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From the Hart: Blogging with Hillary Hart

150 150 James Cameron

Posted on behalf of STC President Hillary Hart

Now that the STC Elections are over, I want to congratulate the winners and thank all the candidates. The robust campaigns you ran strengthen STC as an organization and as a nexus of thoughtful and informed discussion.

I’d like to turn now to a summary of strategic initiatives the STC Board has been focusing on these past few months.

First of all, as STC president, I have sent a letter to Representative Bruce Braley in support of his bill HR 3786, the Plain Regulations Act of 2012. As the bill itself states: “The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear regulations that are easier for the Government to implement and for the public to comply with.” Sounds like a job for technical communicators. It is also an opportunity to voice support for an initiative very much in the public interest.

I hope you will join STC Board members by writing Rep. Braley to express your support for the bill and also by writing your representative to encourage him or her to vote for the Act when it’s presented for a vote. Check out the STC website for sample letters to use.

Secondly, you will find on STC.org a revised set of Strategic Goals for the organization. These are the five goals.

  1. Promote STC as the global leader in technical communication
  2. Communicate the value of technical communication
  3. Improve the practice of technical communication
  4. Establish and expand strategic partnerships
  5. Define the profession of technical communication

Over the next five weeks, I’d like to focus on one of these goals each week and describe how the STC Board and staff are working toward that goal. Let’s start with the first goal;

  1. Promote STC as the global leader in technical communication 

To strengthen the Society’s position as a global leader of the profession, STC is exploring appropriate partnerships with international organizations to set relevant standards and develop a common terminology for the profession. Our Standards Council sends representatives to international standards-setting meetings to ensure that STC has a voice in developing them.

We are also pursuing international marketing and partnership opportunities for STC educational programs and certification. In addition to developing a Certification program, we have developed an inventory of valuable courses and webinars, and we need to expose those programs and services to new audiences and potential new members. We are also developing new, high-quality educational programs and services to meet the current and emerging needs of technical communicators, including another virtual conference to follow up on the successful inaugural conference last November. Our goal is to provide the most robust professional and educational resources available to technical communicators.

And, finally, we are continuing to seek to improve the member/customer experience and market STC more aggressively internally and externally, something many of you have stressed in my conversations with you. In the very near future, we will launch member/customer satisfaction surveys, analyze the results, and develop an action plan to improve key areas. We will then report impact of the results to you.

So, what’s the strategic goal to discuss next week? Ahhh … perhaps the trickiest but most important one:

Communicate the value of technical communication!

  • Thanks, Hillary, for the update.

    Before I comment on the goal, a couple of lines about myself, so you know where I’m coming from: I’m a German tech writer in Germany, and I work in English only. I speak at conferences such as TCUK, tekom and the STC Summit. I blog and I tweet in English.

    So why don’t I join or consider the STC “as the global leader in technical communication”?

    Mainly for practical reasons. For every benefit I find, I run into an operational obstacle that makes me doubt the STC actually understands what it means to cater to an international audience.

    Of the 116 STC chapters, I counted 8 outside the US, 3 of them in Europe. I get much better representation and networking by joining ISTC or tekom.

    About the job bank, I can only go by hearsay from STC members. Apparently, the job bank also has 90% jobs from the US and Canada. Even if I was qualified for these jobs and wanted to apply, the laws and practices currently are less than welcoming for non-nationals. It’s not the STC’s responsibility to open up the US job market for foreigners. But it is a global leader’s challenge to make attractive offers for any region where it hopes to represent members.

    STC webinars are currently offered in three time slots (CET times): Tuesdays 3 am, Wednesdays 6 pm, Thursdays 10 pm. Wednesdays are fine, but the other times are prohibitive. Canned seminars are only second best, since they deprive me of the possibility to ask questions. It is impossible to find a time that suits everybody, but the current time scheme obviously favors the American continent and doesn’t befit a global leader.

    General business operations are difficult if you’re not in the US. When I presented an STC webinar in February, the STC was surprisingly oblivious what it means to do business internationally. The letter of agreement didn’t specify a recognizable currency. The STC’s webinar software failed at the call to Germany, so I had to call international to my own webinar. Afterwards, the STC’s payment process was strictly national: I have neither tax number, nor social security number, nor can I use a US check (It was all sorted out eventually.) It is not the STC’s responsibility to know every national business practice worldwide. But it is a global leader’s challenge to be aware that foreign partners have different needs and to address them proactively, rather than make foreigners chase up the STC and pick up the pieces.

    I think it’d be much more befitting the STC to aim for a federation of associations by strengthening ties with other national associations such as ISTC, tekom, etc. As it is, the lofty ambition for global leadership isn’t really up to par with the STC’s current practices.

    • Hi, Kai —

      Thanks for your comments. Let me respond to some of your concerns.

      Our global leadership in technical communication is something we’re proud to talk about. We are the largest organization of our kind in the world, and probably the oldest (1954). Though we have members in some 50 countries, it is true that over 90% of our membership resides in North America. We welcome international members and new chapters around the world. In regions where there is interest in starting new chapters, such as we’re currently seeing in Asia Pacific, we do all that we can to help foster those developments.
      In addition we have been actively participating in the TC Roundtable with seven other international associations and working on international standards.

      Our Job Bank is open to postings from any region but the majority of postings do indeed come from the areas where our membership is located.

      Since the vast majority of our membership is in North America, the webinar times are optimized for those audiences to make them available to the largest possible audience. That said, we do have one time that is accessible for most of Europe, and we have offered certificate courses for our members in Asia at special times when there was sufficient demand. As requests increase from other regions, we hope to add further capability and timeslots.

      • Catering to status quo ensures the status quo remains unchanged. If you want to grow your reach, you need to start stretching. This is not a new conversation.

        • I’m with Bill on this one (though I wouldn’t know about the age of the discussion…)

          The way Hillary describes it sounds like the STC is the largest tech comm organization in North America, sort of like AAA. When I’m driving in North America, I will want to use their maps, insurance, services, etc. But because I’m living in Germany, I’d much sooner join ADAC which is an affiliate of AAA – even if AAA is larger and older.

  • Thank you for this, Hillary. It sounds like a great step in the right direction, and I look forward to the rest 🙂

    Kai, thank you for caring enough to even tune in and respond! Even though there are many difficult obstacles to overcome until we become truly global, I think there are some simple fixes that can help bring benefits to non-US members in the near future. I agree with you that webinars, for example, can (and should) occur at times that are convenient to other time zones, even if it means US members will need to decide whether to forgo sleep or skip the event.

    I’d love to keep discussing this topic. Please email me at president@nullsbstc.org


    • Hi, Li-At —

      Thanks for your response. I do feel compelled to remind us all that when STC offers courses in some time zones, it’s not just our U.S. members who would have to forgo sleep – it’s also the presenter and the STC staff administering the webinar! As of now, an STC staffer has to open the lines, the web connection, etc. Maybe one day, STC can have satellite virtual offices around the globe, but not yet.

      Remember also that all of our webinars are recorded.

      I take great pride in the recent increase in STC’s courses and webinar offerings — more than any similar organization I know of. But certain logistics bog us down a bit.

      • Why does a STC staffer have to open lines, web connections, etc? I’ve run webinars for other people in a pinch with no worries or problems. If the tools being employed do not fit the needs of the membership or are taxing on the understandably busy and centrally localized staff, then they are the wrong tools for the job. All STC needs to do is provide the presenter with a webinar session, login as presenter, and give them the ability to designate a local person to them as a behind the scenes admin of sorts, keeping track of notes and questions. Tools like GoToWebinar allow this and are very easy to use and train people to administer.

        • Bill, I think you are misunderstanding me. We are not using the wrong tools for the job, having researched diligently and come up with Adobe Connect, which is wonderfully easy to use, easier, I think, than GoTo Webinar.

          It’s that most of our presenters don’t WANT to be solely responsible for the technology.

          Even I know how to give over control of the presentation to someone else. That’s not the issue.

        • Thanks for the clarification. That’s a tricky situation then, but I think it could be negotiated around. Perhaps it could be a requirement that speakers learn and run their presentation? Perhaps work with chapters local to the speaker/audience to find someone to run the event (or make that part of the speaker’s responsibility to find someone – with contacts given to them) before the event is made official?

          I know that budgets are tight and that staff is overworked already. Creative solutions like this will not only save on their time and effort (to be put toward more impactful tasks and roles – yes, I used “impactful” in a sentence… ugh) but would also raise the bar for the speakers.

  • It would be a good thing for the STC to partner with bodies such as tekom in Germany and the ISTC in the UK.

    I suspect tekom leads the STC with regard to issues such as localising content, and the STC must be careful to check its service offerings would work successfully in another country.

    Listing times in GMT would help.

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