Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,
This month is a complicated one. I suspect I am not alone in having so much to say, yet with no clue about how to express it. But this wouldn’t be a very good opening if I didn’t try!
One year ago, on 12 June 2016, the collectively-beating heart of Orlando was thrown into cardiac arrest by a single person’s act of mass-cruelty and hatred at a place that had served as sanctuary for so many. The lives of 49 people were lost, and countless others were irrevocably changed.
That could have been the end of this story. Orlando, a tragic city whose Pulse was gone forever. But as the sun rose that morning, our community’s heartbeat came surging back—even while the hemorrhaging of our confusion and sorrow was at its peak. Officers on the scene and medical staff helped bring the immediate situation under control. Eligible donors stood in line for hours to give of their own blood. Volunteers, donations, and all forms of unimaginable support came pouring in from all over the world. Vigils, financial aid, and other services for those most affected became available shortly thereafter. We were Strong, and we were United. We rose to the occasion.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Pulse mass-shooting. Many wounds, both physical and emotional, are still in various stages of healing. Many will continue to be so for a long time. Many will leave lasting scars. But this week should also remind us of a time when we brought our hearts together, beating as One Orlando. This, too, will be a part of us for several years to come. Our newfound togetherness and overflowing love mark our true legacy. And that is why we will continue to persevere against the numerous challenges we face.
The STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter has a tradition every June. We hold a banquet to acknowledge our accomplishments during the past chapter year, and we look to the future as our newly elected officers take on their roles. It is a time of joy and congratulations over good food and beverages. But from now on, I also plan to think of every June banquet as a celebration of our amazing community in its entirety. The people who comprise not just our chapter, but also the broader community we serve, are the lifeblood that makes our home a special place to live.
This edition features a word from our Chapter President about the 2018 STC Summit in Orlando, a 2016 Financial Report from our Treasurer, a recap of May’s chapter meeting from our Secretary, and a piece about our chapter’s legacy (not to mention our future) from our Education Committee Manager.
This is our last issue before Memo to Members takes its scheduled summer break. When we resume in the fall, I will be a married man, and our chapter will be gearing up big-time to host the summit. I’m thrilled for the adventures that await just ahead!
Editor, Memo to Members
By: Alex Garcia
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC
My, how quickly time passes. We’ve reached the end of another illustrious chapter year. This spring saw the continuation of our series on ethics in the aerospace industry, an enlightening employment panel, a momentous joint meeting at UCF, and a foray into Tech Comm in the IT Industry. In the meantime, David Coe represented the STC (Orlando Central) Florida Chapter at the 64th annual STC Summit in Washington, D.C. As you read in this space last month, the Summit was quite the fulfilling experience.
Speaking of the Summit, we are now less than a year away from hosting the 2018 STC Summit right here in Orlando, FL. All eyes will be on the Orlando Central Florida Chapter to provide hospitality for the Summit. We need all the volunteers we can get. If interested in joining the Summit Committee, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Thursday we celebrate our chapter achievements, chapter elections, and officer transitions. I’d like to personally thank former Memo to Members Editor and outgoing chapter Secretary, RD Sharninghouse, for his years of service to the chapter. We will be sure to find a fulfilling role for RD in the years to come. Along the same lines, we celebrate the ascension of one of our illustrious students/new technical communicator members, Crystal Brezina, into chapter leadership. I expect great things from Crystal.
June and July represent our summer reprieve from STC. But fret not, your administrative council will hold its retreat in July to plan another exciting year of professional development programming, and of course, the Summit!
‘Til next year,
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
On Thursday, May 25th, the Orlando Central Florida chapter of STC held their monthly meeting at the IHOP on University Boulevard.
Our guest speaker was the chapter’s Vice President, David Coe, who expanded on his Information Technology as a Career Path topic from April’s progression meeting at UCF. David went over ways to improve knowledge and gain experience in the information technology field. He also went over his experience from the 2017 Technical Communication Summit.
By: Bethany Aguad
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC
Time for an update from your friendly chapter treasurer! Last month, we submitted our 2016 Financial Report to the Society to show how we used our chapter funds for last year. Rather than boring you with numbers, I thought it would be helpful to walk you all through what we made, what we spent, and why it matters.
The STC Office provided community funding based on our number of members from the year, as usual. This has served as our primary source of income since we switched to a no-cost meeting strategy. If you are an STC member, make sure you have joined our chapter!
Amazon pass-through revenues and United Way contributions also served as major sources of income from the year. These contributions might seem small, but they really add up throughout the year. Use this pass-through link when making your Amazon purchases, and Amazon will rebate a percentage of what you spend to our chapter.
Last year, the STC Suncoast chapter merged with the chapter, bringing their bank balance with them. Since we also merged with the former Space Coast not long ago, our chapter has a broad membership base across the state of Florida. President Alex Garcia gave background on that merger in his President’s Corner last year. Our Administrative Council (AdCo) made the decision, along with former Suncoast leadership, to use some of this money to invest in equipment to improve remote access to our meetings and to expand our student-mentoring program. We are currently the sole chapter in the state, which gives us a lot of room to grow.
In the end, we started acquiring equipment for remote meetings with the purchase of a laptop to use with Meeting Burner. This allows us to share our meetings online with our members who live throughout the state. This investment has continued into 2017 with additional equipment purchases.
One other significant investment was in our students for the mentoring program. In 2016, we had enough pairings to justify multiple kick-off meetings and increased membership reimbursements. If you want to read more about outstanding success of that program, read the 2016-2017 Mentoring Program Recap.
We also had our usual chapter expenses for supplies, our mailbox, and meetings, particularly our annual leadership retreat. This is the annual meeting where we plan our chapter activities for the year. Never attended the leadership retreat? We would love to see you there this year. You can read about last year’s meeting in an MtM article from RD Sharninghouse.
Our final major expense was in community awards at our June banquet. These awards consist of recognitions from the President to members who went above and beyond for the chapter. However, the active member program is the highlight of our annual member recognitions. Throughout the year, chapter members are given points for activities they participate in with the chapter. The members receiving the highest point totals receive the coveted active member shirts. For more on how this program works and how you too can earn a shirt next year, check out W.C.’s article on the Active Member Program.
This financial report provides insight into what we are investing in as chapter and how we are striving to serve our members. We want to provide the greatest value possible for everyone, so that we can grow together as community. If you have any thoughts to share about this report, I would always be happy to .
By: Dan Voss
Education Committee Manager
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC
“When you think of leadership, you are actually thinking about influence. At its core, leadership is really about the influences on the people around you and the ability to move them in certain directions to obtain established goals or objectives.”
–Mike Murray, STC Fellow and three-time Orlando Chapter president
A couple months ago, OCF Chapter President Alex Garcia asked me, as Education Committee manager, to explore the possibility of establishing a Leadership Development Program (LDP) as an extension of our successful student mentoring program with UCF.
The idea is to pair veteran chapter leaders with our young “Rising Stars”—graduates, indeed, of that student mentoring program—to impart whatever wisdom we can as we approach or advance into retirement. Basically, we aim to capture some of the Brontosauruses’ (Brontosauri’s?) DNA to pass on to the young velociraptors before the legendary giants lumber off to sink forever into the tar pits.
It was an excellent idea, so as a Brontosaurus myself with one foot (well, paw, or whatever you call Brontosauri appendages) already in the tar pits, I agreed to take on the project. As I set about to establish the guidelines for the LDP, I realized the program would never be complete without STC Fellow Mike Murray, one of our most distinguished chapter leaders.
To refresh your memory (or to fill you in, in case you’re so young you don’t remember this—which, I must admit, I find rather depressing J), in 2002 Mike became vice president of an organization reeling from the combined impact of hosting the “Y2K” STC conference (now called the Summit) in Orlando, followed by an unfortunate year where both the chapter president and the vice president were overcome by events in their professional and personal lives and basically—well, shall we say, “abdicated.”
The chapter stumbled through that year. At the time, the Education Committee was practically the only functioning entity within the chapter, and Mike was a key member on it.
After the June year-end meeting at the Winter Park Golf Club club-house, Mike, W.C. Wiese, and I gathered for our own little “summit conference” on the porch of the clubhouse. We talked well into the night about how to reverse the chapter’s decline and revitalize it.
This was our “Yalta Conference.” Somewhere around 11 p.m., we struck a deal. W.C. (Stalin) would take on the presidency of the faltering organization if I, as Education Committee manager (Churchill), would “give” him Mike (Roosevelt) to be vice president. At first I demurred, because Mike was a mainstay on the committee. Ultimately, however, I realized that if there was no chapter, there would obviously be no Education Committee.
So I caved. And it worked.
With W.C. at the helm, making “dead-on” strategic decisions on how to allocate our then-limited resources, and Mike, as VP, lining up and promoting a series of slam-dunk, content-rich chapter meetings, we turned the corner.
That was in 2003. The next year, Mike became chapter president. The rest is history.
In his three-year “Reign of Terror,” Mike led a revitalized Orlando Chapter to three consecutive Community of Distinction Awards from the Society, working from a baseline of no awards at all—an accomplishment that has never been replicated by any other community.
I mean, talk about leadership! Mike personifies it.
I will never forget the first chapter meeting Mike presided over at the Winter Park Civic Center (our “old haunts”).
He took the podium, engaged the audience, and declared emphatically in his sonorous announcer’s voice—for decades the “Voice” of Dr. Phillips High School sporting events (that’s why his email address is email@example.com, by the way … chat with him; he’ll answer)—and calmly announced, “Welcome to the Orlando Chapter of STC, the fastest-growing and most dynamic chapter in the Society.”
In truth, at the time, that was hardly the case. Basically, Mike was “managing to expectations,” and, by golly, as an organization, we stepped up and met them.
Three years later, that statement was the literal truth. We had earned the then-competitive Community of Distinction Award in our size category all three years. We went on to claim an unprecedented nine Community of Distinction Awards, two Community-of-the-Year Awards, and two Pacesetter Awards—an achievement that will probably never be matched …not that I am competitive, of course. Perish the thought.
From those three amazing years come all the leadership strategies Mike will now contribute to the Leadership Development Program. Is there any doubt this program will inspire our young leaders to reach new heights of achievement?
Not in my mind, there isn’t.
Postscript: If you are wondering why this article does not provide any details on the upcoming LDP, that was deliberate. It’s a work in progress, and Mike is an integral part of that progress. But know this—the LDP to be unveiled at the chapter’s July Leadership Retreat will be another “Pacesetting” achievement for our community as we evolve into a true Pan-Florida chapter. We have some of the finest young talent in the Society in the process of assuming the chapter’s leadership.
As Mike observes, “When you are committed to excellence, failure is not an option.” Failure has never been an option for our community. And given the talent and commitment of our “Rising Stars,” coupled with the wisdom of those who’ve blazed a trail for them, it never will be.
Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,
We have a very delicious edition plated for your eager consumption today. Please enjoy our special menu:
If you are a chapter member, please also remember that ballots for our chapter election will be available at this month’s meeting on Thursday, May 25th. (That is the fourth Thursday of this month instead of the usual third Thursday. Please note that the ballot distributed last month did not reflect this.) There is also the option to mail in a ballot, if you ensure it arrives by Tuesday, May 23rd. Please let me know if you are a member and did not receive the link to the mail-in version.
Now for the meeting details:
Manager, Communications Committee
By No machine-readable author provided. Skies assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2496069
By: Alex Garcia
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC
Hello and welcome to another exciting President’s Corner.
Well, the confetti has fallen and the vendor booths have been packed up; the 2017 STC Summit is a wrap, folks! What does that mean for Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC? The countdown is officially on to the 65th Annual STC Summit in Orlando, FL on May 20-23, 2018! Chapter Vice-President, David Coe, had the privilege of attending this year’s Summit and representing the Orlando Central Florida Chapter. We would like to thank his employer (Riptide Software) for making this trip possible. I had a chance to catch up with David as the Summit was wrapping up:
Alex Garcia (AG): Welcome back from the 64th annual STC Summit. I believe this was your first. Overall, what was your impression of the conference?
David Coe (DC): I am glad to be back, even though I did enjoy the cooler weather in DC. Yes, it was my first summit. The venue is beautiful and elegant and the ballrooms for the expo and education sessions were arranged simply, which kept navigation issues to a minimum for most attendees.
AG: How was the organization of the content and the programs? Were there any topics that you missed because they were scheduled at the same time as others?
DC: Most of the ballrooms for the expo and education sessions were arranged along an “L” shape hallway, which kept navigation from one session to another quite simple. There were some sessions that I was interested in that were scheduled in the same time slot where I had to choose which one to attend. Then there were other sessions in different time slots that were essentially the same, which resulted in missing other new sessions I could have attended. I think most sessions were scheduled well-enough that an attendees did not run into overlaps and missed opportunities, although they did exist. I would suggest a more thorough review of sessions to avoid overlaps and missed opportunities.
AG: Did you attend any STC organizational meetings, such as leadership day, the business meeting, or board meetings? Any insights on the health of the Society (that you are able to share)?
DC: I did attend the leadership program (was only half day), annual business meeting, and board meeting. All sessions were interesting.
On Sunday, the leadership program had an interesting topic using firemen leadership paradigms for discussion.
On Monday evening, the annual business meeting was presided over by the 2016-2017 STC Board of Directors. About 100 members were in attendance. Attendees were given a red placard to vote on motions from the floor. Before motions were taken from the floor, there were several reports. While the budget appears strong, it is much lower than I had anticipated due to low membership. On a financial good note, STC was able to reduce their deficits/liabilities by 78.25% over the past three years, which is a significant gain. There were several motions; some were carried and most were not.
I participated in one motion where I argued against it. The motion is to have STC pay for one member from each chapter to attend the upcoming STC Summit to help encourage and support chapter inclusion in STC events. While I love the idea, it is not fiscally responsible, nor is it feasible for STC to support as the motion was put forward. I based my argument on past experience on boards with approving large expenditures last minute with no study with disastrous results and, more importantly, based on the STC financial report given earlier. I did argue that STC does need to find viable alternatives to have STC chapter representatives attend, like a virtual conference or steeply discounted rates. The motion did not carry.
Final act was to transition to the new 2017-2018 Board.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Board meeting was presided by the 2017-2018 Board and was fairly typical for an incoming Board, with the President giving her views, visions, and expectations going forward. There were only three members in the audience. I was able to provide some input in regards to their scholarship and student membership initiatives that will be starting over the next year. Ben Woelk is the new Scholarship Committee chair (new committee).
AG: 2018 marks Summit #65. How excited is the Society about coming to Orlando next year for this milestone? What type of promotion did you see in D.C.?
DC: There was a table in the expo and there were several signs throughout the halls for next year’s event. At the table in the expo ballroom, there were several pamphlets from Orlando travel bureaus touting all the places and activities to do in Central Florida. There were several mentions in closing for the 2018 Summit.
During the 2017-2018 Board meeting, it was discussed the 2018 Summit is a milestone year (65th) and there are tentative plans to create new logos and themes to celebrate. The Orlando Central Florida chapter needs to pay attention and to try to be part of those plans.
AG: Now that you’ve experienced your first Summit, what kind of advice would you give to Orlando Central Florida Chapter members and friends who will attend the Summit next year?
DC: As a future attendee, I think the Summit is worth attending. It is really a good opportunity to meet like-minded professionals while enjoying the education sessions, expo, and fun activities. You also get to meet the Board of Directors who have been very approachable, and renowned gurus and celebrities in the TC world.
If financially feasible, attendees should consider taking the CPTC Foundation class and exam to get certified. The certification is new and it will need to gain maturity but it is a good opportunity to get this certification early in the program. STC is looking to grow this and I think it will be worthwhile in the long run to have it on your resume.
As the Orlando chapter host, we need to find out how well STC supported the Washington DC-Baltimore Chapter, which did a wonderful job. While I am sure they provided a variety of support throughout the Summit, their main event was the After Party on Tuesday night after the Awards ceremony. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres with a cash bar were served during the Awards ceremony and After Party. Live music was played by “The Rough Drafts” band, which is comprised of all technical communicator band members. They did a wonderful job. There was karaoke later in the evening, but I did not attend.
We will need to brainstorm and implement ideas in how we can make a positive impact on attendees during their stay in Orlando.
AG: Word Association (first word that comes to your mind):
64th STC Summit: Classy and Organized (couldn’t narrow it to one word)
Gaylord Palms National Harbor: Spledid
Washington D.C.: National Harbor: Beautiful
Adobe Connect: Promising
65th STC Summit: Exciting
Orlando Hyatt Regency (Peabody): Classy
DITA: Popular (but not always the best solution)
AG: Thank you for representing Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC at the Summit this year. Any parting words?
DC: I had a wonderful time and I thank my employer, Riptide Software, in supporting this venture. The STC Board, members, staff, volunteers, and Gaylord staff were approachable, welcoming, and supportive.
The expo/vendor selection were smaller than I expected but I have attended massive expos in the past and it is unfair to compare. With that said, many of the tools and complementing software and other services were well represented.
Most the education sessions were tools-agnostic applicable to most writing workshops. I personally would have liked a few more technical offerings, but with only 50 minutes to present, that may be wishful thinking. But for the paid half-day education sessions, there should have been more technical offerings.
Save your pennies if you plan to stay at the resort and attend dinner and other on-site activities. While it may not be as expensive as Washington DC, it will be costly; plan accordingly.
Get excited that the STC Summit is coming to Orlando! It will be worth attending!
Until next month,
By: Emily Wells
MtM Staff Writer
On April 20, the UCF Future Technical Communicators (FTC) and members of the Orlando Central Florida (OCF) Chapter of STC gathered for the annual meeting at the University of Central Florida. The event, structured in a progression format, provided an opportunity for seven professional STC members to share their experience and knowledge with college students interested in or pursuing careers in technical communication. This year’s event, entitled “Picking a Path,” focused on career choices, job placement, and career advancement within the various disciplines of technical communication.
“Picking a Path” started with food and networking, followed by the presentation of the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Technical Communication. Established by the Orlando Chapter in 1997, the scholarship honors the memory of a 1994 UCF technical communication graduate and STC chapter member. The coveted award is presented annually to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in the field of technical communication. This year, scholarship committee member Dr. Dan Jones presented the scholarship to the two recipients, Samra Khan and Jessica Mazza. Samra received the undergraduate award and Jessica received the graduate award.
In addition to the Pellegrin scholarship, the Suncoast scholarship was also presented at “Picking a Path.” Established by the Suncoast Chapter, this year’s scholarship went to a sophomore at the University of South Florida, Samantha McGilvray, who traveled all the way from Tampa to attend the meeting and receive her scholarship.
Unlike the scholarships, the final award, STC’s Distinguished Service Award for Students (DSAS), took its recipient by surprise. This award, given by the Society based on a nomination from an STC community, recognizes exemplary dedication and service to the community by a student member. This year’s DSAS award went to Crystal Brezina, OCF Chapter candidate for secretary for the upcoming 2017-2018 chapter year.
The citation reads: “For inspired leadership of the student members of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter [of STC] and tireless efforts in strengthening the dynamic partnership between our community and the University of Central Florida.”
Afterwards, seven progression-table hosts—all local STC members—presented on six topics related to this year’s theme, aimed towards giving students an idea of the diverse job opportunities available for them within the field of technical communication. Topics included:
All in all, the event was a big success. Many valuable lessons were learned, which can be seen in the recaps of the tabletop presentations in the six progression venues. Read on…
By: Alexandra Engrand
MtM Staff Writer
David Coe has been a technical communicator for 10 years, with 9 years of programming experience. His presentation, Information Technology as a Career Path in Technical Communication, combined these skills.
David began his presentation by telling his audience how he got into technical writing. It came down to two things: he had the experience and the knowledge for the job.
David stated that he had “18 years of heavy technical experience,” including writing how-to manuals for customers, and was capable of translating “engineering-speak” into content a lay person could understand. These are skills he says employers value and technical writers would benefit from having.
He went on to discuss different skills he has found useful for technical writers to have in their toolkit. He said entry-level jobs are difficult to find in the technical writing field, as many people lack the expertise and experience required. David recommended improving your chances by learning valuable skills, such as programming and coding. Being able to translate technical jargon into writing others can understand is an important part of the job. This is something that can be learned on the job, in the classroom, or a combination of both.
David concluded his presentation by listing some websites technical writers can explore:
By: Alexandra Engrand
MtM Staff Writer
The subject of the headline was one of the main ideas was one of the main ideas Debra Johnson discussed in her presentation, Adding Value Where It Counts Most: Content Development Lifecycle/Workflow. Debra began by explaining the lifecycle of a document, complete with a handy, easy-to-follow chart of the 10 steps that make up the process. The process began with “Discover,” where information for the project is researched and acquired, all the way to the last step, “Maintenance,” which included updating and adjusting the published content as necessary.
Debra’s presentation focused on explaining the rest of the diagram to her attentive audience. Towards the end of the presentation, she shared the best way to perfect the “elevator pitch” for why technical writers matter. It essentially boiled down to “my job is to make you (and your company) look good” and “it is more than just making documents look pretty.” Technical writers add value to the work they do, help companies avoid liabilities, cut support costs, and offer a better overall experience for the customer.