February Meeting Recap

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.

Annual FTC/STC Meeting at UCF Provides Answers

What Can You Do with a Degree in Technical Communication?
Panelists Showcase Diverse Career Opportunities in our Field

Winfield Pearson

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.

From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Now that we’ve survived the holidays, it’s time for our iconic joint meeting with the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club at the University of Central Florida (UCF).

Vice President Nick Ducharme shares more about the event (for which I will be serving as the online moderator), including the awesome presentation line-up. Read on to learn more or visit our Meetup page.

In addition, it is my pleasure to welcome a new writer to MtM, Winfield Pearson, to recap our exciting first meeting of 2019.

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
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

Get Hyped for this Month’s Meeting!

Tech Comm Career Paths Presentations—FTC/STC Annual Meeting

Nick Ducharme

By: Nick Ducharme
Vice President
Florida Chapter, STC

Friends,

Our chapter’s association with the University of Central Florida (UCF) has been one of our core strengths since long before I joined the chapter. For instance, our annual Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to UCF students with an interest in tech comm since the late 90s. We also partner with UCF’s Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club on our famous mentoring program each year, as well as an annual FTC/STC joint meeting hosted by UCF directly.

The time has come once again for this joint meeting! It will be held this Thursday evening, February 7th. It is free for all to attend, and it will also be the first joint meeting to include a virtual attendance option (as well as some virtual presenters)! A call-in link will be provided to those who RSVP. Refreshments will be served during the meeting networking time, and we will also honor the recipients of this year’s Melissa Pellegrin scholarships.

We worked closely with FTC to choose a topic that would be accessible to everyone, especially students and early-career professionals. This year’s topic is all about careers in technical communication, and we will be covering quite a few. 🙂

Here is our current presentation lineup:

  • Alex Garcia: Instructional Design
  • Rachel Eichen: Technical Trainer
  • Michael Todd: User Assistance Designer
  • Debra Johnson: Content Strategist
  • Angela Trenkle: Technical Writer in the Bioresearch Industry
  • Bethany Aguad: Technical Publications Coordinator
  • C. Wiese: Navigating Your Career

Please click here and RSVP for the “Tech Comm Career Paths Presentations—FTC/STC Annual Meeting. I hope you can join us!

January Meeting Recap

A Very Decent Proposal:
Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About Proposals but Were Afraid to Ask!

By: Winfield Pearson
Student Member
Florida Chapter, STC

The speaker of the night, Dan Voss, accompanies his proposal presentation with one of the many tales that come from his long career in proposal writing.

“A 5,000-page proposal is a marauding monster like Godzilla. If you’re afraid  of Godzilla, get off the proposal team!”– Dan Voss

In case you couldn’t attend or view the January 17th chapter meeting, it was all about “Writing a Winning Proposal: ‘Near Misses’ Only Count in Horseshoes and Nuclear War,” where the equally expert and eccentric speaker Dan Voss entertained and informed his audience at the IHOP on University Boulevard.

Attendees enjoyed piles of hash browns, sticky stacks of pancakes, and at least two pots of coffee per person while the relentlessly animated Dan relayed and reveled in his experiences navigating and surviving the equally sticky world of proposals during his 40 years as a proposal writer/manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando.

Expert content management specialist Debra Johnson (second from left) ruminates over one of the several probing and insightful questions she posed to Dan during the presentation.

While it’s impossible to reproduce everything that makes a Dan Voss presentation the memorable occasion it is, some of his major points concerned fine-tuning your knowledge of the customer, knowing your competition, knowing your product/service, understanding your requirements, and planning your proposal.

Mr. Voss also covered the “Golden Rules” for writing, editing, and producing your proposal. The rules assist technical communicators in applying their core skills to polish the proposal, just one example of Dan’s useful tip to help hone the intimidating and lengthy proposal process. All of these tips were accompanied by anecdotes pertaining to such diverse subject matter as army colonels, raindrop radar, and even the ins and outs of mouse/elephant relations.

An audience of ten virtual and nine face-to-face viewers enjoyed the proceedings. Our innovative hybrid face-to-face/virtual meeting format allowed the audience to enjoy the presentation while freely fielding questions to the speaker. Throughout the evening, questions came in from across the state from one of the largest virtual audiences yet.

The in-person audience included two new mentees in the chapter’s student mentoring program co-sponsored with the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club at UCF. The FTC student delegation included Tech Comm major Shawn Menard, who declared the presentation to be “informative and entertaining,”  a sentiment shared among the other attendees.

Dan wrapped up the night in the persona of his favorite proposal metaphor, the ill-fated Davy Crockett, who, at least in his own memory, led his besieged, outnumbered team to victory against impossible odds.

From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

The holiday season is officially upon us, and I’m here to bring you good wishes for the new year! To kick those New Year resolutions off, read on to learn more about our January meeting or visit our Meetup page. (Hint: The topic is based off our survey results from you, dear readers!)

And while we look forward to the new year and all the exciting upcoming events for our chapter, Vice President Nick Ducharme takes a minute to recap our first three ground-breaking meetings of the 2018-19 year to celebrate our chapter’s successes while also, for me at least, psyching me up even more for this month’s meeting!

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
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

Get Hyped for This Month’s Meeting!

Writing a Winning Proposal

Nick Ducharme

By: Nick Ducharme
Vice President
Florida Chapter, STC

Friends,

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday season! For me, it’s strange to jump back into the thick of things after enjoying some days off. Nonetheless, it seems the time has come to recalibrate. J

To make this transition easier, STC Florida has decided to start 2019 off with a bang. We’ve picked yet another highly-requested topic category from our summer 2018 survey. Better yet, we’ve selected our very own Dan Voss to present about it for our January chapter meeting.

I’ve known Dan for a while now. He’s one of the most lively and motivated people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he has decades of experience with writing proposals—which is what his presentation will be all about.

Please click here and RSVP for “Writing a Winning Proposal: ‘Near Misses’ Only Count in Horseshoes and Nuclear War.” by Dan Voss. Official presentation and speaker descriptions are below. (I think these will give you a sense of his aforementioned liveliness!)

 

Promotion for Presentation, “Writing a Winning Proposal: ‘Near Misses’ Only Count in Horseshoes and Nuclear War.”

In this dynamic and entertaining presentation, 40-year aerospace proposal writer/manager and STC Fellow Dan Voss presents the basic principles of writing a successful proposal, along with a liberal dose of lurid proposal “war stories” from his long career at Lockheed Martin, where he participated on more than a hundred proposal teams that collectively won over $20 billion in contracts for the company.

Worry not, however, that the presentation is relevant only to fiercely competitive aerospace proposals. Originally presented to a graduate class in technical communication at Mercer University in 2014 and since presented at the University of Central Florida, this presentation focuses on basic principles that apply to a much broader range of proposals in which technical communication practitioners may become involved, including commercial proposals, grant proposals, and internal business proposals within corporations. It also applies to job placement and career development … resumes, portfolios, interviews, strategic career advancement … basically anything that involves “selling” a product or service … which may include YOU, as a technical communication student or practitioner.

The marketing principles presented also apply to scholarship applications, awards applications, even radio and internet contests—indeed, all of these are, at the core, “proposals.” The only proposal these principles can’t promote success on are marriage proposals. Dan is still working on that!

 

 

About the Speaker

Dan Voss

Dan Voss is a “retired” but still active proposal specialist for Lockheed Martin who also provides industry training workshops in business and technical communication. An STC Fellow, Dan is recognized for his publications and presentations on diverse subjects at STC’s international conference and was the recipient of the STC President’s Award for his efforts on student outreach. With Lori Allen, he coauthored Ethics in Technical Communication: Shades of Gray, published in 1998—for which he became the only non-engineer to receive Lockheed Martin’s coveted Author-of-the-Year recognition. He has coauthored four research articles for STC’s Technical Communication as well as four articles for intercom. Dan and now-chapter-president Bethany Aguad, then a student at UCF, co-managed STC International’s student outreach and mentoring initiative from 2012 through 2014 and presented at Leadership Day at two international STC conferences. They also coauthored Chapter 5, “Teaching the Ethics of Intercultural Communication,” in an acclaimed anthology of research articles Teaching and Training for Global Engineering, edited by Kirk St.Amant and Madelyn Flammia and published in 2017.

August, September, and October Meeting Recaps

Nick Ducharme

By: Nick Ducharme
Vice President
Florida Chapter, STC

“STC Florida Seeking Virtual Panelist!” was the subject line of one of our email blasts complete with a megaphone emoji and all.

Something really cool was about to occur, which was saying something. I mean, this was going to be our third presentation of the year after we’d already had two total knockout presentations to start off the chapter year! In total, we had:

All of these meetings were revolutionary for our chapter, thanks in part to some minor tweaks in our virtual technology and in-person networking spaces—as well as enhanced focus on the experiences of virtual attendees. We began to designate an online moderator for each meeting, which helped us seamlessly incorporate the lively chat box discussion into all audience feedback and Q&A activities. Plus, all meeting topics this past year were selected based on feedback from this summer’s chapter survey, because your voice matters to us!

August 2018

In Kirk’s August presentation, he balanced compelling cognitive science about cognitive load and sequencing with down-to-earth examples about the way we remember tasks in our day-to-day lives. (I will never look at a stop sign quite the same way again.)

Our in-person networking group enjoys a meal at Chuy’s while several online attendees call in for the August meeting.

Bethany Aguad runs the in-person side of the call while we experiment with a portable screen in a restaurant dining room. From online, Emily Wells serves as our first dedicated online moderator while Kirk St.Amant delivers his presentation.

September 2018

In Todd’s September presentation, he took a methodical approach to the topic of virtual teams by first addressing some of the challenges that can arise (such as lower visibility and less clearly defined responsibilities). Then he tackled how we can address these challenges, which resulted in some lively Q&A from the audience. I had the pleasure of serving as online moderator, and I sincerely appreciate the high level of activity we had in the chat box!

Our in-person networking group gathers at Riptide Software to revisit the conference room format for in-person networking.

Todd Deluca presents to our on-site and virtual attendees. Nick Ducharme moderates the online chat from afar.

The August and September presentations were hard acts to follow. To keep our quality standards just as high in October, we decided to continue making chapter history.

 October 2018

A mixed-media panel discussion. It was an ambitious goal that we had never previously attempted. We had our four in-person panelists already locked in, and we technically could have stopped there. Instead, we made the call to reach out for volunteers who would like to serve as a virtual panelist.

The response was overwhelming, and thus overjoying. Every response to our prompt was a wonderful read. We couldn’t pick just one virtual panelist in the end, so we ended up with two.

I led the panel discussion from the on-site location while Bethany Aguad moderated the chat. Topics of discussion included dealing with intimidation, working with subject matter experts who don’t take well to criticism, effective cross-cultural communication with subject matter experts, and more.

Discussion moderator Nick Ducharme (on left) and online chat moderator Bethany Aguad (on screen) address all panelists.
On-site panelists from left to right are Emily Wells, Dan Voss, W.C. Wiese, and Debra Johnson.

Virtual panelist Beth Anne Carr responds to a question.

Virtual panelist Tina Kister responds to a question.

From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

The holiday season is officially upon us, and I’m here to bring you glad tidings along with a mega newsletter! Read on to learn more about our amazing holiday social or visit our Meetup page for more information.

Next, President Bethany Aguad provides our chapter’s 2018 year in review for her final President’s Corner article of the year, as well as providing a recap of last month’s meeting.

In addition, STC Fellows Dan Voss and Mike Murray provide an update on two changes announced earlier this year, the kick-off of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), as well as STC Florida’s new Values, Vision, and Mission Statements.

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

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Communications Chair
Editor, Memo To Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org