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Path to Associate Fellow: Bill Collins, 2008

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We return with another Path to Fellow, a recurring feature here on STC’s Notebook to highlight the rich contributions of our honored members. For more information on this feature and on the honor of being named a Fellow or Associate Fellow, click here. If you’re a Fellow or Associate Fellow and haven’t been contacted to participate in this feature, please email Kevin Cuddihy.

William L. (Bill) Collins

During more than 15 years of STC membership, I have found the Society to be a great source of career development, information, and community.  Although my membership has not, so far as I can see, had an impact on my salary level or advancement where I work, it has certainly provided many benefits. I have been employed by the same company for virtually my entire working life, but I believe that the skills and contacts I have gained through STC membership would be enormously valuable to me in the event that I should need to seek reemployment elsewhere. I have retained my membership long after my company stopped reimbursing me for annual dues because I consider the benefits to be well worth the cost.

Some of my fondest professional memories involve attendance at annual STC conferences, where I made many lasting friendships, obtained a wealth of timeless professional knowledge, was privileged to visit a number of exciting cities, and honed my own presentation skills. I have delivered presentation sessions at nine annual conferences, plus a full-day post-conference workshop in Chicago. It has also been at the annual conferences where I have the strongest sense of being part of a genuine technical communication profession, and I have always returned from conferences with a renewed sense of pride and enthusiasm in that profession.

The annual conferences and special meetings hosted by my local chapter (Philadelphia Metro) have been another important source of professional enrichment and personal contacts. I co-presented a session on instructional design for a Career Day event that the chapter hosted, and delivered a session on indexing at a joint meeting of the local STC and American Society of Indexers chapters.

Through my involvement in the annual conferences and the contacts initially made there, I gradually extended my rewarding involvement in Society activities:

  • I served for three years as manager of the Indexing SIG.
  • I was asked to co-present a one-day seminar on indexing for the Alaska Chapter in Anchorage, which was the impetus for expanding the visit into an unforgettable Alaskan vacation that might never have happened without the STC connection.
  • I wrote articles for Intercom and A to Z (the Indexing SIG newsletter).
  • I volunteered to do editing/proofreading for other SIG newsletters.

In the course of my career, a number of the technical publications I worked on received awards from judges at the annual STC competitions, including two at the “Distinguished” level, one of which went on to receive an award at the International Competition. I’m proud to be able to list these awards in my résumé. The competitions were also an excellent way for me to capture valuable, insightful feedback from peers about my competition submittals. Comments about an entry’s strengths and areas for improvement can be especially useful for technical communicators who may work in relative isolation and have few opportunities to experience how other writers, illustrators, web developers, and instructional designers approach similar tasks. Equally valuable to me has been my involvement as a competition judge. I co-chaired my chapter’s competition one year and have served as a judge at least five times, and once as a judge at the international level. Working with STC peers on judging teams, I was exposed to career experiences, subject matter expertise, and perspectives very different from my own—a great way to discover fresh ways to approach a communication problem.

Supporting the Society through the various volunteer roles described above was highly satisfying in itself. It was with great surprise, then, that I received news in 2008 that I had been nominated to become an Associate Fellow of the Society. This was an unexpected but very gratifying honor, and one that I view as a true career highlight. Receiving the award in the presence of the many friends and fellow STC members gathered at the awards banquet at the annual conference in Philadelphia was a genuine thrill, and the evening was both a wonderfully memorable experience and a kind of capstone to a long and highly rewarding association with STC. 

I currently live in Wilmington, Delaware, with my wife, Priscilla, and our personality-disordered cat. After completing an MA in English from the University of Delaware, I fell into a “summer job” doing technical editing. This morphed into full-time employ with the DuPont Company, where for the past 30 years I have written manuals, designed and delivered training, established editorial standards, and created Web sites, marketing literature, surveys, and videos. During leisure hours, I devote as much time as possible to hiking, camping, reading, playing (or at least amassing) various musical instruments, and teaching mountain dulcimer privately and at workshops and festivals throughout the northeast. I have produced three books of arrangements for dulcimer and recorded a CD of solos and duets.