March 2016

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Inside this issue:

From the Editor’s Desk

Nick Ducharme

Nick Ducharme

Welcome, dear readers, to this month’s edition of Memo to Members.

Thank you to everyone who attended our recent Joint event with the Future Technical Communicators club of the University of Central Florida. The “Mining for Knowledge” progression night was a huge hit! After a word from two of our chapter presidents (one current and one past), you will find very extensive coverage of the event below.

First, however, please turn your collective attention to this month’s upcoming meeting on Thursday, March 18th at 6:30 PM! While it is true that our UCF meeting is an annual tradition, one should note that we are now coming upon another: Our annual March Employment Panel Discussion! Everyone should come join us at the IHOP on University Boulevard for an evening of enlightening discourse with a panel of esteemed guests. Topics can include (but are not limited to) interviewing, resumes, career advice, mentoring, and work samples/portfolios.

For more information about the event and to RSVP, please click here.

Until next time,

Nick Ducharme
Editor, Memo to Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

The President’s Corner

Debra 2016By: Debra Johnson
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC

Content is the lifeblood of an organization. Without content, products and/or services do not exist. Most organizations fail to understand that content is also a product; an asset to be managed. Content is created in many different ways by many different people and departments, often without a cohesive plan.

Managing this content effectively for a company can be like herding cats. Usually, walls are erected between content areas, causing incomplete pictures of the needed information…it’s really difficult to manage.

As a leader of a Technical Communication team, we pride ourselves in using the highest industry standards, strategies, and best practices to deliver quality content, so our readers can effectively understand and operate our products.

As a team, we involve everyone in the process!

  • Technical Communicators
  • Product Owners
  • Developers
  • Quality Assurance analysts
  • Management
  • Support
  • Customers

We research and create information about technology, products, or processes directed to a specific audience through various forms of media. It’s important we practice Technical Communication across all user abilities, so our readers benefit from safe, appropriate, and effective use of products, information, and services.

We plan our projects using a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make our readers’ lives easier and more productive.

Part of that approach is making sure content is structurally rich. We organize it properly for the user. This means it is easier to manage across different products, channels, and departments as well as easier to use, create, manipulate, and replace. If we can get it structurally rich, categorized, and discoverable, it is easier for customers to zero in on specific content. It’s when we don’t do these things that documentation fails.

– Debra

References:

  • Meghan Casey, the Content Strategy Toolkit, Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for getting content right
  • Kevin Nichols, Enterprise Content Strategy, A Project Guide
  • Peter Hartman, Starting a Documentation group, A hands-on guide
  • JoAnn Hackos, Information Development – Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People
  • JoAnn Hackos, Managing Your Documentation Projects

Spotlight on Excellence

Mike Murray

Mike Murray

Excellence as a Core Value
By: Mike Murray
STC Associate Fellow
Former Three-Time Chapter President

(Author’s Note: In this series of articles, we will explore “Excellence.” What is it? Why is it important? What must we do to reach it? How do we know when we have arrived? How do we maintain it? What are some examples of excellence in STC and beyond? In the months to come, we will address these questions and more.)

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal— a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
— Mario Andretti
NASCAR Champion

Core Values

Any discussion of excellence must begin with a review of core values. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person, an organization, a nation, or a culture. Core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong. They can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; they give direction to a nation or a culture; they create an unwavering and unchanging guide.

In an ever-changing world, a person’s core values are constant, but they differ from person to person. They also differ from organization to organization, from nation to nation, and from culture to culture. When core values clash, conflict results.

Since our discussion is focused on excellence in STC, the first step is to establish the shared core values of our organization. They are not descriptions of the work we do, nor the strategies we employ to accomplish our organizational mission and our business objectives. These values underlie our work, they govern how we interact with each other, and they determine which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission and objectives. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.

How Core Values Are Used

A core value is only a true core value if it has an active influence, and if the people or organization manage to live by it, at least most of the time. As an example, imagine you have a project that has to be completed by tomorrow morning. It is now the night before and you are already well past your usual bedtime. Your eyes are bloodshot. The pillow beckons. Should you do the best you can in the next half hour, get some desperately needed sleep, and then in the morning just submit whatever you have? If one of your core values is Excellence (and it is one of ours), that’s not the right decision.

Back in 2002, in my first year as the chapter president, that is exactly the situation I faced in completing and submitting our application for a Community Achievement Award (CAA). That was—and still is—a colossal task. The list of criteria you must meet is 10 pages long, and every activity you “claim” must be substantiated with detailed support documentation—all in triplicate. Our completed application filled fifteen 3-inch binders. To complete this daunting task, I pulled an all-nighter—and we won our very first Chapter of Distinction award. Because Excellence is one of our core values, while the work itself was grueling, the decision to finish the job was easy.

(Editor’s Note: Watch for the next installment of Mike’s series on Excellence in the April edition of Memo to Members.)

Previous Event — Mini-Conference Yields Treasure Trove of Information

By: Crystal Brezina
Staff Writer, Memo to Members

(Editor’s Note: Memo to Members coverage of the highly successful FTC/STC Mining for Knowledge seminar at the University of Central Florida reflects the collective effort of staff writer Crystal Brezina, staff writer Jonathan Neal, and staff writer and photographer Nicole Garcia.)

1. Crystal Brezina

Crystal Brezina

1. Nicole Garcia

Nicole Garcia

1. Jonathan Neal

Jonathan Neal

On the evening of February 4th, students and professionals alike started mining in search of the most valuable gem of all—knowledge.

Presented by the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC OCF), a mini-conference titled Mining for Knowledge lit up the Egmont Key Room at the UCF Student Union with sparkling nuggets of knowledge.
Decorated in UCF colors, the event mimicked the dark caverns of a mine, complete with gold fibers gleaming at each table, concealing Hershey’s™ gold nuggets, the only ore you can eat.

Another highlight of the event was the presentation of the OCF Chapter’s coveted Gloria Jaffe Award for the Most Excellent Technical Communicator in Central Florida to FTC faculty advisor J.D. Applen, without whose support the STC /FTC student mentoring program would not be flourishing the way it is (see sidebar).

This mini-conference provided students and professionals the knowledge and materials needed to succeed in technical communication. Attendees were also given the chance to network with other technical communicators in the field—vital for students who may have been stumbling in the dark when it comes to post-graduation plans.

While the conference was intended to have a rotational progression style comprising three 25-minute seminars on six different topics with each speaker conducting two of their own sessions, unforeseen events closed the Garnet Venue (see sidebar). Even so, other speakers grabbed their pickaxes and volunteered to host not only two miniature seminars, but three—so there was no lack of nuggets to be mined.

With over a century and a half of combined experience, the presenters’ expertise across a broad spectrum of topics contributed to the success of the event, not to mention the wide range of topics relevant to the field of technical communication, from managing content to succeeding in your first year on the job. Several of the speakers have previously presented their topics at the STC international conference. More information regarding each speaker’s topics, and the unfortunate events of a missing speaker, are presented in the sidebars below.

Previous Event — Dr. Applen Reflects on Gloria Jaffe Excellence Award

By: Nicole Garcia
Staff Writer and Photographer, Memo to Members

(Editor’s Note: MtM staff writer and photographer Nicole Garcia interviewed Professor J.D. Applen about the Gloria Jaffe Award as the Most Excellent Technical Communicator in Central Florida, which he received at the Mining for Knowledge mini-conference at UCF February 4.)

Q: What does the Jaffe Award represent to you?
A: I was surprised that I won. I sat in the back of the room wondering who was going to win, and I was thrilled. It means that I was recognized for helping young people trying to get jobs in a very relevant field. FTC is not like the Ski Club; it’s all about getting young and talented writers jobs.

Q: What is the value of the mentorship program between FTC and STC?
A: It’s tremendous. There are few organizations in the country that have programs like it. This program is a smooth transition between a technical communication degree and a job. A lot of colleges will just congratulate students on their degree and wish them luck. This program allows students to actually network and get a job. And so many of our students got jobs in Orlando as technical writers.

Q: What do you see in the future for the mentorship program and your teaching?
A: I want to emphasize the importance of software skills to prepare students for 21st century writing.

Q: What is the guiding principle in your teaching?
A: I want to replicate, as best as I can, what goes on in the industry. And I want my students to have a theoretical background in rhetoric. A lot of people can write elegant sentences, but few people can find ways to communicate complex ideas in simple terms.

Q: What is the one thing you want your students to take from your lessons?
A: That writing is really important, that writing is hard to learn, and that most people can become good writers if they keep working at it. It all starts with writing clearly for an audience.

2. Dr. John Applen, Jaffe Award

“Is it ticking?” Dr. Applen (right) certainly wasn’t expecting the Gloria Jaffe Excellence Award that Amethyst Venue host Dan Voss presented to him on behalf of the Orlando STC chapter at Mining for Knowledge!

Previous Event — Amethyst Mine Yields Gems of Proposal Knowledge

3. AmethystBy: Jonathan Neal
Staff Writer, Memo to Members

A nugget of knowledge is revealed! Welcome, one and all, to Dan Voss’ Amethyst Venue: “How to Write a Winning Proposal”!

During the February procession, the veteran proposal specialist discussed the ins and outs of writing major proposals—a valuable skill for upcoming and veteran technical communicators alike. The topics included types of proposals, how to plan your proposal, how to sell your product or service, and much more. Here are a few of the amethysts that miners garnered from Dan’s venue.

1. Know the different types of proposals! These include government, commercial, domestic and international, internal (within your company), external (outside your company), as well as award, scholarship, and job applications. The first step is to determine which type of proposal you are going to write, then look for examples online.

2. Know your audience! Always remember to focus on your customers’ needs and expectations. Follow the format of the request for proposal (RFP), meet all of its requirements, and remember the customer value propositions (CVPs): quality, cost, schedule, and risk.

3. Know your competition! Before you begin writing your proposal, gather publically available information about your competition to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Preparing a proposal costs money, so it can be wise to consider a “no-bid” decision when the situation is not in your favor. If you do have the upper hand, then you can go for the win!

4. Know your product/service! The key is to assess the situation objectively to determine whether you can meet the customers’ needs and expectations. Get an independent 3rd party assessment of your product/service to gauge its value for suppliers, manufacturers, and end users—this is the “value chain”. With this newfound knowledge, you can leverage your strengths, shield your weaknesses, exploit your competition’s weaknesses, and create a truly winning proposal!

5. Don’t forget to have fun, and have faith in your abilities! After all, “the good guys always win.” 🙂

Dan Voss, host of the Amethyst Venue, discusses customer value propositions (CVPs) and their role in proposal writing.

Dan Voss, host of the Amethyst Venue, discusses customer value propositions (CVPs) and their role in proposal writing.

 

Previous Event — Aquamarine Venue: A New Swim Lane in Tech Comm

4. AquamarineBy: Nicole Garcia
Staff Writer,
Memo to Members

Alex Garcia and Joel Smithson’s Aquamarine Venue, “Instructional Design,” provided a concise explanation of what instructional design is, how technical communicators are well-equipped for instructional design, and why Orlando is one of the best cities for instructional design.

“Instructional design is the process of developing training to make learning easier,” Alex explained. “While technical communication is the process of making information easier to understand for a wider audience, instructional design takes it one step further and tests that process.”

Alex and Joel also presented the ADDIE model, which lists the essential processes for instructional designers (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation). As instructional designers, Alex and Joel are constantly applying and adapting the ADDIE model for the professional world.

“If you take one thing out of this entire lesson, it’s that instructional design is like technical communication but it goes one step further,” Alex declared in his summary. “They both teach new concepts, but instructional design determines whether that concept is being retained, by testing and measuring that retention.”

Aquamarine Venue hosts Joel Smithson (left) and Alex Garcia explain how instructional design has much in common with technical communication but takes it a step further.

Aquamarine Venue hosts Joel Smithson (left) and Alex Garcia explain how instructional design has much in common with technical communication but takes it a step further.

 

 

Previous Event — Properly Managed Content Sparkles Like a Diamond

5. DiamondBy: Crystal Brezina
Staff Writer, Memo to Members

At her diamond-studded, candle-lit table, Diamond Venue hostess Debra Johnson’s presentation on “Content Management” tackled how to manage content effectively. Her main focuses were “capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively managing content” to “ acheiving objectives.”

Equipped with handouts, the audience listened intently as many weren’t familiar with what managing content entails. Debra stressed the absolute importance of managing content, and managing it well. After all, as she said, “Content is the lifeblood of an organization. Without content, products and/or services do not exist.”

“Managing Content Intelligently” was the theme for the first half of the seminar, tackling the need for content to not only be structured and organized, but easily found, reused and adapted to different situations. Because “content is usually created in many different ways by many different people and departments within an organization,” it is essential to make sure all content meets these criteria.

The latter half of the seminar addressed the use of “Content Strategy,” focusing on users, processes, technologies, information, improvements, and . Debra discussed the value of creating information as “modular components in a database” so users can more easily distribute information across platforms without the need to manually input or copy and paste in the information. Creating content in such a manner allows users to readily reconfigure data for different platforms and users.

The choice to focus on content management can be useful in every technical communication field, regardless of what content management system (CMS) is used.

Diamond Venue hostess Debra Johnson explains the unique value of the glistening “Hope Diamond” of technical communication—effective content management.

Diamond Venue hostess Debra Johnson explains the unique value of the glistening “Hope Diamond” of technical communication—effective content management.

Previous Event — Emerald Venue Sheds Light on that First Year on the Job

6. EmeraldBy: Crystal Brezina
Staff Writer,
Memo to Members

Emerald Venue hostess and host Bethany Aguad and Nick Ducharme focused their miners’ lamps to shed light on what graduates can soon look forward to: “The First Year on the Job.”

It can become daunting for graduates when faced with the realization that they now need to start their career. Bethany and Nick, understanding that they were talking mostly to college undergraduates, created the seminar to lessen the stress a new-hire might have.

Bethany and Nick incorporated their own personal experiences from Wyndham and Lockheed Martin, respectively—two astoundingly different companies—to create a guide to the world of starting in a technical communication job.

Conducted in an informal discussion style, this table progression revealed twelve key components encompassing what to expect, what to know, and what one needs to succeed.

The discussion style also worked as a method for everyone to treat the seminar as a quick mentoring session between peers and professionals. Topics ranged from finding “your niche in your team” and taking pride in your own victories to honing your email skills.

The assurance that “most people do not look down on us, believe it or not” eased the minds of those who visited the table, especially when reminded that “your perspective is valuable,” a notion that recent graduates often don’t realize as they enter the workplace for the first time.

Nick Ducharme and Bethany Aguad, both in their first year as technical communication professionals, guide  soon-to-be graduates on the rites of passage.

Nick Ducharme and Bethany Aguad, both in their first year as technical communication professionals, guide soon-to-be graduates on the rites of passage.

Previous Event — Tech Editing: No Room for Flaws in Polishing the Topaz

7. GarnetBy: Nicole Garcia
Staff Writer, Memo to Members

Karen Lane’s Topaz Venue, “Technical Editing,” proved to be a valuable lesson in the fundamentals of the trade from a veteran technical editor. Karen instructed visitors on the role technical editing plays in both the professional and academic worlds, as well as the skills and tools required to succeed as a technical editor.

Karen, who works as a freelance technical editor for graduate students writing dissertations and for scientists writing research papers, spoke on the value of a technical editor in the academic world.

“It used to be that you were expected to write your own dissertation from beginning to end,” she said. “Now, professors insist that their students hire an editor before they submit it. That’s where I come in.”

Karen also acknowledged the increasing role of technology in technical editing, pulling up a list of invaluable reference guides she uses to ensure grammatically correct copy.

“When I was graduating, the Internet was just being invented,” Karen declared. “Since then, my editing practice has drastically shifted from entirely on paper to entirely online.”

Aside from technology, the most important tool required to become a successful technical editor is an extensive knowledge of grammar and punctuation, Lane said.

“Knowledge is glancing at a sentence, immediately thinking, ‘something’s wrong here,’ and immediately fixing it,” she concluded.

7. Karen Lane, Topaz Venue

Veteran technical editor and indexer Karen Lane provides invaluable tips on technical editing to her visitors at the Topaz Venue.

Previous Event — Garnet Venue Goes “Dark” as Dark Forces Intervene

8. TopazBy: Dan Voss
Co-Manager, STC/FTC Student Mentoring Program

One of the caverns in the “Mining for Knowledge” spelunking expedition was unexpectedly sealed off due to circumstances beyond the control of the event organizers and the venue host. Yellow police tape barred attendees from entrance to the abandoned Garnet mine, but other venue hosts rallied to the occasion and remained open when they were supposed to be “dark.”

Regrettably, the otherwise spectacularly successful event was diminished by the 11th hour loss of the Garnet Venue, where host W.C. Wiese was primed and ready to regale his audience with a riveting saga of an “International Multimedia Marketing” campaign in aerospace. But alas, it was not to be.

Just moments before the event got underway, Topaz Venue hostess Karen Lane received a call from Garnet Venue host W.C. Wiese, informing her that he was marooned in the middle of rain-swept University Boulevard with a disabled vehicle. By the time assistance arrived, it was too late for W.C. to make it to the progression at UCF.

“I was so angry! I was so pumped to give my Garnet venue presentation, and there I was standing in the rain in the middle of University Boulevard looking at my disabled vehicle,” W.C. lamented. “I had my laptop, I had my handouts, I had a camera to take pictures of smiling faces, and I was raring to go. Just my car wasn’t. I hope everyone learned a lot from our many excellent presenters.”

W.C.’s hopes were fulfilled. Although no garnets of international technical marketing knowledge were mined at the event, many diamonds, topazes, emeralds, amethysts, and aquamarines were.

And on the plus side, since W.C.’s dynamic presentation is turnkey-ready, there’s no doubt that sooner or later it will benefit those who missed it in February, whether at a chapter meeting program or at a future progression.

8. W.C. Wiese 2, Garnet Venue

8. W.C. Wiese 1, Garnet Venue

Here’s why the Garnet venue was dark at “Mining for Knowledge.”