Inside this issue:
The month of June is a time of celebration for our chapter. We hold our annual awards banquet to recognize peoples’ accomplishments over the past year, and to usher in our new elected leadership.
…I guess this June is just a little peculiar. We do have several things to celebrate as a chapter. But, our greater Orlando community is also still in mourning of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. There is nothing I could possibly say, especially in a few short paragraphs, to make the pain go away or to speed up the healing process. An act of hate ended 49 lives, harmed 53 more, endangered over 300, and broke countless hearts. Some of us know someone who was directly affected. Some of us, myself included, were faced with the grim realization, “that could have been me who was targeted.”
Yet, just as I cannot ignore this single senseless act of evil and its far-reaching repercussions, I must also acknowledge the several million acts of love and kindness that have resulted. Orlando (and our state, our nation, our entire world) has united together to face the horror head-on. We have held our vigils, donated our time and money and blood, and worked tirelessly to figure out the hows and whys. We have tried to carry on and resume our lives, lest we allow hate and fear to rule over us.
It is through our common, enduring humanity that we all now prepare to come together and celebrate, despite the lingering heartbreak. The Orlando Central Florida chapter of the Society for Technical Communication has accomplished so much over the past 12 months! Now the time has come for us to honor those accomplishments. In doing so, perhaps we can also passively honor all those ever affected by violence and hate. Perhaps we can show that love perseveres—that love wins.
As usual, Memo to Members will be taking a break for the summer. I suspect our next issue will be in September.
Editor, Memo to Members
By: Debra Johnson
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
It is with mixed feelings that I write my last message as President. I know it’s time to pass the gavel to the next generation, however, it’s just a little bittersweet. I’ve really enjoyed my time in such a key role for a chapter that has accomplished so much.
Added to the three years as Vice President, the last three years as President have been very rewarding ones for me. I have learned exactly what goes into leading a chapter of such committed and gifted professionals and students. Everyone has taught me so much about dedication, support, commitment, and the importance of volunteering.
It’s been an interesting reign. We have had our challenges: operational, logistical, technological, and membership. We have merged with one chapter and anticipate merging with another shortly. We have seen changes to our Community Achievement Award process. I can say for sure…we are resilient.
In the past six years that I have been a member, the STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter has been recognized for its contributions to the Society’s goal of providing high-quality programming, resources, and networking opportunities for technical communicators multiple times.
Because of the concerted effort of all and the determination and hard work of certain key members, I am proud to say we have earned the international society’s top honor of Chapter of Distinction, four times. We have earned the Pacesetter Award twice and earned Community of the Year twice. We submitted and received nominations for Associate Fellow Karen Lane and Fellow Mike Murray.
My service to this community has brought me more than words can express…It has brought me many friends, abundant networking opportunities, a job, wisdom, joy, and a deep sense of satisfaction.
I salute all of you…for it is you who make the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter such an outstanding community. It is you who have been instrumental in my tenure as president. THANK YOU!
While I will be personally thanking individuals at our banquet who have supported me as President, as well as those who have guided me with their wisdom and experience over the years, it is in this setting I want to say thank you to everyone. Thank you to all who ever attended a chapter meeting, helped with setup or cleanup, wrote articles for the Memo to Members newsletter, anyone who contributed ideas and asked questions, everyone who offered to search for information, or whose questions inspired others to think in new directions about common practices and generally accepted knowledge.
If you are a chapter member, thank you for your continued support of the chapter; support that enables the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter to provide services to the community of technical communicators in our local area and even world-wide. If you are not a chapter member, but you attend our meetings, thank you for providing us ideas for programs as well as an attentive audience.
I want to welcome the new Officers. These members will direct the operation of the chapter through their insight and discussion. They will determine the initiatives considered each month, not only at our Administrative Council (AdCo) meetings, but also during the intervening weeks as we consider various topics of chapter governance via our online discussion list.
The members of the new board will be:
Alex Garcia (President-Elect), David Coe (Vice President-Elect), RD Sharninghouse (Incumbent Secretary – Re-elected), Bethany Aguad (Treasurer-elect), David Coverston (Incumbent Director – Re-elected, membership manager, and recognitions manager), Karen Lane (Director-elect), and myself (Immediate Past President). Good Luck to all of you!
In addition to these positions, we have a few other committee heads and managers who deserve our appreciation. Thank you to W.C. Wiese (Active Member chair), Dan Voss (Education Chair and Mentoring co-chair), Nick Ducharme (Memo to Members editor), Jon Kessler (webmaster), and Loretta Lott (employment chair).
At our June end-of-year banquet, we will be reviewing our accomplishments and celebrating our successes. It is at that meeting that I pass the gavel to our new president, Alex Garcia, and welcome our new officers to their 2016–2017 positions.
I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all who have served the chapter, and I wish our incoming officeholders all success as they lead our chapter to even greater heights.
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Thursday, May 19th at the IHOP on University, the Orlando Central Florida chapter of the STC held its monthly meeting. The evening’s lecture was led by our chapter President, Debra Johnson. Debra is currently the manager of Technical Communication/Documentation for SunGard Public Sector, an FIS company.
The presentation was about “Standardized and Documented instructions.”
A portion of the evening was spent showing an example of how differently people do things and just how differently people can take/give instructions. A demonstration of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made a great point. Different instructions were given on how to make the sandwich. One said “to put peanut butter on a slice of bread,” and the result was a full, unopened jar of peanut butter being placed directly onto the slice of bread.
We all have our own way of doing things and our own way of instructing how to do things. These variations can have an influence on processes/instructions in documentation. This activity proved the importance of providing detailed, specific, sequential information that is needed to carry out an action.
Why is Excellence Important?
By: Mike Murray and Dan Voss
“Excellence can be achieved if you risk more than others think is safe, love more than others think is wise, dreammore than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.” —Anonymous
Whether the topic is personal excellence or organizational excellence, the principle is the same. When you focus on excelling at whatever you do, your name (or your organization’s name) is always part of the discussion for the next big thing.
A favorite story of mine is Sylvester Stallone’s rags-to-riches saga of how he overcame overwhelming odds in his life to be the international movie star we know him to be today. When he was a baby, he was born with a half-paralyzed face due to birth complications, which led to a slurred speech. This was the key reason why he was rejected thousands of times by casting agents. Because he never gave up, he finally got his big break as the star of Rocky one day—and this came after years and years of relentlessly trying.
I have often heard various versions of the expression, “If you’re going to be a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger in the world.” Oprah Winfrey says it this way: “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” Through many years of my life, I’ve learned that pursuing excellence in everything I do is infinitely better than settling for mediocrity. It should seem obvious that the pursuit of excellence in everything you do would be the surest road to maximizing your potential, yet so few of us strive to do just that. You will never be disappointed in your pursuit of excellence, for there are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Everything…everything can be done either horribly, somewhat well, very well, or excellently. This applies to jobs, relationships, hobbies, speaking, writing…everything. If you’re willing to settle for “horribly” or “somewhat well,” be ready to accept the rewards of having something that’s less than what other people are willing to accept. But if you strive for “very well” or “excellently,” you’ll reap a bigger reward and your legacy will be that of someone who tried to “do it better” and succeeded. Someone who does things excellently will be remembered well. Someone who slides by and settles for less will be remembered as a slacker. It’s completely up to us whether we strive for excellence or whether we’re willing to just let life pass by without putting out the extra effort.
My entire philosophy of excellence is predicated on the hypothesis that the essence of excellence lies in the quality of the individual’s performance. The key, then, is to build and sustain a culture in which each individual contributor is inspired to passionately and voluntarily give his or her best every day. Whether it’s in an STC chapter or in a huge international corporation, this philosophy holds true. An organization cannot achieve a level of excellence without individual members or employees who are themselves committed to excellence.
Every human being wants to be valued and appreciated. Employees and volunteers respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work.
In my tenure as chapter president, I realized the importance of getting to know the members individually and to identify the skills of each that were a fit for a specific position, thereby increasing their probability of achieving success. Once, a member stepped in without being asked and took over the responsibilities of a suddenly departing volunteer in addition to her own commitments to our community. She was a real hero in my eyes, and I took the opportunity to create the Chapter Hero award—a simple, inexpensive piece of round Lucite that included the person’s name, date, and the words “Chapter Hero.” Another time, a volunteer committed to making a presentation at the STC annual conference in spite of feeling so nervous at the thought of public speaking that she worried about the possibility of freezing up or even fainting on the stage. Because she gave it her best in spite of her fears, I created the G.U.T.S. certificate because she “Gave Up The ’Scuses,” overcame her trepidation, and delivered an excellent presentation.
There has never been a volunteer who has been thanked too often! To paraphrase STC Fellow W.C. Wiese, “You can never have too many awards.” Recognition before peers can be a powerful tool in developing a growing sense of excellence. People within an organization want to keep feeling that sense of pride and fulfillment and encourage others to “bask in the sunshine” along with them. They feel valued and needed, thereby encouraging them to continue on the road to excellence that the entire organization will share. It only takes a few such volunteers or employees to create an excellent organization, but every one of them is needed. After all, that ditch isn’t going to dig itself!
U.S. women’s soccer star Michele Akers personified commitment to excellence. Akers, an aggressive attacking center midfielder regarded as one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) in 1991 just as she was reaching the peak of her game. (Voss, 2003).
In her acclaimed book The Game and the Glory, Michele explained: “I get what they term ‘shocky’—my body starts going into shock as my blood goes to my vital organs instead of into my arms and legs. As my blood pressure drops, the blood flow to my brain diminishes, my mind gets mushy, and I lose concentration. A tornado roars in my head, my thoughts scatter, and my body feels weighted down and as slow as molasses. Sometimes I’ve actually gotten delirious on the field and had to be led to the bench by my teammates or the trainers.” (Akers, 1999, p. 27)
Michele refused to give in to the CFIDS and remained a key player on the U.S. women’s national soccer team. However, her disability reared its ugly head as the U.S. was playing China for the World Cup in 1999. As center mid, Michele’s job that day was to contain China’s high-scoring striker Sun Wen, their greatest weapon and, as such, the biggest threat to the U.S. team’s bid for the Cup. In so doing, there was no time for her disability.
“I can’t afford that this afternoon. If I’m tracking Sun Wen, I gotta be on. One half-second of distraction or a single mistake in judgment could cost a goal, or the game, and a world championship.” (p. 27)
As it turns out, Michelle did shut out Sun Wen that day. She gave it everything she had for 90 excruciating minutes, only to topple, nearly unconscious, to the turf after a collision with U.S. goalie Briana Scurry while helping to prevent China from netting the winning goal just as regulation time was about to expire.
Michelle was carried from the field and rushed to the triage unit, where she gradually regained consciousness as IV fluids coursed into her veins. She recalls being vaguely conscious of the din of the crowd rocking the stadium above her, at first wondering what the score was during the overtime session—then awakening to the realization that the score had to be 0-0 … until either the “golden goal” or penalty kicks resolved the outcome.
No, Michelle was not physically on the field as Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal on the fifth and final penalty kick, ripped off her jersey, and fell to her knees waving the jersey like a victory flag as her teammates mobbed her—an image that will live in sports history. But you can bet that Michelle’s spirit was on that field every step of the way during those two overtimes, during those five PKs, inspiring her teammates to victory.
NEXT TIME: What must we do to reach it?
Akers, Michelle, 1999. The Game and the Glory, an Autobiography. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. ISBN: 0-310-23529-4 (hard)
Voss, Dan, 2003. “In World Cup Soccer and in Overcoming Disabilities, ‘Impossible’ is Just Another Word for ‘Work Harder,’” Proceedings to the 50th Annual International STC Conference, Dallas, TX.
Hello, and thank you for reading this month’s edition of Memo to Members! With summer right around the corner, we’ve been working hard to finish up our chapter year strong.
We have a lot in store for you this issue. Not to steal her thunder, but chapter president Debra Johnson is preparing a knockout presentation about writing clear instructions! This month’s meeting will take place on Thursday evening, May 19th, at the IHOP on University Boulevard near UCF.
Please enjoy, folks.
Editor, Memo to Members
By: Debra Johnson
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
In April 2016, I was fortunate to travel for work, both to MadWorld for MadCap Flare users and to my company’s user conference in Las Vegas, called SUGA. I presented at the latter, two separate sessions. One was “Mining for Knowledge”, which you may be familiar with as I presented it at the UCF-FTC annual meeting in February. My second session was “Tips for Writing Clear Instructions for any Task, Procedure, or Process”, which I will be reprising at the Chapter meeting on May 19, 2016.
In the session, I will talk about how every employee has a slightly different way of doing things; how each one has a different background, different experience, different depth of skill and understanding, and a slightly different operating process. The larger your operation, the more variation can work its way into your processes.
Documented instructions are a great training tool for new employees. They help you standardize and standardization helps enforce consistency when performing tasks. Documented instructions can allow employers to measure performance, quality, and task time.
I will provide some tips on writing instructions that contain detailed, specific, and sequential information necessary to carry out an activity.
The goal of standardization is to do more with less resources, less time, and less effort. My assistant Grace and I will show you how to capture those best practices, document them, and roll them out to your workforce and have fun doing it… Please join us!
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Thursday, April 21st at the IHOP on University, the Orlando Central Florida chapter of the STC had a special meeting that covered the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster presented by guest speaker Dr. Paul Dombroski.
The lecture dealt with the technical communication aspects of the Challenger disaster from an ethical point of view. It covered the breakdown in communication, the push to have a mission to space, and the various memos, testimonies, and other investigative coverage concerning Challenger. It was an eye opener. I am still shocked to find out about the frozen launch pad and the eroded O-ring.
The Challenger explosion was a tragedy. I was in first grade at the time. Challenger crew member Christa McAuliffe came to my school for an assembly and we were all excited for her. We could not wait for the mission. On that fatal day, we didn’t know how to react. We were all very sad, but as kids we had no idea of the other things that were involved in the incident. I personally didn’t find out what had happened until Dr. Dombroski’s presentation.
On a lighter note, the chapter also used the occasion to honor the two winners of this year’s Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship! The undergraduate-level winner was Jessica Canul, and the graduate-level winner was Isabella Gustave. Thank you to both students, and to all participants, for helping this amazing program to continue. (For more information about the program, click here!)
By: Mike Murray
STC Fellow and Former Three-Time Chapter President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
I recently found out that I am an STC Fellow! Achieving this honor has been one of my goals for many years, but one that I expected not to reach after developing Parkinson’s disease. In fact, my original STC goals after completing a three-year tour of duty as president of our chapter included serving on the STC Board of Directors for a few years before setting my sights on the STC presidency. I had even planned how I was going to appear on stage for the first time (assuming I won the election, of course! J). Whatever city we were to be in, I would don the uniform of the city’s baseball team. Over the intercom would come the song “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!” I would burst upon the stage with a few of my expected antics, and the crowd would clap and laugh, knowing that it was going to be an interesting, if not downright exciting year for STC!
While I am disappointed that I was unable to reach my lofty goal, I do not regret setting it that high. As Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Our chapter has never been, nor do I ever expect it to be, mediocre. We have never been average or ordinary. We challenge ourselves by setting lofty goals. Whether we achieve them or not, raising the bar high as we set our goals has kept us operating at energetic, creative, and consistent levels of excellence
My thanks for receiving the special honor of Fellow goes out to all of you and especially to the Fellow who nominated me and the three Fellows who endorsed my nomination. Having that many Fellows in a chapter our size is indicative of the quality of our supporting members and the ongoing vitality of our programs.
I fully intend to keep setting lofty goals, and I encourage you to do the same. To paraphrase Robert Browning, “Your reach should exceed your grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” You never know. By reaching for the stars, even if you never get there, think of all the Excellent achievements you never dreamed possible that you can snag along the way!
In the previous article, our newly-appointed STC Fellow shared some of his wisdom with us. Some of you may also be following his feature column, Spotlight on Excellence. A fitting feature from a fine Fellow, one could say. (Thank you, thank you. Hold your applause.)
Mike Murray asked me to assure you that Spotlight on Excellence will return in next month’s edition of Memo to Members to answer the question, “Why is Excellence important?” Please stay tuned!