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Something for Everyone: My Summit Experience
2009, Q2 (July 21, 2009)
By E-Ching Lee, Carolina Chapter Member

E-Ching Lee
E-Ching Lee
I like to read menus, studying restaurants’ offerings to selecting my imaginary meals, wondering what I am missing. Since I attended my first (and only) STC Conference in 2005 as a student, I’ve looked longingly at session offerings at the STC Summit and selected my sessions in absentia. I’ve been patient, dutifully writing “Attend a conference” in my work plan to provide subtle hints to my manager to send me to a conference.

Then STC-Carolina’s generosity, a coworker’s luck, and my group members’ busy schedules intervened. A coworker won an STC-Carolina’s scholarships to this year’s Summit. Unable to attend, she offered the scholarship (at STC-Carolina’s urging) to her coworkers. I jumped at the chance and before I knew it, I was in Atlanta, checking into a room at the Hyatt Regency. This time, I was able to pick sessions for real.

Even more exciting, the sessions were taped this year, which allowed me to be in more than one place at a time, figuratively speaking. It also removed the pressure of choosing when there were simultaneous sessions I wanted to attend. I could always access those sessions online later, I told myself.

My career path has shifted away from the traditional technical communicator path in the past few years. I work for a nonprofit organization and edit documents for international development proposals and projects. At work, I worry about the vagaries of Word, not RoboHelp or FrameMaker. The technical content in my documents is centered, among others, on health, education, and governance. “SME” means small and medium enterprise in my world and a “remote editor” works at company headquarters but with clients based all over the world, many with whom e-mail is the only method of contact.
There always seemed to be someone from North Carolina around.

And yet there are many things in common. From David Pogue’s exuberant exhortation to simplify (always useful with ESL writers) to progressions about technical editing, I found much that helped me see my role as editor in a different light. I attended the forum on Addressing Multi-cultural Audiences: Insurmountable Challenge or Golden Opportunity globalization and working with coworkers and clients in different countries, an issue I deal with daily, whether it’s with American expatriates abroad, international staff in the home office, or home-country project staff.

Out of curiosity, I found out about the Seven Habits of Highly Successful Technical Communicators and The Future of Technical Communication: Remix. I also attended the Technical Editing progression where I learned from fellow editors. I dropped in on the social networking event on Monday evening and had the opportunity to meet several technical communicators. There always seemed to be someone from North Carolina around.

At the end, my biggest take-home lesson was this: As divergent as my career path has been since I started as a technical communicator, people who work with words face many of the same issues—how to make others value our work, how to thrive in a globalizing workplace, how to expand our roles. This Summit was a great experience and I’m already using some of the connections I made to help my work. I also want to say thank you to Carolina-STC for making it possible for me to go this year with their generous scholarship.

However, I’ll keep including “conference attendance” in my annual work plan, just so my manager doesn’t forget.

E-Ching can be reached at elee at rti dot org. End of article.

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