providing member value by implementing its tier level membership dues. Personally, I believe that the Classic membership is one that we all should select. Yet, in today's economy, dollars are shorter, so I can accept that members may opt to enroll for one of the other membership plans.

I am an 11-year-old STC member. You can ask me as a burgeoning teenager if I feel that all my needs have been met by the Society. I'd say partially. I feel that the Society can do more in the way of improving member value. What specifically that is depends upon each individual member and what he or she values most in a professional organization.

I'll work on your behalf to inform the Society of your thoughts for what you feel they can do to provide you with member value. Some of your needs may be addressed by the Transformation initiative stages. It never hurts to ask if things that you want are under consideration.

Reason #3: Educational Opportunities

I believe the Society can do more within the educational arena. I'm interested in your thoughts on what STC itself can offer to you, but I'm also interested in how you feel the Society can increase educational opportunities within our own region. We have loads of talent in our own backyards and are not using it enough. One of my goals is to find out how many of you are interested in leading a Webinar for the Region 5 members (with corporate sponsor support) where we can share information on products, techniques, leadership, and so on.

Reason #4: Communication

Communication is the key element in our profession. We are always writing documentation or creating web sites that provide the right message to the right audience. As your Director-Sponsor, I will be glad to visit your chapters (on a pre-arranged schedule), participate in conferences at the chapter or regional level, and write columns for publication in your newsletters.

In the role of Director-Sponsor, I'll be communicating often with the chapter presidents, student members, and SIG managers. These members will be the main point of communication. However, I encourage any member within the Region 5 area to contact me to discuss your views and opinions. You can also feel free to use me as your sounding board.

Finally, I encourage you to vote in the upcoming election. I believe our field is important and that STC does make a difference. I'm ready to make major contributions of time and effort to help STC go through its transformation and to promote STC as a premier technical communication organization.

You can also visit my website ( http://web2.airmail.net/jdamrau3 ) to find out more about me and why I feel I'm qualified to represent your chapters or communities.

Sherry Michaels, Candidate for Director of Region 5

by Sherry Michaels, President, Michaels & Associates

If you live outside the Phoenix area, you may not know me. I'm Sherry Michaels, President of the Phoenix Chapter community, and President of Michaels & Associates, a business that develops content for technical documentation and training. I am also a candidate for Director, Region 5, seeking your vote.

The necessary statistical data for worthiness of each candidate is on the ballots. I remember looking at those ballots and trying to make my own decisions. For whom will you vote? Perhaps you think voting doesn't have very much to do with you, and that voting doesn't have much impact. It does! Whether or not you do vote for me (and I hope you do), I urge you to vote and take the biggest and most important step to active involvement in your professional association. Voting is an under-rated activity, your right, and a sure way to ensure positive change, or to ensure things continue on the track you feel is appropriate.

Seven or eight years ago, I was a “silent majority” member of STC in the Chicago Chapter. I moved from the Chicago area to the Phoenix area and started a business. I felt intensely isolated. Unlike my experience in Chicago, I found relationships in the Phoenix area form slowly through volunteer efforts. The Phoenix Chapter community was a friendly, open community in which I believed I could contribute. My original intention was merely to network, perform some small but productive services, and build my company. I believe enlightened self-interest is a healthy, symbiotic way to contribute to a professional association. Through volunteering, I experience the rewards of modeling good business partner behaviors among my peers. There is a synergy that develops out of volunteering for STC. Volunteer synergy is why I am on the slate as a nominee for Director of Region 5, and why I am asking for your vote and your support.

I began by volunteering to help someone who was managing the community membership committee. Within two months, the committee manager left and became a member of a rock band. With little precedent, I had no idea what I was doing, so I started analytically and logically. I worked to recruit new members, becoming acutely aware that member retention was critical. After about two years, the Phoenix Chapter community administrative council voted the membership committee manager to become part of the administrative council with a voting role. Increasingly, I became active on several other committees, many of which had to do with education. Two years ago the Phoenix Chapter nominations committee approached me to be president of the chapter. After hesitation born of sheer terror, I agreed and was slated, then voted in. I have been president for a year and a half.

Transformation, Education and Communication

For some people, those who always liked the way things were, transformations are frightening or uncomfortable. For others, transformations take too long to complete. There is usually a larger, “in-between” group that is too busy to care about association transformation, even though it is their association. STC must accommodate all members, regardless of the transformation group in which they belong.

In the Phoenix Chapter community, we took the attitude that we'd decide how to best align the transformation with what we already had underway. Thanks to years of previously good leadership, there was very little to “fix.” The real job was to encourage people to keep doing things that were working. As President, I believed the key to member growth and member value was member retention. I wanted to improve our retention rate, because I know in business that “new customers” are more expensive to attract than taking care of your existing customers. The corollary for STC is that new members are more expensive to attract than existing members are to retain. While we make an effort to attract new members, why not form specific programs aimed at retaining existing members?

How, as Region 5 Director, will I handle the Transformation? I'll listen to the presidents, the councils, the members–you. I'll be a resource to the presidents to help their chapters through the next phase. There are communities that are robust, and need only support. The communities that need help will get it; strategic assists, a helpful hand, advice when it's wanted, information where it is needed. When we get information at the regional level, I'll work with the presidents to determine in each of their situations what to do with it, how to get alignment for each community.

Member Value

I often think about value, from the STC International standpoint, from the community standpoint, and from the standpoint of a business owner. An association (or business) succeeds by fulfilling the value proposition. Some technical communicators don't realize how much value there is to STC, locally and internationally. With Phoenix members Kathy Graden and Gloria McConnell, I developed a comparison of association costs across several organizations similar to STC, published in Tieline. The comparison research clearly demonstrates the superior value proposition STC offers. This example illustrates that I take a proactive approach to my roles. As Director, I'll help get information to you that you just haven't had time to get for yourself.

I ask for your vote because for me, it has always been about the members, about the value, and about how we can become stronger technical communicators to the hiring world. It's a passion that I back with a history of working for my own community and with the desire to participate with each of you as you work within yours. For further information, I have a toll free number at the company web site at www.docntrain.com . E-mail me at sherry.michaels@docntrain.com or call any time.

One more thing: check out what's in your community to do to become further involved. It's never too late to explore volunteer synergy!

 

Doug Woestendiek, Candidate for STC Treasurer

by Doug Woestendiek, Director of Software Architecture at Marketing Management Analytics

My name is Doug Woestendiek. I have been active in STC in a variety of roles, from the local chapter to the international level. Since 2001, I have had the honor to serve on the Society Board of Directors as the Assistant to the President for Technology. I was Special Events Coordinator at the STC Annual Conference in 1996. I have presented and moderated sessions at several Annual Conferences, and I have worked with stem managers as a peer reviewer for annual conference proposals. During my career, I have been a member of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Austin TX, Twin Cities, and Central CT Chapters. I served as the Mid-Hudson Valley chapter newsletter editor.

I would like the opportunity to continue my service to the STC as your Treasurer. The STC Treasurer has a dual role, working as the CFO for the Society and as a member of the Board. I have the necessary experience in both those roles.

Experience

I received my BS and MS in Mathematics of Operation Research and Statistics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with a Management Minor. I later earned a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Certificate from RPI. I hold several Technical Achievement Awards from IBM, including intellectual property and publication awards. In 1995, I received a Distinguished Technical Communication award in the Northern California Technical Communication's STC Competition.

I am a member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). In 2004, I became an ASQ certified six sigma black belt. I believe I can apply this skill to the financial processes of the STC.

I have the direct financial experience needed for this role. Since 2002, I have been Treasurer and Finance Manager for a $16M+ valuation private property corporation. I have also served that group as VP and Director. During my career, I have managed budgets over $10M and have reengineered financial processes.

I also bring the knowledge needed to be an effective member of the STC Board. I have worked in large international companies and small companies. I have led major projects, worked collaboratively with competitors, and represented views to industry forums.

Early in my career, I led IBM's documentation team in the COSE CDE (Common Desktop Environment) project. This was a joint development effort with HP, Sun, and Novell, involving online help, hardcopy, and softcopy documentation. I also represented IBM in the Open Group Single UNIX Documentation project.

From 1999-2004, I was a Senior IT Architect in Financial Systems at IBM. I focused on emerging technology and e-business strategies across the worldwide portfolio of IBM finance applications. I was the lead technical architect on the Finance Portal, which served as the conduit for web-enabled Finance applications and as a productivity tool for IBM's 10,000 worldwide Finance employees.

As a Senior IT Architect at IBM, I re-engineered financial processes and systems. I also helped recommend and implement a Sarbanes Oxley solution for IBM which IBM now markets to other companies. (Sarbanes-Oxley is a bill passed by Congress which forever changes the financial reporting landscape. It mandates numerous changes to financial reporting, intended to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures made pursuant to the securities laws.)

I am now the Director of Software Architecture at Marketing Management Analytics (MMA), responsible for the overall architecture of our Avista solution, holding an $11M+ direct development budget.

Plans

Our industry is changing. From the outsourcing of jobs to the state of the global economy in the area of technology, the world we live and work in is changing. And it is changing FAST. STC needs to continue to change too. During the change, we as a Society must re-evaluate our spending and ensure it is aligned with our member needs.

It's an exciting time for STC as it transforms to provide better value to its members. I can provide fiscal oversight to the society, ensuring sound processes and adequate controls are in place. I can assist the board in making wise financial decisions. I will manage the budget prudently and make it clear to the members how money is being spent.

The Society must become more nimble in reacting to trends. We must put policies in place so we can adjust quickly to provide programs that add value for our members and address their changing needs in a fiscally responsible manner.

I would like the opportunity to continue my service to the STC by continuing on the Board as the new STC Treasurer. I want to help ensure that the STC remains relevant to our members, and that STC uses our combined fiscal resources to deliver meaningful value to members in their professional lives.

You can learn more about me at http://hometown.aol.com/dougwoestendiek.

Please take the time to vote! Thanks.


Networking Opportunities

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


Upcoming STC Seminars

The 2004–2005 seminar series is the Society's most ambitious to date. Among the scheduled presenters are members who have published widely, served at high levels in the Society, and received outstanding scores for their conference presentations. Following is a list of seminars scheduled for March and April. To view the complete 2004–2005 seminar schedule, visit stc.webex.com. Please note that registration closes 24 hours before each event.

March 9: That's a Good Question!

Presenter Elizabeth Frick, the Text Doctor, teaches technical writing to employees in large and small companies. She won the Excellence in Training award for 2002 from the Association of Professional Communications Consultants (APCC). Bette holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota, and served as president of STC's Twin Cities chapter (2003–2004). Visit her web site at www.textdoctor.com.

March 23: Breaking into E-learning

Presenter William Horton is a recognized international authority on appropriate uses of new electronic media. He is author of nine books on technical communication, including Designing and Writing Online Documentation (John Wiley & Sons, 1994), The Web Page Design Cookbook (John Wiley & Sons, 1996), and Designing Web-based Training (John Wiley & Sons, 2000). Horton is an STC fellow, recipient of the ACM SIGDOC's Rigo Award for advances to software documentation, and winner of the IEEE Professional Communications Society's Goldsmith Award. He has delivered presentations in China, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, Brazil, Canada, and the Philippines.

April 6: Building Brand into Your Product or Web Site

Presenter Robert Barlow-Busch has been designing software and Web applications and advocating usability engineering for about fourteen years. This work has taken him throughout North America and Europe, and has included familiar names such as Sony and FedEx. Today, Robert is a senior advisor in Interaction Design at Quarry, where he directs projects and develops practices for Quarry's Design Builder methodology—an approach that connects the worlds of user-centered design and branding. Robert has lectured at several universities and presents regularly at professional and corporate conferences.

April 20: Magical Numbers

Presenter Jean-luc Doumont teaches and provides advice on professional speaking, writing, and graphing. He also trains instructors and can facilitate any process that requires solid structuring and effective communication. For more than 15 years, he has helped audiences of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities structure their thoughts and construct their communications in English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.

A senior member of STC and a columnist for Intercom, Jean-luc graduated as an engineer from the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium and as a doctor in applied physics from Stanford University. For more information about Jean-luc, please visit his web site at www.jlconsulting.be.

Session Information

Each seminar costs $99 for STC members (the nonmember rate is $149). In addition to offering high-quality training at an affordable price, STC's seminar series features a quick and simple online registration process. Members can sign up for seminars and view detailed descriptions at stc.webex.com.

More information about presenters and seminars will appear in upcoming issues of Dateline Houston and on the STC web site. Be sure to check the web site frequently for an up-to-date list of seminars.

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