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My experience as President: Opportunity for growth in chapter leadership
2002, Q4 (July 05, 2007)
By Bill Albing, President, STC Carolina Chapter, 1995-1997

Bill Albing
Bill Albing

When I was elected to serve as President of the STC Carolina Chapter, back in the mid-1990s, there were not many special interest group (SIG) meetings and most members were exposed to only the large
general monthly meetings held in various places around Research Triangle Park (RTP). The changes since then have been significant and I feel honored to have served in leadership at a time of accelerating growth and fundamental changes in the Chapter. During my tenure, the Chapter leaders realized that we were no longer a small Chapter; we passed the 400-member mark and kept going. And we were witnessing significant changes in industry at the same time.

When I began, less than half the leaders (and much less than half of our members) had e-mail addresses and most were involved in producing printed documentation. We were only beginning to see the Internet boom and our Chapter web site was only beginning. During my two terms as President, we grew more quickly and changed more quickly than in any previous set of years in the Chapter's history; at least, that's what it felt like.
  • We rewrote our Chapter bylaws for the first time in 20 years.
  • We acknowledged our academic roots — while begun by IBM employees, the early leaders were more from academia — but we needed to go beyond that now.
  • We grew from a few large groups at IBM and CP&L to a large diverse collection of professionals from a range of companies, many from small software companies and small groups in telecom companies.
  • We developed the web site; but even more effective at the time, Jodie Pollock helped us get a voicemail system that allowed members to find out about jobs over the phone and hear a message about the next meeting's time and place.
  • Doug Ryan and others greatly expanded the training offerings and motivated many to get involved and ultimately become Chapter leaders.
  • We bought a laptop for the leaders to use for presentations and to keep up with e-mail.
  • I worked with the local FrameMaker User Group, which at that time was completely separate from STC.
  • We put on summer conferences that began to attract more than 100 attendees.

Being President was beginning to take a lot of time and effort; I was happy to serve a second term because it took the whole year to really appreciate what the President does. To help with planning, we started having Vision Day — a day of brainstorming and long-range planning that has helped the Chapter meet its challenges.

I learned that we can get so much done as a Chapter by remembering two things: first, that STC gives you freedom — there is so much autonomy at the Chapter level, that we can do a lot on our own; and second, that ...if you delegate responsibility to talented and creative people, a lot can be accomplished.

With the help of energetic people like Mike Uhl, and Jodie and Doug, and others, we offered new services and expanded our existing services. We did many things that were done for the first time by an STC Chapter. I believe involvement by enthusiastic and creative leaders set a model for the next generation of leaders who face their own set of challenges.

Now that our Chapter is large, how do we keep the membership growing while still making each member feel a part of the organization? (The SIGs and numerous training opportunities provide smaller and more focused settings.) How do we handle conferences that now become almost regional in their size and scope? With the shrinking of the telecom industry in this area, how do we help unemployed and underemployed members? With the need for online skills that change as toolsets change, how do we respond with training and how do we offer relevant programs? The beauty of STC is that we can respond locally; as a Chapter we have the autonomy and can act on our own. We have financial resources and a large volunteer base with a diversity of talent to develop offerings that meet these challenges.

As Thomas Tullia (a fellow engineer of mine) has said of membership in a similar professional association, but it applies as well to ours, "The value in our membership lies in the relationship that we develop through active participation." If I had not said "Yes" when asked to serve initially as Chapter Vice President (I jumped right in the deep end), I would not have met such energetic and talented technical communicators and decided to stay in leadership. The STC Carolina Chapter is great because we make it great. Its value is the wealth of talent and creativity that we bring to it.

The networking, the learning, the leadership experience cannot come into being on its own — we must get involved to experience it and benefit from it. While those transition years in the mid-1990s were dynamic and fun, I know this decade will bring further growth and expanded benefits to all members. As we do more mentoring, as we expand our visibility (virtually and in real communities), as we try new venues, we follow in the footsteps of those who got involved and found great reward, as I have. Thank you, STC Carolina Chapter, for the opportunity to grow professionally and personally, as I have been able to contribute and see the Chapter grow. Looking back, the benefits to me were valuable and numerous, and I know the Chapter will continue to offer great rewards to those who get involved. End of article.

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