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 by—our 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:
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.
Chair, Communications Committee
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.
By: Alex Garcia
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
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 email@example.com 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!
By: R.D. Sharninghouse
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
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.
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.
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:
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.
What must we do to reach it? Part 1
By: Mike Murray
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.
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.
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