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New friends, new opportunities
2000, September (March 04, 2007)
By David King

My First Leadership Meeting

July's monthly Leadership Meeting, a business meeting, was hardly "business as usual." As 11 people, mostly from different companies, sat around the conference table at EMC2 in Research Triangle Park, one got the feeling of being in a gathering of long-time friends rather than business associates or competitors. And, as it turned out, they were. Not that the two are necessarily incompatible, but in this age of fierce competition it seemed a rare sight indeed to see such lightheartedness amongst business competitors.


Question and answer session

A question and answer session followed the Leadership Meeting. Highlights were:
  • Find a mentor in the room, someone you have talked with in STC who will be able to help you. Ask that person if he or she would like to help you. People like to be asked.
  • Common sense is often in short supply in business. With communication rifts between executives and "propeller heads ("techies), there is a great need for communications within companies.
  • Technology skills are not a substitute for good writing. This topic was discussed extensively in the meeting. (Yes, you need technical skills to be hired; a lot of companies dont want to take the time to train you--they needed somebody yesterday for your position.)
  • STC leadership is exploring ways to make tools such as FrameMaker and RoboHELP accessible at reduced rates for members.
  • Companies today are using a very small pool of contractors (writers) to do their documentation. They want someone who can come in and hit the ground running.
  • Make sure when you learn a tool that you continue to use it daily. The old adage, "If you dont use it, you lose it" applies here.
  • "The market for technical writers is crazy right now. There are technical writers with only two years of experience making $30.00 an hour." — Emily Toone (owner of TPS, a staffing company for technical communicators)
  • Not everyone in the room had a BA in English!
  • Getting involved with STC in some way is a great way to get started.

I arrived at 5:30. As I walked into the room, I introduced myself and was greeted by Chapter President, Emily Toone (TPS). A quick introduction to STC leadership seated around the table and I took my seat. Within seconds, Bill Albing (Make Systems) had one of his business cards in my hand. Chapter Treasurer Michael Harvey (EMC2) jokingly said, "He's going to do a report on the meeting." At first, I laughed and shrugged his comment off. Then, later, I wondered if it might be a good idea ...

Emily opened the meeting and spoke about Vision Day, which had been rescheduled for July 15. She urged everyone to attend, especially those with information and experience to share.

Budget was main item

The main item on the agenda was this year's preliminary budget. Michael went over it emphasizing that all was not set in stone (he had taken the numbers from the year before and projected them onto the coming year). There was, however, a difference in this year's budget: it didn't have as many categories as last year's budget. This created more flexibility for each program and allowed for a cleaner preliminary budget for the 20002001 year.

The meeting continued at a fast clip with plenty of humor and information. Chris Benz (e-Publishing), STC's new Region 2 Director-Sponsor, talked about the organization and how it functioned. He introduced Kim Flint, STC Web site Coordinator, and praised the excellent job she did with STC's site.

Also present among STC Leadership members were:
  • Michelle Corbin (Tivoli)
  • Catherine Goodfellow (TPS)
  • Cindy Richardson-Decker (Advanced Concepts)
  • Amanda Worthington (Cisco)
  • Suzanne Norris-Thomas (Advanced Concepts)
  • Cheri Taylor (indpendent contractor)
  • Francis Wirth (whiz-ID Instructional Design)

A time to talk with friends

After 45 minutes, we broke for refreshments and members paired off to catch up on news. After reconnecting with Chris Benz, I got into a conversation with David Heath (IBM) and Bill Albing, and learned from Bill that the editors and writers at his company were swamped. He encouraged me to send my rsum and said he would see to it that it got into the right hands. Then, David and I got into a long conversation about his 31-year career at IBM.

Over the hour, more people had trickled in — a mix of young and old, experienced and inexperienced. For such a small number (maybe 50), the group was very diverse. Attendance, Jay Joiner (Interfax) assured me, would be even better in the fall.

I left the meeting feeling that a career in technical writing was not only possible, but was right around the corner. I will look forward to the next meeting, and to saying hello to all my new friends. End of article.

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