“Washlines”: a 20-Year STC Florida Tradition

Sharing the Summit: A Colorful Approach to Bringing
Conference Information Back to Your Community

Dan Voss

By: Dan Voss
Fellow, STC Florida Chapter

Editor’s Note: This article is intended as a reference for other STC communities who are eager to bring back what they learned at the Summit and share it with their colleagues. We are including it in the June edition of Memo to Members to set the stage for a new spin on the traditional “Washlines” meeting at the August chapter meeting, where several chapter members who attended the Summit in Orlando last month will share ideas from the sessions they attended.

Bringing back information from the previous spring’s STC international conference to share with chapter members at the August chapter meeting is a longstanding tradition with the STC Florida Chapter (and the heritage Orlando Central Florida and Orlando chapters which preceded it). The original concept was an interactive panel discussion where the audience selected topics based on colorful signs strung along a clothesline across the meeting room: hence the name “Washlines.”

In the beginning … the Giant Hairball!


The format was based on a unique and memorable interactive keynote address by the late creative guru Gordon MacKenzie, author of the amazing—and still-in-print—Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace  (see page 3 of the September 2001 edition of Memo to Members), at the 41st annual international conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1994. The presenter strung a rope across the stage bearing huge signs where the audience could call out topics they wanted MacKenzie to address. He responded with an extemporaneous 1- to 5-minute distilled mini-presentation for all requested topics.

Part of the STC Florida tradition has been to bring the “motif” of the conference city back to Orlando. For example, in “Washlines XII: As the Roulette Wheel Turns” after the 53rd annual international conference in Las Vegas in 2006, we set up a “casino” in the meeting room where attendees played roulette, poker, craps, e-slots, and other games of chance (not for money, of course; that would have knocked out our 503(c)b status for sure!). Several of the panelists even got into the Vegas motif with colorful costumes, including the roulette table host in a tux and a panelist sporting a red feather boa (see newsletter event coverage below).

Over the years, the format evolved from an interactive panel discussion to six progression tables (“venues”), identified by color-coded balloons. Each host, generally wearing the color of his/her venue, was prepared to speak on anywhere from 1 to 4 topics from the previous spring’s international conference; the choice was up to each audience around the table. The progression format consisted of three 25-minute rotations with 5 minutes in between to change venue. Each table was “dark” for one of the three rotations to give the venue hosts a chance to visit one other table. We preserved the “Washlines” tradition with a clothesline strung with colorful signs identifying the various topics available at the six venues, but the interactive topic selections varied by table and by rotation.

In more recent years, the trend has been 1 or, at most, 2 topics per table to allow a more detailed summary by the venue host along with time for Q&A’s and interactive discussion on the topic.

The progression format is not difficult to set up. You can use the below rotation matrix for a six-venue progression as a template and just fill in the venue hosts and their topic(s). The matrix can be easily adjusted to range anywhere from 3 to 8 venues topics, although 5 or 6 are usually optimal.

Note the progression approach could easily be expanded to a 4-hour “mini-conference” workshop by adding a few venues, going through four 30-minute rotations with 10 minutes in between and having each venue “on” for two rotations and “dark” for two rotations.

Some tips for preparing for, executing, and following up the progression:

  1. Before the international conference, encourage chapter members who are attending to take good notes at the sessions they attend—especially on topics that are likely to be of greatest interest to chapter members back home–and download the speaker’s posted slides and/or collateral materials from the conference website.
  2. Immediately after the conference, line up the venue hosts (or, in some cases with first-time speakers such as student members, co-hosts) and have them provide the title(s) for the topics they will cover at their tables. It’s important to strike while the conference iron is still hot!
  3. Assign venue (and balloon) colors on a first-come, first-serve basis. Note that this can become quite competitive!
  4. Decide whether or not you wish to “theme” the event based on the host city for the previous spring’s conference. This optional twist adds color to the event, but it also adds preparation in terms of decorations, venue hosts’ attire, etc.

“Washlines XII” panelists Jen Selix (Active Member shirt) and Heather Sterns (red feather boa) helped bring Vegas to Orlando.

  1. Decide whether or not you want to go with the “Washlines” motif. If you do, get each venue host to provide a suitable colorful sign (preferably with a visual element) for his/her topic. Here again, this adds color to the event, but it also adds preparation.
  2. Encourage your venue hosts to provide at least one take-away handout for their table.
  3. Optionally, you can encourage your venue hosts to “compete” for attendees by hawking candy, cookies, even hot hors d’oeuvres, and other “swag” at their tables. This creates a carnival-like atmosphere that nicely counterpoints the exchange of professional information. In one case, following the international conference in Chicago, one of the venues was based on Al Capone, and the venue host came packing a rapid-fire water “tommy gun” that saw considerable action during the evening. Clearly, if you base your “Washlines” meeting on the conference in Orlando, at least one of the venue hosts should be wearing mouse ears. You get the idea!
  4. Assuming you have enough venue hosts for at least 3 tables , the two potential “choke points” for the program coordinator in executing the event are (1) getting the speakers’ topics {using the exact titles and speakers of the conference presentations being summarized) and, if you are using the “Washlines” format, (2) getting the graphics for their signs that go along with their topics. The second is optional, although if you use that approach, you should have signs for all topics. The first is crucial, because you cannot set up the rotation matrix until you have all the venue hosts’ topic titles and the conference speakers who presented on those topics.
  5. The rotation matrix, in turn, becomes key to promoting the event. Printed color copies of the rotation also becomes the program for the event. It is the equivalent of the conference program for two morning sessions or afternoon sessions at the Summit. You can see how easily that could be parlayed into a 4-hour mini-conference workshop with little to no additional preparation on the part of the venue hosts—just a few more venues (see above).
  6. Be sure to get photos at the event for coverage in the next month’s chapter newsletter or other communication forum. This is an excellent way for student members to get a pubs credit for their resumes and portfolios by reporting on topics covered at the venues. If you do this, be sure to pre-assign the writers to venues to avoid duplication and ensure all venues are covered. Also get photos of each venue host in action (including the colored balloon identifying the venue).

For pre-event promotion and post-event coverage of a typical original panel-style

Do you feel lucky?

“Washlines” meeting following the Las Vegas Summit in 2006 (“Washlines XII: As the Roulette Wheel Turns”), see the July/August (pages 1, 4, 6, 10, and 11) and September (pages 1, 2, 6, and 12) 2006 editions of the STC Florida (then Orlando) chapter newsletter, Memo to Members, respectively. For pre-event promotion of a more recent progression-style “Washlines” meeting after the 57th international Summit in Atlanta in 2013, see the August Part I (“What’ll Ya Have? Get Ready for Action … We’re Bringing ‘The Varsity’ for Washlines XIX”) and August Part II (“Special Washlines”) editions of Memo to Members. For post-event coverage, see the September 2013 (“If You Missed the Last Meeting”) edition of Memo to Members.



STC Florida Chapter members … watch for the August meeting as incoming Vice President Nick Ducharme puts a new spin on the traditional “Washlines” theme by bringing the Orlando Summit—well, back to Orlando! Details in the August Memo to Members.

The View From Campus

Part 2 of a 4-Part Series

FTC/STC Student Mentoring Program Wraps Up Exciting Year
And Lays Plans for Expanded Virtual Connectivity Next Year

Misty Arner

By: Misty Arner
Co-Manager, STC-FTC Student Mentoring Program
Student Member, STC Florida Chapter


As promised in our May edition of Memo to Members, I have another success story from our STC-FTC student mentorship program. As we wrap up the STC 2017-2018 chapter year, STC Fellow and chapter director-at-large Karen Lane and her mentee Tisa Newcombe tell their insightful success story of the program in my interview for this edition of MtM.

Their story shows that you do not have to be a student on campus to benefit from the mentee/mentor program. Those of you who are online students can reap the benefits of this program as well. Tisa Newcombe, who takes exclusively online classes at UCF and has benefited tremendously from her mentor, Karen Lane.

The STC-FTC student mentorship program has always helped with professional development and career advancement. With today’s complex and evolving workplace, Tisa’s and Karen’s situation is one of the reasons that has sparked the ideation of innovative plans to expand virtual connectivity in next year’s mentoring program. As you will read in the interview below, they overcame a considerable geographic challenge to forge a productive and mutually beneficial mentoring partnership that combined periodic face-to-face meetings at a central location and frequent virtual communication (largely by email) on their mentoring projects. In so doing, they are helping to blaze a new trail as the STC Florida Chapter begins to extend our student mentoring program statewide in the coming years.

I hope this article encourages both tech comm students and professional technical communicators to become active members in the Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) as well as encourage UCF tech comm students (both undergraduate and graduate) to join Future Technical Communicators (FTC) and to participate as mentees in the STC-FTC student mentorship program.

Part 2: Chat with Mentor Karen Lane and Mentee Tisa Newcombe

Karen Lane

Tisa Newcombe


Mentor Karen Lane and mentee Tisa Newcombe were both key players as the STC Florida Chapter hosted last month’s STC Summit in Orlando.


What do you believe was the single most beneficial aspect of your mentoring partnership?

Tisa:  Karen has been extremely encouraging. She has pushed me to be more active in the STC and provided me with great ways to do so.

Karen:  Mentoring is always an educational experience for mentors, because it gives us an insight into issues that face newer (and not-quite-yet) practitioners. We tend to look at the profession of technical communication through the lens of our own experience, but interacting professionally with students and recent students can give us an awareness of the challenges mentees face when preparing for a career. It is especially true that technical communication, encompassing so many different types of work and approaches, requires students to both generalize in theory and specialize in practice.

Does any particular activity or project in your mentoring partnership stand out as the most successful? Explain.

Tisa:  Writing the article for intercom. It was a great experience and gave me my first opportunity to be published.

Karen:  Not really, no. What stands out for me is Tisa’s eagerness to derive the maximum benefit from our relationship. She is open to suggestions for projects and practices, and she is very clear-headed about where she is going.

What is the most important thing you believe a mentee/mentor can do to derive maximum benefit from a mentoring partnership?

Tisa:  Communication. Being able to communicate and ask for opportunities. I think it is easy to think your mentor will be too busy to help with little projects, so you don’t ask.

Karen:  Get involved with your mentee and be proactive about looking for projects to which both partners can contribute. Also, listen to what the mentee says he or she hopes to gain from the pairing. This information will guide the forward progress of the team.

Did you face any challenges in ensuring a successful mentoring partnership? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them?

Tisa:  Distance was a challenge. We utilized tools such as Google Drive and email to help bridge the distance. Most of our communication is by email, but we try to meet in person about once every month or every other month at a central location.

Karen:  We had the obvious challenge of geography right from the outset. Tisa and I live on opposite sides of the state, making in-person meetings more difficult. But she has been flexible about travel and so have I. That has helped a lot. We try to meet at a “halfway” spot when possible—Disney area seems to work pretty well. And we communicate via email for most of our information exchanges.

Another challenge was that we are both very busy, me with my work and she with her schoolwork and her job. This situation means that finding time to work together and meet from time to time has required a real commitment from us both.

Do you have any suggestions on how the mentoring program might be improved?

Tisa:  I think the mentoring program has been great. I do not see any needs for improvements at this time.

Karen:  I don’t necessarily think that geography should factor into the pairings of mentors and mentees, although that has been suggested as a future consideration. It’s far more important to have a good fit of goals and personality than to be handicapped by geographic distance. Today it is very easy to communicate virtually in real time if geographic co-location is not possible.

Tell me about the article you coauthored for intercom, “While You’re Here.” How did you divide up the research, writing, editing, and photo gathering for the project?

Karen/Tisa:  We started by brainstorming what kind of article we wanted to write: first we collected several possible topics, then we discussed them and decided which was the most appealing and feasible for us. Then we developed a spreadsheet to collect names of attractions, addresses, distance from the Summit hotel, and a few notes about salient features. We divided up the list to do further research on each, and then we discussed which to include and which to drop. Tisa did a first draft, and Karen edited it for language and also for content. Some of the suggested attractions and museums did not make the cut; others were expanded. Then both of us reviewed the result, selected some images for inclusion, and submitted the completed article.

Describe what you did in terms of job search and placement (resume, portfolio, interviewing, etc.).

Karen/Tisa:  Tisa provided her résumé for Karen’s suggestions and modified accordingly. She is also developing an online portfolio, which Karen is in the process of reviewing. We haven’t had much discussion on interviewing, but Tisa is employed in the field, so she is not actively job seeking. Rather, she is planning ahead to graduate school after she finishes her bachelor’s degree this spring. At that point, Karen can be a sounding board for Tisa when she is on an active job hunt, assuming she wants to work while she is in graduate school. Her plan at the moment is to be a teaching assistant, which may not leave much time for regular employment. We will keep in touch as the situation evolves.

Whether you are a student who attends classes on campus or strictly online, consider joining FTC and STC and learning from seasoned professionals in your field of study by becoming a mentee in the STC-FTC student mentorship program.

If you are a professional practitioner in Florida, please consider joining the STC Florida Chapter. Better still, sign up for the flourishing STC-FTC student mentoring program as we enter our 16th year. You will find, as have Karen and Tisa and many other mentor/mentee pairs, that mentoring is very definitely a two-way street as well as a clear “win-win” situation.

Watch for Parts 3 and 4 of this series in the August and September editions of Memo to Members!

From the Editors’ Desk

Nick Ducharme and Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

This is it, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…our final joint editor newsletter! And of course, the 2018 Summit!

The Florida Chapter of STC has spent months eagerly preparing for the Summit and to welcome all of you to our home. Our chapter started by writing six articles for Intercom on topics relevant to the Summit and Orlando. Looking for some advice on local transportation options, off-the-beaten-path attractions, dining, and more for your stay during the Summit? Our chapter prepared an ultimate suite of articles to meet your needs, which we published in the last three editions of Intercom as shown below:

On top of the wonderful articles, our chapter has also set up two awesome night-time events— and not one, but two Summit presentations (more on those in this month’s President’s Corner)!

While we’ve spent the past few months getting ready, we’ve also been hosting several other wonderful programs, many of which will be discussed at the Summit! You can also take a look in our April and March meeting recaps, as well as The View from Campus.

And finally, it is with bittersweet joy that we say farewell to one of our editors. That’s right, Nick is moving on to become our Vice-President Elect. While he’s sharing his goodbyes in Vacating the Editor’s Desk, I (Emily) am going to take over for a minute to say goodbye to my co-editor Nick. This has been an interesting and fun apprenticeship, and I thank you for everything you’ve done to help me ease into this role, rather than just throwing me into it (especially with all the Summit prep). It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you, and I wish you all the best as VP.

Now that we’ve made you all tear up (including me, Nick), it’s time for us to say goodbye for now. We hope to see you at the Summit!

Sincerest thanks for reading,

Nick Ducharme and Emily Wells
Editors, Memo To Members

President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
Florida Chapter, STC


Members and Friends of the Florida Chapter STC,

For the past two years, one of my main objectives as Chapter President has been to successfully host the 2018 STC Summit right here in Orlando. The Technical Communication world descends upon the Hyatt Regency Orlando May 20th – 23rd for informative sessions, workshops, and incredible networking opportunities. We, as a collective chapter, have spent thousands of hours preparing for this event, and it’s finally here! Some chapter members are presenting (more on that in a bit), others are volunteering at our Chapter expo information booth, or as venue hosts at our Diner Meet-Up and Pub Crawl. Whether you call Orlando home, or are traveling from afar, the STC Florida Chapter proudly welcomes you to our home.

In my January column, I announced that four Rising Stars within our chapter (Bethany Aguad, Crystal Brezina, Nick Ducharme, and I) had been accepted to present at the Summit twice—once at Leadership Day and once during the Summit technical sessions. Coached by a who’s-who of Chapter luminaries, four STC Fellows (W.C. Wiese, Karen Lane, Mike Murray, and Dan Voss), our team has put together some incredible presentations. I am truly humbled to have been a part of this effort, from proposal to presentation, the past seven months. Here are the details of our talks, won’t you join us?

Mentors and Rising Stars hard at work planning two outstanding Summit Presentations.

Clockwise from Left: Bethany Aguad, Mike Murray, Dan Voss, Crystal Brezina, Nick Ducharme, W.C. Wiese, Karen Lane, [Alex Garcia photographer).


Attendees to both the Leadership Day presentation and the Technical Session will be granted access to our Online Resources. These files, including Mike Murray’s Fast-Start Leadership Guide, delve deeper into the reasons the Florida Chapter earned Community of Distinction nine times over the past 15 years. These resources will be worth the price of your Summit admission!

Leadership Day

Forging the Future: Tips and Tools to (Re)Building Your STC Community (May 20th 10:00-11:00 AM Hyatt Celebration Breakout Room 5-6)

This presentation, geared toward STC Chapter Leaders, shows eight unique initiatives that have set the STC Florida Chapter apart for (at least) the past 15 years:

  1. Topic 1: Student Mentoring Programs
  2. Topic 2: College Scholarship Fund and Fundraising
  3. Topic 3: Leadership Development Program
  4. Topic 4: Active Membership Program
  5. Topic 5: Communication Forums
  6. Topic 6: Introducing the STC Florida Chapter
  7. Topic 7: Strategic Planning and Tactical Execution
  8. Topic 8: Community Achievement Awards

The talk begins with a 30 minute redux into the eight topics, before transitioning into a mini Summit-within-the Summit (two rotations with four open venues each). During these takeaway talks, attendees can delve deeper into two topics per table:

Presenter Topics
Bethany Aguad 1.      Student Mentoring Programs

2.      College Scholarship Funds and Fundraising

Nick Ducharme 1.      Leadership Development Program

2.      Chapter Communications

Alex Garcia 1.      Strategic Planning and Tactical Execution

2.      Florida Chapter Information

Crystal Brezina 1.      Active Membership Program

2.      Community Achievement Awards

Technical Session

Fueling Your Future: STC Experience Builds Professional Leadership Skills (May 21st 2:10-3:00 PM Hyatt Celebration Breakout Room 1-2)

Abstract from the 2018 STC Summit Proceedings:

Mentored by experienced professionals, Bethany Aguad, Crystal Brezina, Nick Ducharme, and Alex Garcia have taken on key roles within the STC Florida community. Our participation in the chapter’s flourishing student mentoring and leadership development programs has accelerated our professional growth as well. The collaboration of experienced leaders with newer practitioners fosters leadership skills as the newer practitioners advance their careers and prepare to take on management roles in their companies and professions as well as within STC.

The first 20 minutes of the 50-minute technical presentation is a panel discussion, where the four panelists will share how their involvement in STC helped them develop the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.  The last half of the session will be progression style, with two separate takeaway talks. Attendees will not be forced to choose between topics, they will be able to attend both venues!

Topic Speaker Time
Welcome and Introductions All 19 Minutes
Student Mentoring Bethany Aguad
Adco Crystal Brezina
Leadership Development Program (LDP) Nick Ducharme
Leadership Retreat Alex
Take-Away Talk Group 1: Student Mentoring and LDP Nick and Bethany 30 (two 10-15 minute rotations)
Take-Away Talk Group 2: Adco and Leadership Retreat Alex and Crystal
Closing Bethany

April Meeting Recap

By: The Flesches
Presenters of the 2018 Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarships

We were asked by Nick Ducharme and Emily Wells to write an article on the events that unfolded during the April STC meeting and Scholarship presentation. You really needed to be there, and if you missed it, following is a recap as viewed through the eyes of two very proud parents.

A photo of the scholarship’s namesake, Melissa Pellegrin, alongside a ceremonial green candle representing Melissa’s favorite color.

Let us introduce ourselves: we are Margaret and Fred Flesche, parents of Melissa Pellegrin, namesake for the chapter’s scholarship program.  Melissa, after graduating from UCF with a Technical Writing degree, worked in her chosen profession for only a few years before she left us for a better life. Her years attending UCF and her interactions with fellow students, faculty, and STC events allowed her to earn the respect of all that knew her. After her passing, the previous scholarship program was renamed in her memory, and the Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship was born. Little did she know how many future students would benefit from her passing so that the work she loved would carry on in perpetuity.

Thursday night, April 19th, was the 21st presentation of the 43rd and 44th scholarships in her memory.  As in the past 21 years, we were present to witness scholarship presentations. However, this year we were honored to present the 2 scholarships to this year’s recipients, Laura (Abby) Rex, and Andrea (Andy) Romero.  Congratulations to both of them for their accomplishments this year and in all future endeavors.

Fred Flesche congratulating 2018 Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship recipient Laura Rex.

Margaret and Fred Flesche congratulating 2018 Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship recipient Andy Romero (on right).

This year, as in the past, it was uplifting to witness the men and women that devote their time and efforts to further their education and make the world a better place. The celebrants who attended the presentation are living proof that it does take a village to raise a child. Village residents are comprised of parents, family, religious leaders, and educators that make such a big impact on all of our lives, throughout our lives.

Dr. Dan Jones addressing the village. Congratulations on your retirement, Dan!

The second part of the evening’s events was the recap and personal presentation addressed to two of UCF’s long term professors that are retiring after finishing the current semester, Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. Paul Dombrowski. They are definitely leaders within the “Village” and have been participants throughout their careers as evidenced with heartwarming testimonials by several current and former students in attendance. We joined in with our memories of Dr. Jones that date back to the first scholarship presentation and all of the years that followed. A friendship and respect developed, and it was an annual tradition to sit with Dr. Jones at the annual presentation meetings.

Dr. Paul Dombrowski addressing the village. Congratulations on your retirement, Paul!

Overall the evening was filled with joy, with the scholarship presentation, obvious sadness from those present with the retirement of two popular professors, and the happiness of the two professors turning another corner in life’s journey and looking forward to many happy years of well-deserved retirement.

One final comment addressing the evening’s events. As we looked and listened to the comments and interactions of the students, former students, and visitors, which were very impressive, there was a feeling the world will be in a better place in the future due to the quality and dedication that emerges from those that were present. It is unfortunate that national reporting does not focus on events like the one that took place on this night in April and forgo reporting that brings despair, confusement and sometimes less than accurate information. This night’s presentation was the real thing and the basis from which the silent majority can be hopeful as we march into the future.

One final note: Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s Distinguished Chapter Service Awards! The honorees are Immediate Past President Debra Johnson (left), Newsletter Co-Editor Emily Wells (center-right), and Treasurer Bethany Aguad (right).

March Meeting Recap

Alexandra Engrand

By: Alexandra Engrand
Nominating Chair
Florida Chapter, STC

March’s meeting, held on March 22, was STC Florida’s Annual Employment Panel. Scott Dorsett, Jack Molisani, and Mark Wray provided an insider’s view of what HR managers look for when hiring new employees, including tips on two main topics: resumes and interviews. They discussed what you should put on a resume depending on your level of experience and what might be an appropriate length for a resume. Scott suggested keeping your resume to a single page if you are just starting out and do not have a lot of prior experience. However, if you have more past experiences that you might benefit from mentioning, you should consider a two-page resume to ensure you have room for everything. Our speakers also talked about how to answer certain questions you might encounter during an interview, such as the dreaded salary question or the even more dreaded “tell me about yourself” question. According to Jack, the answer is to turn the question back to your interviewer by asking them to give context to their question. This will allow you to determine what kind of answer they are looking for. Participants asked a lot of good questions and received a lot of insightful and informative answers. At the end of the event, there was a raffle giving away four prizes: two books, a voodoo doll, and free admission to Jack’s LavaCon convention in October.

Visit our website to see videos of our March meeting.

Our esteemed panelists! Special thanks to Mark Wray (on left), Scott Dorsett (center), and Jack Molisani (on right).

The View from Campus

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series

FTC/STC Student Mentoring Program Wraps Up Exciting Year
And Lays Plans for Expanded Virtual Connectivity Next Year

Misty Arner

By: Misty Arner
Co-Manager, STC-FTC Student Mentoring Program
Student Member, Florida Chapter, STC


When I took my first technical communication course at UCF, I was introduced to the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) Club, sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA).  I became interested in not only joining the STC-FTC student mentoring program but taking over as program co-manager/coordinator. I felt that this would give me the experience and the ability to network with other students and professionals and that the title would look good on my resume.  Throughout the program, I realized that many other mentees and mentors have benefited from the program, improving both academically and professionally.

Now, I have the privilege to present to you why you should consider becoming a student mentee or a professional mentor in this highly successful and internationally recognized 15-year (soon to be 16-year) program.

It was my pleasure to interview some of our current mentors, Dan Voss, Karen Lane, and W.C. Wiese, along with their mentees, Andy Romero, Emily Wells, Tisa Newcombe, and Nick Mina, to share their experiences and success stories.

Their in-depth and insightful answers to my interview questions expanded this article far beyond its original planned length. For this reason, Memo to Members has decided to present their stories, followed by a preview of next year’s student mentoring program with increased virtual connectivity, in a four-part series.

The series will run as follows:

May edition: STC Fellow and mentoring program co-manager Dan Voss and his two 2017-2018 mentees, former student co-manager of the mentoring program Emily Wells and current FTC President Andy Romero, tell their stories.

June edition:  STC Fellow and chapter director-at-large Karen Lane and her mentee Tisa Newcombe tell their story.

August edition:  STC Fellow and returning Chapter Treasurer W.C. Wiese and FTC Treasurer Nick Mina tell their story.

September edition: We take a peek at the updated STC-FTC student mentoring program for the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year, which will include options for virtual mentoring as well as virtual participation in FTC. The 2018-2019 program will pilot these options for implementation in the emerging statewide Florida STC community in the years ahead.

I hope this series of articles will encourage both tech comm students and professional technical communicators to become active members in the Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), encourage UCF tech comm students (both undergraduate and graduate) to join Future Technical Communicators (FTC) and to participate as mentees and mentors in the STC-FTC Mentorship Program.

Part 1: Chat with Mentor Dan Voss and Mentees Emily Wells and Andy Romero

There is actually only one quasi-sane person at this table. Can you guess who it is? From L, incoming newsletter editor and former student co-manager of the mentoring program, Emily Wells; FTC president, Andy Romero; and ongoing professional co-manager of the mentoring program, Dan Voss.
Photo by W.C. Wiese.

Following are the questions with responses from mentee Emily Wells and mentor Dan Voss, and then the same questions with responses from mentee Andy Romero and mentor Dan Voss.

Emily and Dan

What do you believe was the single most beneficial aspect of your mentoring partnership?

Emily: Getting more involved in our chapter. While I already attended chapter meetings and got a lot out of them, I was encouraged very strongly (*cough* Dan*cough*) to take over as mentoring program co-coordinator midway through the 2016-17 year, something I had never intended to do. But I’m glad Dan encouraged me to get more involved in the chapter this way, as not only did I get to know a group of awesome people I enjoy spending time with, being more involved also helped me land my current job. The person who gave his manager my resume had known me for two years through my work for our chapter, and as a result recommended me based on my work ethic.

Dan: I think it was the natural compatibility between Emily and me. Basically, we’re both crazy. We’re also very competitive and strong-willed editors. I’ve enjoyed our editorial “jousts,” which have intensified since Emily has moved into her new role as editor of Memo to Members. What really annoys me is that she is often right. LOL.

Does any particular activity or project in your mentoring partnership stand out as the most successful? Explain.

Emily: See my answer to the first question.

Dan: As mentoring program co-managers, we made the mentor-mentee pairings for the 2017-18 STC/FTC programs. We had a record number of M&M pairs over that period. As a result, we burned the midnight oil to make optimum pairings. Due to the large number of participants in the program, we also had to conduct multiple kick-off meetings both years. The first 2 months of the mentoring program are pretty intense for the program managers, but when we look at the number of successful partnership we’ve had the past 2 years, it’s all worth it.

Job search and placement was a focus last fall in the last semester of your 1½-year mentoring partnership. What did you do? 

Dan: We focused on parlaying Emily’s multiple responsibilities and activities with both FTC and STC into strong positive discriminators in her resume and portfolio.

Emily: Dan was a big help bringing my tech comm work into my portfolio, particularly since I was a tech comm minor, so it wasn’t the main focus of my portfolio at the time. He also provided some great advice that helped me jazz up my resume and LinkedIn.

Did Dan’s long career at Lockheed Martin factor in the position Emily just accepted there? 

Dan: Not directly. I pulled no strings. Emily was hired strictly on merit. I believe I helped her showcase her diverse abilities and her leadership experience to gain an edge in the highly competitive job market. Lockheed Martin survived 40 years of Dan; the question is, are they ready for Emily? LOL.

Emily: Actually, Dan didn’t know I had applied for the job until after I got it. But he was a factor in my decision to apply. After all, if they could put up with Dan for 40 years, they must be a pretty impressive company. All joking aside though, he encouraged me to pursue employment at Lockheed through sharing about his career and experiences there. Plus, even though he doesn’t know it (and I’ve tried to avoid telling him to keep his ego manageable) he helped give me the confidence to pursue a career in tech comm. Coming in as a Writing and Rhetoric major versus a tech comm major made me wonder if I really wanted to pursue a career in tech writing, if it was something I could do. Working with Dan helped show me that not only was this something I could do, it was something I could excel at. And wouldn’t you know it, that ended up coming up in my interview, and having talked it through with Dan gave me the confidence as well as the right answer for that question. So, while he didn’t do anything to influence the hiring decision, his help and our mentoring partnership were definite factors.

Did you face any particular challenges in ensuring a successful mentoring partnership? How did you overcome them?

Emily: Taking over as mentoring program co-manager, surprisingly enough, became my greatest challenge. Once I took over, I became heavily involved in STC, and since my mentor was the other co-manager, a lot of our time inevitably became about the mentoring program rather than our mentoring partnership. Yet while I didn’t necessarily achieve everything I had wanted to at the beginning of the program, I learned so much that ended up helping me succeed (which ties back to the benefit of being flexible).

Dan: Time. Our academic, professional, and STC plates were both overflowing most of the time. We had to balance multiple priorities. At times, our FTC and STC commitments cut into our “mentoring time,” but I believe our responsibilities and projects were, in themselves, a valuable mentoring experience.

What is the most important thing you believe a mentee/mentor can do to derive maximum benefit from a mentoring partnership?

Emily: Be open communication wise. Don’t be afraid to reach out and respond to your mentor. Also, be flexible. Challenges will arise. You’ll go from thinking you have all the time in the world to both you and your mentor being slammed, struggling to find time to carry out what you had planned. So be willing to switch it up. From my experience, mentors are willing to flex and work with you, so be willing to do the same for them.

Dan: Be available and provide opportunities. Mentee participation is the most critical factor. The more a mentee is willing to put into the mentoring partnership, the more he or she will get out of it.

Do you have any suggestions on how the mentoring program might be improved?

Emily: This is something Dan and I have talked about a lot, especially while I was co-coordinator and especially in light of the changing dynamic of the UCF tech comm program. With more people taking online-only classes, we need to adapt as well to serve not only those who are physically in Orlando but those are remote. We’re hoping to present these new ideas to our chapter’s Administrative Council to then incorporate into next year’s program. So stay tuned!

Dan: Although we believe that face-to-face contact is a key element in a successful mentoring partnership, we need to explore virtual forums as well to deal with to the challenges distance and schedules can present. This is also a natural part of the new STC Florida Chapter’s initiative to build a statewide community. Down the road, we can envision including other Florida universities close to our emerging Local Interest Groups (LIGs) in the mentoring program.

Andy and Dan

What do you believe was the single most beneficial aspect of your mentoring partnership?

Andy: The most beneficial aspect of the mentoring partnership was having the opportunity to work with Dan Voss, who has been an excellent wise, organized, and consistent mentor. He has opened the doors to the technical communication world and given me the exposure I needed to become more involved and knowledgeable about the profession.

Dan: It has been extremely gratifying to see Andy grow in her leadership role within FTC as well on the Administrative Council. Andy channels youthful enthusiasm with a maturity beyond her years. She is versatile, talented, and task-driven yet people-oriented. She will go far in our profession.

Tell me about the article in the Summit series that you coauthored for intercom, “Stay Awhile.” How did you divide up the research, writing, editing, and photo gathering for the project?

Andy: The “Stay Awhile” article for STC’s intercom was one of the most challenging and rewarding long-term projects we have worked on. Collaborating with Dan made the whole process so much easier. We managed to face our hurdles head on and deliver a superb intercom article.

Dan:  While creating “Stay Awhile” for STC’s intercom, we got off to a bit of a rocky start when spring calendar events were not yet available, but we persevered to research, write, and—thanks to Andy’s versatility—illustrate (with photos) an annotated May Central Florida events calendar that should be very useful to Summit attendees who wish to extend their stay before or after the conference. In addition, Andy is the first and only person ever to work successfully with me in the dreaded new-fangled Google Docs. J

What is the most important thing you believe a mentee/mentor can do to derive maximum benefit from a mentoring partnership?

Andy: To successfully benefit from the mentoring program, a student needs to put in the time and effort with his or her mentor. This can be done face to face or even using online collaborative tools. The more the student is involved with his or her mentor, the more that student can be involved in STC opportunities and gain more experience in the field.

Dan: My answer is the same as it was in my interview about my partnership with Emily. Be available and provide opportunities. Mentee participation is the most critical factor. The more a mentee is willing to put into the mentoring partnership, the more he or she will get out of it.

Both of you hold active leadership positions in the STC/FTC partnership, how did this affect your mentoring partnership? 

Andy: Being deeply involved in STC and FTC took up a significant part in our mentoring projects; however, most of these collaborations were beneficial in meeting our mentoring objectives. Overall, Dan and I had consistent communication and we worked around our busy schedules.

Dan: Our STC/FTC projects tended to dominate our time together. We’ve had to make a conscious effort to work on our specific mentoring objectives. Of course, much of our project work has involved those objectives, so we’ve been able to balance the two most of the time.

Do you have any suggestions on how the mentoring program might be improved?

Andy: One improvement that can be made on the mentoring program is having a large project to involve all the mentors and mentees. This can bring the FTC and STC community together even further and can provide all the students with exposure to the field. In addition, new online collaborative tools can be used to increase our number of mentors and mentees involved in the program.

Dan: My answer is the same as it was in my response with Emily. Although we believe that face-to-face contact is a key element in a successful mentoring partnership, we need to explore virtual forums as well to deal with to the challenges distance and schedules can present.

Watch for Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series in the June, August, and September editions of Memo to Members!

Vacating the Editor’s Desk

Nick Ducharme

By: Nick Ducharme
Vice President-Elect
Florida Chapter, STC

Well…this is it.

The Apprentice has become the Master! I’m officially passing the reins of Memo to Members (MtM) to your new Communications Manager and Newsletter Editor, Emily Wells. And in turn, per last week’s chapter elections, I‘ll take up my new role as Vice President at our annual awards banquet in June.

The saga of this newsletter is a rich one that spans over two decades. We’ve evolved from a traditional PDF layout called Tech Trends that was optimized for print (!) into today’s MtM blog format. This evolution continued during my incumbency as we honed our editorial and distribution processes, migrated websites, and revised our chapter’s name—twice. Sustaining this publication through those changes has been a wild ride!

These past three years with MtM were a gift. I’ve grown so much from the experience, both in leadership and in editorial prowess. Most importantly, I’ve grown to know you, our readers and contributors. Thank you for your encouragement, wisdom, and joy. I’ll carry your stories with me into this next leg of my journey.

I must say that my finest moments with MtM have been at the end of this era. These past few editions that I’ve co-edited with Emily are my favorites to date. The two of us have also conversed about her vision for our chapter’s Communications Committee, and adequate words escape me to convey my enthusiasm. I leave this desk in good hands.

This is not a goodbye, dear communicators. I’ll see you on the other side.

And at the Summit. Mic drop.

From the Editors´ Desk

Nick Ducharme and Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

As you might have noticed, our chapter logo has a new Spring in its step! After much hard work from our Treasurer Bethany Aguad and others, the long-awaited new logo was designed and approved in time for the 2018 STC Summit in May.

Isn’t it beautiful?

That’s not all that’s new. This April edition of Memo to Members is packed with exciting new developments for both our chapter and the Future Technical Communicators (FTC) club at the University of Central Florida (UCF).

First, the STC Florida Chapter recently unveiled some new resources, and a whole new program to boot! Our pilot year of the chapter’s new Leadership Development Program (LDP), a natural extension of our mentoring program, has just begun. Inseparable from the LDP, we have officially published STC Fellow Mike Murray’s Fast Start Leader’s Guide (FSLG). Plus, we now have an official Values Statement for our chapter!

Next, President Alex Garcia has some important reminders as the monumental occasion of the Orlando Summit draws closer. It is now only one month away!

Meanwhile, our chapter is introducing a new benefit for all student members to increase engagement from student members.

Speaking of our student members, The View from Campus reflects on the successful Spring semester while sharing news about the exciting plans ahead, including a new partnership to expand the opportunities available for technical communication students. Read on to find out more!

And finally, we would like to remind you of this month’s meeting. We invite you to join us on Thursday, April 19th at Bahama Breeze Waterford Lakes (1200 N Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL 32828) for a night of techcomm networking and revelry, as we gather to honor award recipients and celebrate professional milestones:

* The UCF Foundation’s Melissa Pellegrin Memorial Scholarship
* The STC Distinguished Chapter Service Award
* The STC Distinguished Chapter Service Award for Students
* Retirement of STC Fellow and UCF Professor of English: Technical Communication Dr. Dan Jones
* Retirement of UCF Professor of English: Technical Communication Dr. Paul Dombrowski

Please click here to RSVP.

Sincerest thanks for reading,

Nick Ducharme and Emily Wells
Editors, Memo To Members

President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
Florida Chapter, STC


Members and Friends of the Florida Chapter STC,

The 2018 STC Summit is only one month away. Can you believe it? If you are an STC student, you have an opportunity to attend the Summit for FREE, in exchange for some of your time.

In return for volunteering two out of four days at the STC Summit, you get free admission to all the sessions. There are positions Sunday May 20th through Wednesday May 23rd as room monitors or registration clerks. Students must complete the Student Volunteer Application Form to be considered for a position. Applications must be completed and sent to STC’s Education Manager, Deborah Krat, and the Student Volunteer Coordinator, Carolyn Klinger. As of press time, we need nine more volunteers.

Carolyn said “Even when a student is volunteering as a room monitor, I work with them to choose sessions to monitor that they wanted to attend anyway. All they need to do is count the heads and send the number to our group in the GroupMe app, offer help to the speaker, and sit back and enjoy. Note that this arrangement does not include preconference workshops. It does include continental breakfast Monday through Wednesday.”

Here is the full schedule of sessions: https://summit.stc.org/schedule/

And Registration is available at: https://summit.stc.org/conference/registration-rates/

Hope you can make it to the Summit; it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime networking opportunity!