From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Welcome to 2020! A new year, a new decade, and a new newsletter! Alright, a little over the top, but I’m excited for the new year and what it may bring. But first, let me bring you this month’s newsletter:

This month, we have our Future Technical Communicators (FTC)/STC annual meeting at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This year’s theme is Tech Comm Career Paths, focusing again on the many different career pathways available for a technical communicator. For more information, visit the RSVP page.

Next, last month, we shared more on the new graduate scholarship at UCF, inspired by our very own Mike Murray. This month, Bernard King shares about how our chapter helped give back to the community in other ways this past holiday season.

Speaking of Mike, this month he’s sharing some words of wisdom and encouragement as part of his Excellence column, helping kick off a new decade, and a new section in our chapter’s history.

Finally, we have not one, but two January meeting recaps (Lessons from New Tech Comm Professionals), both from first-time MtM writers! First James Yunik sets the stage, providing the 411 on the helpful advice and main topics covered by the panelists. Next, Connor Elfrink shares his take on his first chapter meeting (welcome Connor!), as well as some key takeaways.

That’s all from me for now. I hope to see you at the meeting.

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Communications Chair
Editor, Memo To Members

Florida Chapter Gives Back to the Community

By: Bernard King
Student Member
Florida Chapter, STC

During the 2019 holiday season, the Florida Chapter donated more than $100 worth of gift cards and pantry items to the Harbor House of Central Florida. Harbor House is an organization that works to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing critical life-saving services to survivors, as well as educating the community on navigating the justice system and utilizing resources to cope with the effects of domestic abuse. We’d like to take this moment to outline what it means to give back to your community and how your contributions can create a better world, as well as a better you.

It Makes Life Difficult for the Bad Guys

Harbor House is an organization dedicated to protecting domestic abuse survivors. When you contribute to organizations dedicated to protecting, you’re also providing abuse victims the resources to rebuild their lives. An organization with more resources to protect people makes it difficult for those who wish to prey on them. Organizations like Harbor House partner with law enforcement and child protective services for the purpose of preventing homicides and injuries.

Create a Legacy of Giving

When you contribute to a charitable organization, it makes a difference. Donations don’t necessarily have to be monetary. Harbor House accepts contributions in the forms of cleaning products, personal care items, and even pet food. Whether it be brightening someone’s day or saving a life, the effect will be felt throughout the community. More importantly, it may inspire someone else to do the same. The more you give, the more you inspire. And when you inspire, you cement a legacy that you and your loved ones can be proud of.

Misty Arner (right) dropping off the donations on behalf of the Florida Chapter.

It Looks Good on Paper

Doing volunteer work and contributing to non-profit organizations can help make you more marketable, especially when you are contributing in ways that are related to your chosen career or major. For example, contributing articles to volunteer organizations like STC can help to build your skillset and make your resume more appealing to potential employers. Being employed by an organization that wants to make the world a better place can be a great source of pride.

Regardless of your reasons to give back to your community, the overall benefits of doing so will always lead to positive results for both you, and the world around you.

Starting a Fire…

Excellence Column

By: Mike Murray
STC Fellow
Florida Chapter, STC

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original audience for this message was the STC Florida Chapter Administrative Council (AdCo). In it, the author, under whose leadership the chapter became one of STC’s most dynamic communities and accomplished so much over the past 2 decades, delivers some wisdom—and hopefully inspiration!—to the young leaders who are taking on a new and daunting challenge. It is republished here in Memo to Members as part of Mike’s column on Excellence.

Date: January _, 2020
To: STC Florida Administrative Council
From: Mike Murray
Re: A New Year’s Challenge

If you have spent any time as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you know how difficult it is to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together or by striking flint with a metal object. Like a fire, the hardest part about anything is just getting started. Once the fire gets started, it becomes easier to build and maintain it. That’s fine for a campfire, but what about things you can’t touch, things like a statewide STC chapter?

Foundation is #1!
In my three years as chapter president, I spent the entire first year solidifying the foundation. In the campfire analogy, that would mean finding some dry tinder and borrowing Joe’s cigarette lighter (I sure do miss Joe). In building a strong chapter, I approached people one at a time who I identified as having leadership skills and positioned them on the organization chart in places where I felt they could do the most good. That and some other things (e.g., finding a meeting place, establishing schedules, etc.) took my entire first year.

New World, Same Basics
Time went by and things changed — a lot, and yet, the basics remain. The first thing is always establishing a strong foundation. The current AdCo has done a wonderful job of establishing a strong foundation after identifying the correct foundation.

Here’s where things change. It’s one thing growing a chapter when all of your potential members are in a nearby metropolitan area, quite another when they are scattered out over an entire state. In the former example, all you need is a president with a big mouth and a place for meeting attendees to sit. I don’t have to tell you that that doesn’t work anymore. Things have become technology-driven and require sharp people who are familiar with the rapidly changing technology.

Thankfully, the Florida chapter has the best of the best, but even that is not enough. The other key ingredient to establish a successful virtual chapter is ”time.”

Time Takes Patience
 We would all love it if technical communicators statewide immediately recognized the value of participating in a virtual chapter, but that is going to take some convincing. Becoming comfortable with virtual technology is something that scares many people. In addition, many of the senior technical communicators are simply tired. They are not interested in learning yet another ”groundbreaking” technology. It will take time to convince them of the value they have been missing.

I can’t think of anybody in history who was more patient than Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. One thousand times he tried to convince restaurants and others of the value of using his chicken recipe. On his one thousand and first attempt, he was successful. Just imagine if he had gotten so disappointed that he quiet on his one-thousandth attempt. You never know if your next attempt will be the successful one.

Twelve publishers rejected J. K Rowling’s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.                                                     —Robert F. Kennedy

My final advice to you is that you are doing an outstanding job—one that very few people would be brave enough to undertake. Just persevere and always remember Winston Churchill’s advice.

Never, never, never give up.
Winston Churchill, Battle of Britain, 1942

Churchill’s attitude may literally have saved the world at that time. Granted, saving STC may not be on the same level of gravity. But the fact remains, unless we move the Society into 21st-century technology, it is doomed.

You have created a spark. Let’s see what happens next.

January Meeting Recap

Lessons from New Tech Comm Professionals

By: James Yunik
Student Member

Florida Chapter, STC

As we begin this new year and decade, it is fitting that we turn our attention toward new beginnings in the world of technical communication. The January meeting of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) was held on Thursday the 23rd at Perkins in Winter Park, and hosted a panel of five new tech comm professionals with tips and perspectives on entering and excelling within the field.

Panel Members:

  • Winfield Pearson (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Shawn Menard (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Alexandra Engrand (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Emily Wells (employed by Lockheed Martin)
  • Amy Truong (employed by JHT Inc.)

As a University of Central Florida (UCF) student and aspiring tech comm professional, here are the panelists’ points that stood out to me.

Job Hunting Strategies and Pointers
Expand your skillset and experience beyond writing. Augmenting your skillset with things like programming languages, desktop publishing software, or financial literacy gives you more to offer and—potentially—gives you the upper hand in a competitive market.

Don’t limit yourself to applying for jobs with “Technical Writer” in the job title! The skills you’ve developed in your education and life experience are useful in a variety of jobs and careers, especially in the wide field of technical communication. Read job descriptions and see where you might fit in.

Networking is an invaluable skill and habit that can help you jumpstart and maintain your career, especially when done in person. Joining professional groups (like STC!) and meeting with potential employers are great ways to learn about new opportunities and—just as importantly—make yourself known to those in the know.

Before meeting with a potential employer, read up on the organization as well as the role, and ask specific questions about both. Inquiring about nuances of the job, company culture, and policies shows that you are genuinely interested and invested in the opportunity. You’ll also learn more about possible directions for your life and career in the process. Also, don’t forget to follow-up on interviews with a thank you note or email!

Finally: don’t let rejection dampen your spirits. It’s literally impossible to win ‘em all.

The Benefits of Being New
For many companies, new professionals may represent much-needed change for their culture and knowledge base. Your status as a new recruit means you haven’t become rooted in outdated habits or modes of thinking, and it provides you with a license to learn. You can—and should—ask questions; doing so benefits both you and the company.

Tips on Starting Out
This may come as a surprise but as a technical writer, it is not unlikely that you won’t do much—or any—writing. Single-source publishing is gaining in popularity, so many companies are opting for programs like FrameMaker, Arbortext, and MadCap Flare. Consequently, knowledge of programming languages (like XML and HMTL) is increasingly valuable, and you may compile more documents than you compose.

Let go of the academic mentality of making a few revisions and forgetting your work once it’s graded. Within the professional world, the number of required revisions may be vastly greater and the revision timeline may be much longer!

Don’t be idle. Keep busy and write down everything you do in the course of your job. Records of your contributions are a valuable tool for self-advocacy. And since we’re on the topic…

It is crucially important that you advocate for yourself. Doing so not only means recording your contributions and keeping records of your communications, but also proactively representing your views and interests. It’s possible that others may advocate for you if you’re incredibly lucky, but luck is not a strategy. Don’t expect your future to fall into place; build it.

Top Takeaways From My First STC Meeting

By: Connor Elfrink
Florida Chapter, STC

Hi all! I’m Connor – current textbook editor and new member of the STC Florida Chapter. The January meeting featured a panel of young professionals who answered questions about their experience in the technical communications field. As a young professional myself, I found their tips super helpful – here are some of my favorites!

  1. Lessons you’d pass on to new tech writers:
  • Learn an additional skill (coding / HTML / etc).
  • Don’t stress if you haven’t mastered all skills. Mastery of one skill/software is evidence to employers you can master another
  1. Make a portfolio as you work: 
  • Keep track of/file your work as you go (for performance reviews, etc.). Doing this retroactively can be a daunting task!
  • Take 30 minutes each month to review/recap what you’ve done.
  • Keep copies of everything!
  1. Value of a portfolio:
  • Helps you to organize/prioritize what you value most about your work.
  • How to build a larger portfolio? (blogging!). Even if it’s writing about a random topic of interest, blogging shows your ability/commitment to writing.
  1. Does your employer support STC? 
  • They love it!”
  • Companies like when current employees are STC members. For one reason, this connects. employers to a larger pool of candidates to fill future job openings.

5. Recommendations for job search strategies/interviews?

  • Join STC! Networking helps push your resume through.
  • Be confident! Focus on / sell the skills you do have.
  • Apply for everything! Once you’re in the company, new positions can open up.
  • Research the company beforehand/mention specifics at the interview.