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President's Message: STC is a Social Club
2011, Q1 (March 31, 2011)
By Terry Smith, Chapter President

Terry Smith
Terry Smith
In the past, some have told me that they did not choose to belong to STC because “STC is just a social club.” My interpretation was that this statement was intended to dismiss STC as an elitist clique rather than a serious professional organization. After years of enjoying STC’s technical offerings, I can definitively say that STC is a social club.

I’m pleased to be able to say that. Let me explain why.
For most of my career, “five years ago” didn’t seem such a long time. Now, “five years ago” sometimes seems like the distant past. The last few years have seen more change than in all the rest of my working life. The competitiveness for jobs and the workload is enormous. There are so many new things to learn—social networking, search engine optimization, user experience, mobile applications, Agile, DITA and XML, internationalization, collaborative documentation, accessibility—that it is difficult to know where to focus one’s attention. (Admittedly, some of the new things are old things with new names, but those who are new to the profession can’t believe that yet.) I originally joined STC to improve my technical skills, and STC has helped me stay up to date during this time of upheaval.
Most of our monthly meetings skew toward technical topics (with a few soft skills presentations), answering questions like these:
  • How should I write so that Google displays a meaningful hyperlink and description for my web page or PDF and also ensure that link is on the first page of the search results?
  • How can I make my PDFs accessible to screen readers and meet government laws for accessible documentation?
  • Does the traditional documentation plan work in an Agile engineering environment?
  • How can I create an impressive online portfolio for little or no money immediately?

It’s clear that the STC Carolina Chapter offers programs with meaty content.

So why do I say that STC is a social club? I say it because there is nothing more important that STC can be. Think of how often you hear about the importance of social networking. When you get right down to it, Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn are just ways to stay in touch with your friends and colleagues. Those are the people who can vouch for your work, who tell you about unposted job openings, who like you. Many people have come to know the people who share their passion for the field of technical communication through STC membership.

So yes, STC is a social club. Sometimes, STC is just a place where you can be with people who won’t think it weird that you care ever so deeply about serial commas. It’s much more than pizza and laughter, of course, but the value of belonging amongst the true professionals in this business is not a trivial thing. It’s one of the most important things.

Here’s a plug for our April training (heads up, this class is for serious techies or techie-wanna-be’s):

For the geeky few who sign up before the class is full, our all-day training class on April 16th is on the specialized skill of documenting Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). In other words, documenting how the software works for the benefit of programmers. This is a specialized skill that few technical writers have, and we are flying in the best—Ed Marshall—to teach it. This is the sort of training that our chapter offers that is hard to get anywhere, much less at an affordable rate. If you know someone unemployed who is looking to get a step up on new skills, please pass this notice along quickly. Class size is limited.

For details, visit

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

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