Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,
Are you ready for our main event, back by popular demand? We’re gearing up for our annual progression-style meeting at UCF in partnership with the Future Technical Communicators club. I’m talking about seven presenters, three rotations, zero attendance fee, and infinite possibilities!
This year, folks, is all about Picking a Path. Join us for some free food (while supplies last) and good times (in endless supply) as we explore some of the many different roads a technical communicator can take in their career.
Also in this issue: Emily Wells celebrates some of this year’s mentoring program successes. Kudos are in order for all of our mentor/mentee pairs!
Manager, Communications Committee
By: Alex Garcia
(Orlando Central) Florida Chapter, STC
UCF will always have a special place in my heart. It’s been over nine years since I graduated from undergrad. For reasons such as work and family, I decided to make East Orlando my home. I have so many memories of the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) Club at UCF. Back in the day, FTC would host Saturday morning skill workshops in the Technical Writing Lab, usually bringing in an esteemed speaker from the Orlando Chapter of STC. Besides the networking opportunities the workshops allowed, they also helped cement the bond between the two organizations. Out of these workshops arose the idea for an annual STC meeting at UCF. Using the auspices of the Student Government Association (SGA), FTC petitioned for funds to bring in internationally-known speakers such as Rhyne Armstrong and STC Immediate Past President Bernard Aschwanden. The speakers drew capacity crowds year after year, but the students wanted a more personalized approach to the annual meeting…
For 20 years, the Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC held its own mini-conference in August of each chapter year. The usual tagline was “Bringing (Insert Conference Host City) to Orlando.” As you can ascertain, Washlines was a one-night mini conference where chapter members who had attended that year’s STC Summit presented their notes in a three-rotation, progression format. The events were the perfect way to kick off the chapter year, as everyone got into the festive spirit—2006’s Washlines was Las Vegas themed, complete with strolling hors d’oeuvres servers. As our chapter members’ participation in the conference became more difficult due to economic realities, we decided to retire the Washlines concept, but it lay in wait for an even greater idea…
In the fall of 2015, Dr. JD Applen, FTC’s faculty advisor, approached the chapter about the 2016 joint meeting. He and his students wanted a three-rotation, progression style mini conference to take the place of the speaker format. Where had we seen this before? Enter Washlines master of ceremonies extraordinaire Dan Voss, who dutifully dusted off the Washlines format into a new tradition of partnership between UCF, FTC, and STC. 2016’s Mining for Knowledge was a rousing success, with students learning about the various disciplines available within the Technical Communication umbrella. This year, we are back with Picking a Path, where students will learn about the various career paths a Technical Communicator can take. The full details of this year’s conference are contained all over this month’s Memo to Members. I hope you can join us as we cement this tradition.
Until next month,
By: Jonathan Neal
Staff Writer, Memo to Members
On March 23rd, the Orlando Central Florida (OCF) chapter of STC held its annual employment panel at the IHOP on University Boulevard. Stephanie Young of Lockheed Martin, Scott Dorsett of Riptide Software, and Matthew Carlisle of SkyBridge Resources answered questions and offered their advice on a variety of topics such as resume writing, the job application process, and what questions to ask during an interview.
Below is a brief synopsis of the Q&A:
Q. What certifications should I get?
A. The consensus is that you should only go for certifications that you know are required, and it is highly unlikely any will be required. Some companies pay for their employees to earn and maintain certifications, so their main utility tends to be for attaining promotions within a company.
With this in mind, Madcap Flare is currently in demand and not many employees have this.
Q. What is the application process like?
A. The most common application process is composed of an online application, a brief screening phone call, and then an in-person interview. Large companies tend to have their own full-functioning websites for job searches and online applications; the remainder use recruiter services such as SkyBridge and Indeed. You may need to make accounts for several companies’ job search engines and email bots. Your best bets are recruiters who have been with their firm for at least 1.5 years. Finding them and signing up takes time, but before you know it, you will be receiving many emails full of opportunities.
One thing to keep in mind is that knowing somebody in the company will help you immensely. Do not underestimate the impact this can have on your search. Also, it is okay to apply again at the same company if at first you are not selected. Different recruiters have different connections, and they are all under pressure to work quickly, so your resume can get lost in the bustle. Try not to let it discourage you – keep trying!
Q. What stands out in a resume?
A. Consistent formatting is a must. No one format is the best of them all – the important thing is consistency throughout. Misspelling is a fatal mistake for technical writers, so try to have your resume peer reviewed to catch these mistakes before sending it to recruiters.
As for the content, technical writers should include their ability to “write process,” which means knowing how to prepare content with an instructional, verb-driven format. Beyond this, note your core skills and tool skills such as XML, HTML, and CSS.
A more technical resume reduces the number of questions recruiters need to ask, and makes it more likely for the right recruiter to contact you. You may want to create special resumes for your most desired jobs.
Only show your last 10 years of experience. Anything more will be clutter. Also, for future reference, know that it is considered a “red flag” if your experience suggests hopping from one contract to another every 3 or 4 months. Contract hopping is bad, because you have to explain each change, which consumes time better spent explaining your accomplishments and skills.
Q. What should I bring to an interview?
A. Bring physical copies of your resume and portfolio. Bring a pen and a notebook. Regarding dress code, know that you cannot be overdressed, but you should try to look and feel comfortable. It is common to wear a suit without the jacket. If you are female, avoid “capris and ruffles” and other such clothing because you want to match the level of professionalism of the environment.
Q. What are three traits you look for?
A. Recruiters do not necessarily look for personality traits, because those can be acquired on the job. However, confidence and organization leave a positive impression. Be open to sharing information about yourself and encourage transparency from both sides.
In short, the answer is confidence, organization, and openness/transparency/honesty.
Q. How do you balance selling yourself vs. being truthful about inexperience?
A. If you are a recent college graduate with little or no experience, you are not alone! Recruiters work with and hire applicants just like you on a regular basis. However, you must never lie about your skillset or experience. Instead, ask up front what the job requires, and inquire specifically about skills you are missing. Do this near the start of the interview – not near the end. If possible, try to talk about what you’ve done as opposed to what you know, because your accomplishments (the tangible results of your group projects in college, specifically) have a big impact.
Q. What is a good response for the question, “What is your biggest weakness?”
A. This question requires an honest answer. Do not attempt to portray a strength as a weakness (e.g. “I’m a perfectionist.” or “I work too hard.”). Instead, tell the recruiter what you are currently learning more about. This will demonstrate that you are cognizant of your flaws, honest enough to reveal them, and reliable enough to take the initiative to work on them.
Q. What questions do you like to be asked?
A.The best questions will tell you specifics about the position you will be taking:
Who will I be working with?
What software will I be working with?
Do I see the hardware?
What type of contract is it?
Q. Anything else?
A. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, take some time to create one. Make sure the content in your LinkedIn profile matches your resume and you’ll be ready to go!
“FTC and STC – Better Together.” This slogan perfectly describes the mentoring program, which chapter dues help to support. In fact, that slogan is extremely important this year, as the mentoring program achieved its highest number of pairings in its 14-year history, with a record 16 pairings, including 2 repeat pairings from last year. In fact, we had such large interest that it was unclear whether we would have enough mentors. Fortunately, though, several mentors stepped up, taking on more than one mentee or agreeing to participate for the first time as a mentor.
The kickoff meetings were led by mentoring program coordinators Dan Voss and Nicole Garcia, who both worked insanely long hours (according to Dan) to ensure that the pairings would be as perfect as possible. This then led to three separate kickoff meetings due to the large number of participants, all of whom showed up, leading to the second year in a row for perfect attendance.
Unfortunately, this year the mentoring program suffered a setback when coordinator and FTC President Nicole had to step down in the Fall due to medical issues. Fortunately though, the other officers stepped up, with Evan Alman taking over as President and Emily Wells taking over as Vice President and mentoring program coordinator. In addition, Michelle Flores remained as Secretary, while Alexandra Engrand, another mentee, stepped in as Treasurer. This is also what led to the FTC/STC joint meeting being moved to April (more on this in article below). Nevertheless, the mentoring program carried on.
If you would like to know more about the history of the mentoring program, click here to see this article written by Terra Jarvis.
Now that you know about the background, let’s talk about what some of the mentoring pairs have been doing. In fact, how about I show you?
April 20 in Live Oak Event Center at UCF
While April showers bring May flowers, this month also brings a large event in the annual calendar of the Orlando Central Florida Chapter of STC: the meeting at the University of Central Florida.
This year’s event, entitled Picking a Path, focuses on career choices, job placement, and career advancement within the various disciplines of technical communication. It will be held Thursday, April 20, in the Garden Room at the Live Oak Event Center from 6:30-8:55 p.m. Admission is free, and anyone interested in technical communication is invited. In addition, food will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
This meeting, which also serves as the culminating event for the co-hosting UCF Future Technical Communicators (FTC), provides an opportunity for STC members to share their experience and knowledge with college students interested in or pursuing careers in technical communication.
STC and FTC have been holding these joint meetings for 14 years now, each one more successful than the last. The pattern over the years has been to bring in a “big name” speaker—all of whom have been enthusiastically received.
Last year, however, FTC changed the focus to tap local talent in the STC chapter to provide an up close and personal mentoring experience for students. Last year’s event, Mining for Knowledge, featured six STC professionals who gave students a look at the diverse disciplines within technical communication. The content-focused event was well-attended and well-received.
Picking a Path will start with the presentation of the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Technical Communication, a scholarship established by STC in 1997 to honor 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.
Afterwards, seven presenters—some of them returning from Mining for Knowledge—will present on six topics related to this year’s theme, which aims to give students an idea of the diverse job opportunities available for them in the field of technical communication. Topics include:
- IT + TC = J: Information Technology as a Career Path in Technical Communication: David Coe, Vice President, OCF Chapter of STC
- Adding Value Where It Counts Most: Content Development Lifecycle/Workflow: Debra Johnson, immediate past President, OCF Chapter of STC.
- Using Your Gifts for Marketing Support: W.C. Wiese, manager of Nominating and Active Membership committees for OCF Chapter of STC and former Treasurer of the International Society.
- What Price Success? An Ethical Roadmap through the Thorny Thicket of Corporate Politics: Dan Voss, Education Committee manager, OCF Chapter of STC, and co-manager, with the writer, of the student mentoring program at UCF.
- Getting the Job: Resumes, Portfolios, and Interviewing: Jessica Campbell, former mentee and current mentor within the STC/UCF student mentoring program.
- Leveling Up: First Years on the Job: Bethany Aguad, UCF grad and Treasurer, OCF chapter of STC, as well as Nick Ducharme, editor of Memo to Members newsletter and manager of Communications Committee, OCF Chapter of STC.
The format will be a progression, with three 25-minute rotations, enabling attendees to select topics of greatest interest to them. For more information on the presentations, click here.
Below are the seven STC members who will be presenting this year at “Picking a Path.”
Bethany Aguad is a Technical Documentation Specialist at Fiserv in Lake Mary. She currently serves as the STC Orlando Central Florida chapter Treasurer and is a member of the society’s scholarship committee. A graduate of UCF with a B.A. and M.A. in English–Technical Communication, she has served as President of the Future Technical Communicators organization and president of the Sigma Tau Delta Zeta Xi chapter (International English Honor Society). She received the prestigious Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship, the STC Distinguished Student Service Award, and the Stuart Omans Award for Excellence in Technical Communication.
Jessica Lynn Campbell received her Master’s in English—Technical Communication, from the University of Central Florida. She has a Bachelor’s in Psychology, from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Jessica is an expert and experienced technical communicator, author, and multi-media manager, having been published on multiple media platforms including print and online. Jessica has been an active member of the Society for Technical Communication since 2010, and has been a mentor in the group’s Mentorship Program since 2014. She is skilled in APA, MLA, Chicago, and Bluebook citation styles. Her scholarly interests include digital spaces and online connectivity, online sociality, the consumerization of the consumption of animals and deconstructing social norms, and digital marketing.
David Coe is an IT professional with more than 25 years of experience spanning data center operations, software development, and technical communication. He has had considerable success aligning business strategies with established and emerging technologies to achieve maximum operational impacts with minimum resource expenditures. David also has a knack for launching training, personnel development, and infrastructure development programs. He currently serves as the Vice President of the STC Orlando Central Florida Chapter.
Nick Ducharme is the Communications Manager and Newsletter Editor for the Orlando Central Florida chapter. He is a three-year member of STC and a former mentee/FTC member. Nick graduated Cum Laude from UCF with a B.A. in English—Technical Communication. If you are looking for a resume builder, please consider submitting an article to Nick and the chapter’s Memo to Members newsletter!
Debra Johnson is a technical communication/documentation manager at FIS Public Sector. She has been working in the field for the past 23 years. She is the recipient of the 2011 STC Gloria Jaffe Outstanding Technical Communicator Award, the 2011 STC Orlando Service Award, and the 2012 STC President’s Award for the Central Florida Chapter. She has also owned a dance studio for 26 years and is a new grandmother.
Dan Voss is a 29-year STC member and Fellow retired last year after a lively 37.5-year career with Lockheed Martin as a proposal specialist known for his maverick style and outlandish doomsday metaphors. Since he has returned twice as an independent contractor to work major proposals. In 1998, he was named Author-of-the-Year after co-authoring a textbook on ethics. He has served many roles at the Society level, including managing the AccessAbility Special Interest Group (SIG), serving on the Community Affairs Committee (CAC) focusing on student outreach, and co-authoring the Society’s Ethical Guidelines. In 2013, he received the coveted STC President’s Award for his efforts on educational outreach. He is also a veteran educator, having taught at both the high school and college level. At the Orlando Central Florida Chapter level, he co-founded the UCF student mentoring program in 2003 and helped establish and sustain the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1997—both still growing and flourishing. On the chapter’s leadership team, he is noted for his unbounded energy and unending , as well as his monstrous militaristic metaphors and twisted sense of humor.
W.C. Wiese has extensive experience in technical marketing support activities and is the Communications anager for a unique joint venture company formed by American, German, and Italian defense contractors. He is an avid photographer and sports car enthusiast, Ebay trader, and grandfather. His two children spent a combined 15 years at the University of Central Florida.
A member of STC for almost 30 years, W.C. has significant experience in aerospace marketing support and program communications at Lockheed Martin. He is a Fellow of STC and has served as STC Treasurer and Director-at-Large. He previously served as President of STC’s Orlando Chapter following a 5-year tenure as Treasurer. He has presented at 13 STC Summits.