Inside this issue:
Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,
After last month’s iconic joint meeting with the UCF Future Technical Communicators (FTC), it’s time for another Florida chapter classic – our annual employment panel.
Vice President Nick Ducharme shares more about the event (for which I will again be serving as the online moderator), including bios on our awesome panelists. Read on to learn more or visit our Meetup page.
In addition, this month we have not one, but two recaps from the February meeting, one from new writer Ashlee Chmielewski (who also helped guest edit this month’s newsletter) and one from returning writer Winfield Pearson.
In addition to the employment panel, STC Florida has two other meetings this month. The first is our monthly virtual networking meeting on March 26 and the second is a milestone celebration and networking event on March 27. I highly recommend coming to one or both of these meetings as they are a great way to relax while connecting with other technical communicators. You can RSVP for the events through the links above.
That’s all from me for now. I hope to see you at the meetings!
Catch you on the flip side,
Editor, Memo To Members
STC Florida’s Annual Employment Panel
By: Nick Ducharme
Florida Chapter, STC
This Tuesday is my birthday! Almost as importantly, it’s also our March chapter meeting. 😉
We here at STC Florida have an annual tradition around this time of year: our Annual Employment Panel. We invite a panel of hiring managers, recruiters, and professionals who interact with Technical Communicators on a daily basis for some moderated discussion plus audience Q&A. This is a perfect chance to ask some experts your burning questions about · interviewing, resumes, career advice, mentoring, work samples/portfolios, and more! We welcome both virtual and on-site attendees. I highly recommend joining us for this one if you are able, as the discussions can get pretty lively
Please click here and RSVP for our Annual Employment Panel, featuring speakers Scott Dorsett, Jeff Wayman, Stephanie Young, and André Evans. Official panelist bios are below.
About the Panelists:
Scott Dorsett has been in Central Florida since graduating from UF in 1993. He has worked in staffing/direct placement/recruiting since 1999. A major focus of his recruiting since 2007 has been in IT, though he continues to recruit in several areas including administrative, accounting, marketing, sales, and teaching. Scott has been with Riptide Software for 5 years, where he handles recruiting, most HR functions, and some account management.
Jeff Wayman is the Director of Customer Education for Sonatype, where he leads a team of Sr. Content and eLearning developers, Instructional Designers, and associated leads. He drives the overall strategy for all product content and education development, including documentation, training, and technical guides.
Stephanie Young has been a technical communicator for 16 years. She graduated from UCF in 2003 with an English-Creative Writing BA and a minor in Studio Art. In fact, she started right out of college at Lockheed Martin on Lake Underhill as an illustrator. Now she manages a team of 16 people, performing both technical writing and Configuration Management on 27 different contracts for the Air Force and government customers. Stephanie has also been a program manager in charge of an Army contract for technical publications and training, and she worked in configuration management for AT&T Government Solutions. She is a certified Army instructor who has routinely performed training for soldiers and reservists.
André Evans is a Lockheed Martin Group Technical Staff member who works within Logistics Support Engineering to provide integrated logistics technical guidance in the areas of Logistics Support Analysis, Technical Publications, and Training. André believes that comprehensive, affordable, and efficient content development is the key to a successful warfighter, country, and company. André has worked as a hardware and software technical publications project lead for IBM and Lenovo personal computing divisions. In 2008, he moved to Orlando, Florida to work for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. He has experience leading teams to develop operation and maintenance technical publications at the organizational and depot level of maintenance for all branches of the military. He is a current member of STC and the S1000D Steering Committee, and holds a BA in Language and Literature, Philosophy and Religion, and an MA in Technical Communication.
By: Ashlee Chmielewski
STC Student Writer
Florida Chapter, STC
For those who were unable to attend the meeting on February 7th, the meeting was a combined gathering of our STC chapter and the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club at UCF. Attendees had a chance to eat and socialize with others for thirty minutes before the meeting started, and members from both organizations seemed to have no problem mingling.
The meeting itself involved seven short presentations about technical communication career paths. The different presentations addressed the following careers: instructional design, technical trainer, user assistance designer, content strategist, technical writing, and technical publications coordinator. The seventh presentation discussed navigating your career and saving for retirement.
Alex Garcia led the discussion about instructional systems design. Alex discussed how he uses the ADDIE model to help improve the teaching of a subject, a valuable skill he uses to help improve the manuals he works on at Lockheed Martin.
Next, Rachel Eichen discussed her role as a technical trainer. Rachel mentioned how she works on cruise ships teaching technical classes. She said that she loves working on cruises because she is still able to travel. However, she did warn us that a career specifically on a cruise ship will not provide you with many days off.
Michael Todd talked to us about his career as a user assistance designer. He seemed quite passionate about his work as he discussed how user assistance designers help clients learn to use their products.
Debra Johnson discussed her career as a content strategist. She mentioned that she did a lot of contract work in the beginning of her career and that it was always different at each job, since no two contracting jobs are the same. Debra told us that it is not for everyone, but she loves the challenge.
Next, Angela Trenkle spoke to us about her position as a technical writer in the bioresearch industry. Angela mentioned that she loved technical communication and science, and after some searching, she was able to find a position that combines both of her talents.
Our own STC Florida President, Bethany Aguad, told us about her position as a technical publications coordinator. Bethany said she likes the challenge of the changing tasks and priorities. She also expressed that she loves being able to work from home, something this position allows her to do.
Finally, W.C. Wiese gave us advice about how to prepare for retirement. It seemed like an odd topic to discuss, especially since many of us are in the beginning of our careers. However, W.C. explained that we need to start saving now. He said that companies are no longer providing pensions, and we need to think about our financial future now rather than when it’s too late.
It seemed as though everyone at the meeting, both virtually and in-person, had a good time. The presentations were very informative and each had their own strengths. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the meeting and asked thought-provoking questions.
What Can You Do with a Degree in Technical Communication?
Panelists Showcase Diverse Career Opportunities in our Field
By: Winfield Pearson
STC Student Writer
Florida Chapter, STC
The most essential and pressing question I had about my Technical Communications major was the same question that my quizzical friends would pose to me: what, exactly, do you do with it?
As I found out on February 7th: a whole lot.
The annual Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club/STC meeting at the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus welcomed a slew of professional guest speakers, all of whom had a different answer to what they did with their Tech Comm degree and experience. What I might have done with my degree was type “Technical Writer” into the search bar and smash apply to every hit I could find. Luckily, this meeting showed me that there are far more options to look for and, more importantly, deeper reasons to apply to only a few of those options. I now know which ones to really set out for because of the anecdotes and work experience of the guest speakers.
Alex Garcia, Senior Technical Writer at Lockheed Martin, gave the first presentation with an explanation of his work in instructional systems design. I noticed on his STC page that Alex had not only majored in Technical Communication at UCF, but also double-majored in Space Engineering Technology,an intriguing route to have taken as an undergraduate with a variety of interests.
In his presentation, Alex detailed the development of educational models and strategies. He explained how as an engineer and a tech writer he could design materials that would be successful for users. His presentation also included an explanation of the five-part “ADDIE model” for instructional design. This is step-by-step wheel whose first part is Analysis, followed by Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate, before returning to Analysis and restarting the process. The endless-loop nature of the model was a useful reminder that development of any kind has to be constantly reevaluated and honed to stay up to date with the needs of those who are using it.
Angela Trenkle, presenting via video chat, detailed her experience as a technical writer in the bioresearch industry. Her story was also intriguing from the point of view of a student, because she had initially earned a BS in Environmental Science in pursuit of her goal to perform research in aquatic biology. Although this initial goal didn’t work out for her, Angela used her strong background in science, along with her core writing skills, to make a career transition to technical writing while still continuing her work in the sciences. Angela’s story was particularly encouraging to those who may experience setbacks in their career, but can nonetheless find surprising connections between their education, experience, skills, and available opportunities.
Rachel Eichen had easily the most infectious, positive energy of the six speakers. She presented via video chat as well and shared her experience as a technical trainer. Her hybrid role was intriguing, as she designed her own training materials and then presented them, often from such delightful locations as seminar ballrooms and cruise ships. For those who love to travel and want to spend less time in front of their computers and more time conveying information in person, Rachel’s career path is an intriguing option. Her presentation made it clear that it is better to keep moving than to stand still—a mantra as applicable to developing effective presentation styles as to making positive moves forward in acquiring new job proficiencies, a must for technical trainers.
Michael Todd detailed his experiences as a user assistance designer. In his current position, Michael has been able to draw upon multiple areas of interest, including design, writing, and working on multiple projects at once. These aspects of his job seemed especially appealing for students like myself, who wish to work in a variety of areas and like to multi-task. Overall, these factors, combined with the welcoming, modern office setting and incentives, such as healthy snacks and the option to use monthly gym stipends at SumTotal Systems LLC, made pursuing this option particularly attractive to Michael.
Debra Johnson detailed her extensive experience in the ever-evolving field of content strategy, development, and documentation management. From her presentation and a conversation I had with her afterward, I learned how to standardize the way a website looks and feels to users who navigate it. Standardization of a voice is a method to maintain the same identity for not only documents like proposals and charters, but also in making all the pages on a website feel like parts of one cohesive whole. I also learned that recycling content is just as important to my website environment as it is to the environment in general because there is no reason to rewrite what you can use again. Having enjoyed writing for the web quite a bit myself, it was nice to know that content creation and management was another route to explore on my career journey.
Bethany Aguad’s presentation on her work as a Technical Publications Coordinator hit home with me when she made it clear that she too was a perfectionist in improving efficiency. Improving efficiency of any kind has been a key mission for me since my thrilling, but mercifully truncated tenure in retail. Bethany conveyed an intriguing idea: that my recurring obsession was a key part of her own job. Combined with the variety of tasks she was contributing to, and the fact that she worked at home while surrounded by an audience of lounging cats like an Egyptian queen, her work as a Technical Publications Coordinator sounded quite appealing. The “How I Got Here” section of Bethany’s handout was also helpful for students, as it introduced Technical Editing certifications one could obtain from STC to add to their marketable skill set.
Finally, W.C. Wiese ended the evening on an optimistic note, by presupposing that all of my fellow students and I will be holding long positions of employment, and should therefore start planning our retirements, even though that may seem too far off to imagine at the moment. W.C. laid out a simple and useful table for young professionals to use, detailing how much of their income they should be saving up for every decade of their lives. These simple percentages and time periods, like having two times your salary saved by thirty-five years old, establish important milestones for early career professionals to monitor their progress towards financial security in retirement.
This year’s annual FTC/STC meeting was rife with career options, advice, and optimism about the future with multiple plans for success. I now have quite a few answers on what I am going to do with my Technical Communications degree. It seemed the more I learned about the field, the more answers I was going to find. That should keep my application history as refreshing and reassuring as the answers to what I plan on doing with my freshly printed Technical Communications Degree.