From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Technical communicators of Florida and beyond,

It’s no secret that November tends to mark an annual period of reflection. We reflect on the ten months that have already passed us byour personal progress, our emotional climate, and sometimes even our defining moments. This past weekend, for instance, I had the singular pleasure of updating my Facebook relationship status from “In a Relationship” to “Engaged!”

However, the picture is not yet full if we only look to the past. Reflection is not only a tool for nostalgia, but also one for planning and survival. We must look to the future and to what the next year or several years may bring. It is in this spirit that we have assembled an experienced panel of chapter leaders to discuss an uncomfortable topic:

Job layoffs.

This is the part where everyone collectively groans at the mere mention of layoffs. Getting let go at work is one of the worst nightmares for a working person. It’s a natural instinct to avoid thinking about it. If we pretend the problem doesn’t exist, then maybe it will leave us alone. Right?

…Not exactly. During my time as editor for this newsletter, I have seen some highly qualified and decorated colleagues lose their employment through no fault of their own. It’s right for us to hope that we’d never face that situation, but I believe it’s also responsible to prepare for the possibility, however remote.

Our meeting topic this month is titled Surviving a Tech Comm Layoff. If we can discuss this challenge together and help each other be more prepared, perhaps we’ll all be able to sleep just a little better at night. Then we can go back to reflecting on our warm, fuzzy feelings and social media presences instead. :)

Please join us this Thursday, November 17th, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

Thank you,

Nick Ducharme
Chair, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

 

P.S., I think a shout-out is in order to my wonderful fiancée! My dear, all my careful preparation going forward shall be for you and for us. Thank you for inspiring me to do better each and every day for the past three and half years. I love you.

Credit goes to Pinterest.com for the image.

Credit goes to Pinterest.com for the image.

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

Hello again! This month has been full of changes, both professionally and in the chapter. First, I accepted a promotion to a Senior-level Technical Communicator position with another business unit of Lockheed Martin. Don’t worry, it is still in Orlando. I will miss my old team in the instructional design arena, but look forward to forging new working relationships with my new one in technical publications. Oh, and I get to work day in and day out with your Memo to Members editor, Nick Ducharme! With new positions come new responsibilities, new systems to learn and document, and new paths to blaze. To infinity…

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The international board of directors of STC has decided to maintain our chapter name as the STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter (the emphasis is all mine). No matter; we are continuing our previously-announced vision of a colloquial all-Florida chapter. Your Administrative Council just voted to make virtual meeting attendance for all STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter members FREE. For those of you non-members who would like to join us virtually, it will still cost $5. So if you haven’t joined, why not? https://www.stc.org/membership/

Want to join the Suncoast Special Interest Group (SIG)? If you live in the Tampa Bay/Sarasota/Charlotte area, please contact former SunCoast Chapter president Kathy D’Adamo at info@stc-suncoast.org to sign up and start organizing. Please feel free to get together, virtually or in-person, for geographically based networking. For 2017, we have allocated funds for networking mixers in your area, so the sooner you organize, the sooner you can take advantage.

Lastly, indulge me in a shameless plug. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday are all coming up. Don’t forget to use our Amazon.com Click-Through to make all your holiday purchases. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but your STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter receives a portion of every purchase completed using our Amazon link. Oh, and have a reader on your list? Sign up for a free trial of Audible.com and the chapter gets a credit also. If you sign up for a gold membership, we get even more!

From all of us, happy shopping and turkey eating!

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If You Missed the Last Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

 

On Thursday, October 20, 2016 at the IHOP near UCF, the “Orlando Central” Florida Chapter STC held their monthly meeting.  The topic was Emerging Trends in Tech Comm and How to Jumpstart Your Technical Skills.  This topic was presented by UCF Alumnus and software technical writer, John Paz, who was visiting us from Sydney, Australia.

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One of the most intriguing presentations I have seen.  John went over emerging trends in tech comm by sharing his experiences as an employee with Atlassian.  The description of his work environment was very uplifting for those of us who may feel in a rut at times where we work.  Employees are given autonomy in the workplace.  They have a sense of freedom to break away from the monotony of typical office life.  Giving employees self-directed time, a collaborative culture, funding and support, and a culture of experimentation allows for passion, dedication, and innovation to flourish.  For example, employees have what’s called “20% time” where they can spend 20% of their time on personal projects, maximizing productivity.

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To keep things in order, other trends are in place to keep a balanced workforce.  Embracing transparency, putting the customer first, playing as a team, and building with heart and balance keeps a sense of responsibility.  It holds people accountable.

John suggested some things to look into when improving your technical writer skills:

  • Agile and Scrum
  • Content strategy
  • Information architecture
  • Content modeling
  • Content management systems
  • Application Programming Interface (API)
  • GIT version control
  • XML/DITA structured authoring
  • User research/data analysis

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John also shared with us that Atlassian is looking for tech Writers.  Check out their job portal at www.atlassian.com/jobs.  You may have to consider relocating.

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Spotlight on Excellence

Mike Murray

Mike Murray

What must we do to reach it? Part 1
By: Mike Murray
STC Fellow
Former Three-Time Chapter President

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”
— Ronnie Oldham

In this series of articles, we have explored two aspects of excellence, including what it is and why it’s important. The article in this issue gives you some insights regarding what we must do to achieve excellence. After weeks of thinking about how to present this information and studying numerous Internet articles, I was still at a loss as to what to say and how to say it.

As I sat here at my computer at 4:20 a.m. one morning due to the onset of my occasional insomnia, it suddenly dawned on me that I already have the information I need. It’s all in my head because I have lived it! So, this article is a little different. It is written from my personal experience.

I have a number of important things to share with you about achieving excellence, so the article in this issue of MtM will only cover what we must do to achieve personal excellence. I will address organizational excellence in the next issue.

 

Individual Excellence

Find your spark

You can’t know what you want to be excellent at without first identifying your interest—that is to say, your spark. You know when that spark forms within you. You can feel it. It starts with a casual interest, but suddenly, you realize that it has grown into a glowing flame—something you want to do or be a part of.

It’s a joy to encounter someone who is truly excellent at what he or she does. It might be a manager who builds strong and motivated teams or a waitress or waiter who anticipates your every need. It could be a teacher who unlocks the desire to learn in each student. Similarly, it’s exciting to identify someone who has obviously caught fire. He or she is focused, always in the conversation, exudes a certain energy, and takes personal initiative without being asked. I am extremely pleased to say that I have identified a number of those people in our chapter. Not only are they ensuring our continuing success, but they are also on their way to fulfilling their potential as strong leaders and outstanding members of society.

How can you become known as someone who consistently demonstrates excellence? Have you ever noticed that those who are excellent at something make it look so easy? That’s always a sign of motivation, and therein lies the key: Motivation is required for excellence.

 

So, you found your spark – now what?

Following is what I have found it takes to fan that spark into a full-fledged fire of excellence. Everyone has all the potential in the world to do whatever it is he or she dreams of or wants. Here are the key principles of personal excellence.

Believe in yourself. Said another way, feel the fear, and do it anyway! When it was my turn to be the chapter president, I told the assembled crowd that I felt like I had suddenly become the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, who at that time were enjoying their dynasty. I was petrified. But, with the wise counsel of W.C. Wiese and Dan Voss, I dove in head first.

Self-belief is paramount to every success. To get somewhere, you first need to believe in yourself. The only way to develop your self-confidence is to get up off the chair in the back of the room (or the chair in your living room) and do something!

Get out of your comfort zone. In another example, a young lady named Bonnie Spivey was asked to make a presentation to an audience at the STC annual meeting (now known as the Summit). She was so frightened that she worried that she would freeze up, if she didn’t get sick or pass out first. Well, Bonnie felt the fear and did it anyway, delivering an outstanding presentation. I was so pleased that I created a new certificate in her honor: the G.U.T.S. award, which stood for “Give Up the ’Scuses.”

Have the hunger for excellence. You need to want to achieve excellence. Without hunger and the resulting passion, you will do things half-heartedly, and, quite predictably, you will get only half results. The emphasis here is on what you want, not what others want.

Set huge goals. Emphasis on the word “huge.” Not the normal standard goals that you know you will definitely achieve. These are goals that really make you stretch yourself, soar, and beam with satisfaction when you achieve them. Never settle for average. And drop the expression “good enough” from your vocabulary. That’s for those who are comfortable with mediocrity, not for those with the spark of excellence.

Keep building your skills. The path to excellence is a continual one that requires constant upgrading and skills development. No matter how much time and effort we have already spent in developing ourselves, there will always be opportunity to improve and be better. Don’t hide from challenges; welcome them! And don’t retreat from problems; attack them and solve them. See them as opportunities.

The Orlando Chapter provides the perfect opportunity to build your skills. In addition to the monthly program, the chapter has numerous experienced professionals with expertise spanning a wide range of disciplines within technical communication. They would be glad to guide and mentor you no matter how old you are or where you are in your career. If you truly have the motivation, the burning desire for excellence in your heart, when you hit one of those inevitable “bumps in the road” in your career, you will take the initiative to find one (or more) of these people to help you get past it.

How do you find one? You ask. Many of our chapter members and leaders are passionately committed to this form of professional development within our community. One good medium for this is the chapter listserv. A young professional recently posted a request for guidance on which tool skills he should get certified in to advance his career. Within an hour, he had received a detailed response from one of our chapter members; the next day, he received another … and one of these chapter members is continuing to work with the young man on a regular basis.

Go the distance. Going the distance is what separates an amateur from a professional. True professionals let nothing stand in their way to keep them from attaining whatever is important to them. No setbacks can keep them off track. Personal excellence begins when you go beyond the call of duty and you never stop improving.

Letting go. Letting go of your need to control everything that will happen to you along the way, letting go of your need to control the outcome, and allowing things to just happen are important aspects of achieving excellence in your life. Detach yourself from the outcome, and KNOW that it will all be taken care of. You have prepared yourself for this journey, and now all you have to do is surrender. Learn to enjoy every moment of this journey toward excellence. Learn to be present in everything you do, and let yourself be completely immersed in every action you take, in everything you say or do, whether big or small. Make each day excellent, and at the end of your life, you will add all of these days, you will put them together, and your result will be an excellent and successful life.

So remember …Excellence is a journey, not a destination. Light your fire, and enjoy the trip!

 

Next Edition: What must we do to reach it? Organizational Excellence

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From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Communicators of Orlando of Florida and beyond,

I am so pumped. My coworkers and I have been decorating our cubes like crazy for the upcoming holidays. Additionally, our chapter has been doing its own autumn cleaning to prepare for some huge changes.

Not sure what I mean, yet? Wishing I’d just dispense with the shameless teasers? Very wellcheck out this month’s President’s Corner article for all the details!

Also, this month’s meeting is a must-see. I consider our topic to be the most exciting yet, especially as an early-career technical communicator looking to expand my skillset. But even veteran tech comm folks will enjoy Emerging Trends in Tech Comm and How to Jumpstart Your Technical Skills, a presentation by UCF alumnus and cutting-edge technical writer John Paz.

Please join us this Thursday, October 20th, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

Thank you,

Nick Ducharme
Chair, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

the_sunshine_state

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The President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

Hello, and welcome to another edition of President’s Corner. Changes are happening within our chapter, and it is a very exciting time to be a member. As I alluded to last month, we have just finalized the merger between the Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC and the Suncoast Chapter STC. I know that the Suncoast chapter created a solid legacy during its existence, and we hope that the new chapter will continue to build on it. As of press time, our official name has not been approved by the STC International offices, but let me introduce, at least colloquially, The Florida Chapter STC. Headquartered and based in Orlando, the Florida Chapter STC will be made up of two regionally-geared Special Interest Groups: The Suncoast SIG (Tampa Bay-Sarasota-Charlotte) and the First Coast SIG (Jacksonville and Gainesville). Your Administrative Council will hold court in the Orlando area, and our physical chapter meetings will still emanate from this region. Since our chapter is transforming to an all-Florida-encompassing organization, a few “staffing announcements” are necessary:

  • I have appointed Debra Johnson, your Immediate Past President, as head of the A/V Committee. She is tasked with bringing our A/V equipment up to the state-of-the-art so that we can provide our virtual chapter members with the best online experience.
  • At the Administrative Council retreat, we created a Communications Committee. I see this as our top priority, and no better person to head this up than your Memo to Members editor Nick Ducharme. As you may have already seen, Nick and his committee instituted the use of Mail Chimp for all chapter communications. We hope to have one common voice, look, and feel to all chapter communications, and Mail Chimp is a great start. Kudos Nick and his committee!
  • As with any organizational change, documentation is key. I would like to thank your Director-at-Large Karen Lane for the amazing, and very thorough, job she did as head of the Bylaws As I write this, the new Bylaws are winding their way through the International STC approval process.

As you can see, your new STC Florida Chapter, as we would like to call it, is strong and healthy. That saying, don’t forget to renew your membership and Save $30! For a limited time, Classic members can save $30 on membership! Enter STC2017 in the “Membership Promo Code” field on the last page of the online application to apply your discount. And, don’t forget to add the Orlando Central Florida Chapter (our current name) as your home chapter. https://www.stc.org/membership/.

Until next month.

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If You Missed the Last Meeting

RD Sharninghouse

RD Sharninghouse

By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Secretary
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
rdsharninghouse@gmail.com

 

On Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 at the IHOP near UCF, the STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter held  its monthly meeting.  The topic was Global Content Strategy: Delivery is Critical to Success” presented by Scott Abel the Content Wrangler, Tim Steele, and Joe Gelb.  This was a webinar originally broadcasted on September 21st, 2016.

The particular subjects discussed were the “importance of expectations, buying preferences, content consumption habits, culture, religion, and tradition when creating content” as pointed out in the description.  The information was well detailed.  Content is not only dependent on how it is structured, it is also dependent on its recipient.  The “Customer Experience” (dealing with content) has become more important than product enhancement and employee training. And the amount of sources customers have for seeking information has also expanded; websites, mobile apps, customer service, and social media all have an impact on how customers interact with content.

To join the The Content Wrangler’s mailing list, go to: http://thecontentwrangler.com/vip-sign-up-form/

And check out their newest book, Language of Technical Communication: http://xmlpress.net/content-strategy/the-language-of-technical-communication/

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Content and Customer Experience – Part 2

DebraPhoto

Debra Johnson

By: Debra Johnson

Immediate Past President 
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

Manager, Technical Communication 
SunGard Public Sector

contentandcustomerexperiencepart2a

It is our job to help customers help themselves…

At SunGard Public Sector, the Technical Communication group is re-thinking the role, function, and position of product knowledge in our overall support ecosystem.

Ultimately, we want to get to a place where we:

  • Efficiently create and update content in alignment with why, how, when, and where customers access it
  • Enable customers to get “up-close and personal” with content, so they can easily share feedback and ask questions
  • Empower our Technical Communicators, Subject Matter Experts, and our other content providers to interact with each other and customers regarding product content and knowledge

As I expressed in Part 1 of this series, our plan is to shift away from “a world of documents” to “a world of answers.
It is our goal in TechComm to consistently deliver self-serve support that generates a memorable customer experience for all of the right reasons. We believe this philosophy will help enable customer engagement…and that can make a world of difference for all of us!

Since arriving SunGard Public Sector in Oct 2015, it has been my mission to improve and standardize our content and its workflow…and my team has been working hard doing just that… standardizing and focusing on increasing our productivity.

Most of our time is spent on trying to make a dent in the backlog of documentation, improving quality, our content infrastructure and processes, and implementing standardization across product lines.  All of these things are great, and definitely help to reduce cost and optimize operations. However, at the end of the day, the value is mostly productivity value. Our customers are not aware and don’t always reap the benefits of these efforts.

For years now, in the content industry, Technical Communicators have talked about authoring tools, versioning, and content management systems. They talk about how to localize content and impose internal workflows for reviews and validation checks.  These are the investments we have been focusing on at my company…and they do need to occur.  They are good investments, but they reside on the left side of the wall.

contentandcustomerexperiencepart2b

We want to break through this wall

My team’s goal going forward is to leverage all of these investments by bringing the benefits to customers; focusing on the customer value. We want our attention to be on the right part… the customer-facing part.

The way we see it, giving our customers better customer experience involves two main elements:

  1. Our ultimate task is to help customers get their tasks done as quickly as possible. They don’t want to be forced to spend a long time looking for answers. The quicker they get an answer, the happier they are.
  2. After our customers find their answer, we want to give them incentive to stay longer, to explore our content assets, to educate themselves, and to develop a positive relationship with our company.

contentandcustomerexperiencepart2c

Think about it…

This is a challenging concept and unless carefully planned and strategized, can be contradicting.

On one hand — we want customers to find things and be able to leave as soon as possible…to use our products to their full potential …to become productive.
On the other hand — we want them to spend more time, learning, educating themselves, and possibly exploring other products that could benefit them.

We don’t want them to HAVE to spend this time with a sense of frustration, but instead, do it after they already have what they need and are now browsing with a feeling of exploration.

We want to Provide Answers and Engage with Dynamic Content Delivery

contentandcustomerexperiencepart2d

To answer and engage our customers, we need a certain set of functionalities.

At a high-level, we want or need to:

  • Deliver a best-in-class search for information
  • Personalize the content they receive through roles, so that they’ll find the answers they want faster, but also feel that we know and care for them… so they feel special
  • Allow our end-users to collaborate with other end-users or with experts from our company
  • Implement “gamification” techniques, that will encourage our users to contribute more and be more involved, helping foster a content-centric community
  • Make sure people come back… we want to keep them looking for the latest content updates we put into the system
  • Keep pushing relevant content recommendations, whether its additional educational content, training, or promotional materials, all of which are in line with our customer interests

It takes all of us…

It takes Senior Leadership to understand, adopt, and support this philosophy.

It takes some new tools, additional resources, and removal of barriers.

It takes embracing a company-wide Customer Experience and Content Strategy that includes all content-producing areas as equal and important.

Technical Communication’s role

In TechComm, we provide value in what we produce and in what we can provide our customers.
We are:

  • Improving our customers’ experience by helping users become more successful on their own
  • Reducing the frustration and risks associated with improper use of our products
  • Providing accurate information about our products, which helps technical experts communicate effectively with other technical experts
  • Supporting our training programs with a basis of accurate information from which to train
  • Capturing and curating knowledge to keep it from walking out the door
  • Using innovation in media to clarify steps or identify the parts of a product, letting users focus on getting their task done quickly or more accurately
  • Performing usability studies to uncover problems with content, functionality, and experience

We want to know what you think.  Send us your thoughts and ideas as a content producer for your area to  documentation@sungardps.com  Subject: Content and Customer Experience

Ok… So we have a philosophy… What’s next…???

In Part 3 of our Content and Customer Experience series, we’ll talk about how we would like it to work… maybe explain our vision in Technical Communication to improve the customer experience by delivering product content anytime and anywhere, across all customer touchpoints.  In essence, we want to maximize our business value – to help reduce support costs and to enhance the customer experience by making our customers happier and more loyal.

See you next month for Part 3… Easier to Find…Easier to Solve…Better experience

 

 

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From the Editor’s Desk

nick2016

Nick Ducharme

Dear communicators of Orlando and beyond,

Welcome to our 20162017 chapter year! I don’t say it lightly, but this year may be the most groundbreaking yet for our Floridian technical communication community. Our recent merger with the Suncoast chapter opens up several new avenues through which we intend to best serve you, our beloved readers and chapter contributors.

Let’s get right to it! Our first meeting topic of the year will be a watch party for the webinar titled Global Content Strategy: Delivery is Critical to Success. This emphasis on globalization in tech comm comes at a time when our chapter also looks outwards, planning to take on a greater role throughout the entire state of Florida.

Please join us this Thursday, September 22nd, either online or at UCF’s University Boulevard IHOP. Click here to RSVP.

Thank you,

Nick Ducharme
Chair, Communications Committee
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

A promo for the webinar! Please note that our viewing will be on a different day and at a different time.

A promo for the webinar! Please note that our viewing will be on a different day and at a different time.

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