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From Curiosity to Confidence: An STC@50 Anecdote
Published
2002, Q4 (June 20, 2007)
By Michelle Corbin, President, STC Carolina Chapter, 1999-2000

Although I have only been a member since 1991, I do have many fond memories and experiences with STC. Here is my story about how I became involved in STC. It is probably not unique from other STC leaders, but I thought you might enjoy hearing it. I have told it often within my own chapter.

At our local chapter conference, we had Mary Wise come and speak to us during our lunch as a keynote speaker. She spoke about getting involved in whatever small way we could in our local chapter. She said, "Give a little, get a lot." Those were not her exact words, but that is what I took away from her speech. Mary also reminded us that we could use STC to learn new skills.

I walked out of that lunch and immediately went to find the Newsletter Editor to volunteer to be a copy editor. It was a small first step, and a skill that I was interested in pursuing. I started copy editing and proofing the newsletter, working about 3 or 4 hours a month.

When the Newsletter Editor moved on to be the Vice President, I asked to take over as Newsletter Editor. I was ready to learn some page layout skills, some organizational skills, and some leader ship skills. I started to attend the Chapter Leaders. meeting, our "board meetings." I started spending about 8 to 15 hours a month working on the newsletter and attending the meetings.

Interacting on a monthly basis with each of the various leaders in our chapter was an invigorating and exciting experience. It was nice to find people as motivated and excited about their careers as I was. During that time, the Carolina Chapter held its first Vision Day, where we looked ahead, and dreamed, and put together our Strategic Plan. It was really an exciting time. I already was thinking about leading my own Vision Day one day as President.

After two years as the Newsletter Editor, Chris Benz approached me about being his Vice President. I was extremely excited and said "Yes!" immediately. I was ready to expand my leadership skills and step up in front of the chapter as President in the following year. I honed some of my budgeting skills, managing skills, and even a little politicking. Chris and I attended the International Conference in Anaheim, CA, together and began planning the year. We set a theme, "The Year of Yes!" where we increased the number of volunteers in our chapter.

During my own year as President, I too had a theme: "Reach! There are no limits!" I worked hard to build future leaders, mentor new technical communicators, and recognize all of the efforts we had going within our chapter. By this time, I was spending between 15 and 20 hours a week, answering lots of e-mail messages, attending lots of meetings, and interacting with many more people. It was with great pride that I stood up at each monthly membership meeting and said, "Hello! My name is Michelle Corbin and I am the President of the Carolina Chapter."

Throughout my chapter involvement, I continued to present various programs at the international STC conferences, which has brought many exciting and memorable experiences. In particular, at the International Conference held in Washington, D.C., my presentation was combined with another one, and we collaborated wonderfully to create a unified presentation. We were in the room, and the room moderator had to ask people to leave because twice as many people showed up to attend as what the room could hold.

Based on the reviews of our first presentation, they asked us to repeat our presentation again, this time in a room that held close to 400 people (about 200 more showed up the second time around). Sharing my experience and my love of my profession with so many of my peers was a very memorable experience.

I am now the manager of the local Carolina Chapter Technical Editing SIG. We meet monthly and hold programs of interest to technical editors in our area. It is a very active SIG, with over 50 people signed up and over 20 people attending each meeting most months. I am enjoying being involved in a specific area of our chapter now.

In my career, I am now technical editor. Yes, I was able to make the transition from technical writer to technical editor, in part because of that first step I took into copy editing our chapter's newsletter. In fact, I am now an advisory technical editor at IBM. What started out as a very small commitment of time and a curiosity to learn a new skill has mushroomed into a selfconfidence, a self-awareness, and a sheer delight with my career and my future.

I know that — without a doubt — the jobs I have received, the promotions I have earned, and the direction of my career are directly related to my involvement with this awesome STC organization.

I do hope to bring my motivation and enthusiasm to the national level of STC some day. I just need to see where my curiosity is going to take me. End of article.

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