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Past President's Message: STC Carolina Chapter, The Professionals
2011, Q2 (July 22, 2011)
By Terry Smith, Immediate Past Chapter President

Terry Smith
Terry Smith

Last July, we began our STC Carolina Chapter year as we always do: discussing our vision for the coming year. The previous year had been rocky. Our chapter survived tough financial changes, and it was time to decide what we wanted our chapter to be going forward. How did we see ourselves? What was the value proposition for our organization?

Of all the things we talked about, the clearest was this:

“We are communication professionals.”

Professionals. That was how we would define ourselves; that was how others would recognize us.

Who are the the professionals?

How do you recognize a professional technical communicator? One way is by having a set standard, a credential. At last year’s STC Summit, the move toward certification was announced. In August, STC Carolina invited Steve Jong to speak to us (and to others via webinar) about just what that would mean. At this year’s STC Summit, it was announced that the certification committee was disbanding because they had completed the initial planning; now an objective third-party group is implementing certification. After forty years of talking about it, certification for technical communicators is happening.

Whatever we have done as a chapter, we owe so much to the superior individuals who serve our chapter, who epitomize the very meaning of the word professional. This year, three individuals received special honors at the STC Summit. Michael Harvey attained the title of Fellow, while Betsy Kent and Meredith Blackwelder became Associate Fellows.

A Year of Change and Growth

As our profession and our world have changed, those of us in the Carolina Chapter knew that we wanted changes in STC as a whole. We made it our goal this year to model the professional behavior we wanted to see throughout the society.

From offering geeks-only training on documenting APIs to helping fund the Diane Feldman scholarship to webcasting panels at leadership day, our chapter has taken the lead in demonstrating what a society of professionals can do. If we saw something we wanted done, we didn’t wait for others to show us, we did it ourselves. Our leadership in webcasting earned our chapter a Pacesetter Award for the first time in six years.

A Growing Chapter

Like all the chapters and SIGs, we lost members last year. Now our membership is growing. We are also growing geographically. The Foothills Chapter in South Carolina chose to merge with us and become STC Carolina Chapter members, and we could not be prouder! We will continue to support the meetings, socials, and Clemson scholarship that the Foothills chapter began. The Foothills president, Jamie Gillenwater, has been elected to serve as secretary on the STC Carolina council starting July 1.

Better, More Accessible Programs

If we saw something we wanted done, we didn’t wait for others to show us, we did it ourselves.

We wanted to webcast our meetings and knew it needn’t be difficult, but the software solution that the society used was too much (as in too expensive) for our needs. We purchased our own solution and began webcasting all of our presentations.

As a result, members who found it difficult to drive to Research Triangle Park each month could attend virtually. Our pool of potential speakers was suddenly unlimited by geography. We have had speakers located in Seattle, Michigan, Oregon, New York, Washington, DC. We have had joint meetings with other chapters that wouldn't have met during the cold winter months otherwise. We wanted to offer the best professionals to our chapter’s professionals, and we did. Webcasting allows us to hold virtual council meetings; as a result, we now have officers who live far from Research Triangle Park.

An Awards Banquet to Talk About

Our Awards Banquet in March is always a great networking opportunity. Spouses and non-members can attend. We had dinner in the ballroom at the Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. The Best of Show presentation was jaw-dropping: it showed a training manual in the form of a graphic novel (comic book) about the Navy fighting men who attend to physical and mental injuries of Marines in the field. The novel was graphic in every sense of the word, a true work of art. For me, the best part of the night was seeing the work flow. Hate last-minute changes? Try it when every page has hand-drawn artwork. Did you know that the text balloons were done in Microsoft Word and inked in at the last minute? It was all absolutely fascinating.

Looking Forward

Before I attended the STC Summit a year ago, I wasn’t sure if STC would continue—or if it should. I was quite open about this. What I have seen this year has convinced me that the STC Carolina Chapter is an important part of a valuable professional organization. As my year as STC Carolina Chapter president closes, I want to thank all the professionals who served as members of the council this year and who worked so hard to be the change we all want to see.

Terry can be reached at terry dot smith at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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