My First Climb is one of a series of blog posts, curated or new, discussing key takeaways by individuals and STC Communities to Keep the Edge gained at Summit 2017. If you would like to contribute a post, please drop a note to the series editor,

By Celeste Graeff | STC Member

Did you go to the Summit this year? This was my first year attending, and it was enlightening! The networking, the presentations, and the entertainment were all instrumental in giving me new insight and making great memories for me.

I was a band director in Texas Public Schools for 16 years. Then, about a year ago, I decided to change my career completely to become a technical writer. I joined my local chapter of STC and made some great connections by volunteering my (unfortunately) extensive spare time to help with various aspects of the chapter, including the newsletter, website, and communications with other members. Through the connections I made in the chapter, I formed new friendships, met more colleagues, expanded my technological skills, and even got a part-time gig as a technical writer that helped build my resume. I’m now enjoying a full-time position as a technical writer. I was hired in my new position the same week as the Summit!

I went to many conventions as a band director and thoroughly enjoyed the clinics, performances, and networking. However, it was mainly educators from Texas. The conventions were always held in the same place every year and were much too large to really connect with very many new people. I felt as though we didn’t have much say in what clinics were offered – so I was seeing the same things year after year. I was hoping the first convention in my new career would be different.

New to the technical communications field, I hung on dearly to my mentors and the people from my local chapter attending the Summit to try to make the most of my attendance. I was surprised by how quickly I made friends outside of my chapter. I had plenty of time to meet and connect with many of the Summit coordinators and other tech comm professionals throughout the entire country (and even other countries).

There were many opportunities between presentations to take a break in the halls and have more in-depth conversations about the newly gleaned information or get some more background on new connections. I even braved the Speed Networking event and, despite my hesitations, really enjoyed myself. I found it interesting to meet so many people in various aspects of the field, and I was really relieved to find out that Speed Networking was nothing like my single days of Speed Dating, which was a disaster!

The presentations were extremely informative and I walked away with new things to research and much bigger understanding of many topics about which I was clueless beforehand. The session “Breaking Down Silos: Combining Marketing and Technical Content to Deliver a Consistent Customer Experience” by Dustin Vaughn from Adobe beefed up my understanding of merging the two fields, as I’m doing at my new position. I found Dustin’s session helpful in giving me a head start.

I have already used the graphic design cheat sheet I received from Mike Parkinson at the “Picture Perfect! How to Turn Words and Data into Powerful Graphics” session. There were tons of other topics that were way over my head, so I know I won’t be bored at any of the Summits for years to come!

One lasting impression was the entertainment provided by the Rough Drafts. Being a fellow musician, I was pleased to find that they are very talented and that this new group of people really knew how to let loose and have fun! The friendly, intelligent, helpful people I met at this conference made great memories for me and really assured me that my decision to change my career to technical communication was the right one. The STC Summit was a life-changing experience for this newcomer, and I am filled to the brim with momentum in my new technical communication career. I plan to attend the STC Summit on a regular basis from now on, and I hope to see you at future Summits!

Celeste Graeff
STC Member
* Twitter @Swingkitt3n
* LinkedIn

A newbie to the technical communication field, Celeste uses her 16 years as a Band Director to learn as much as she can and help troubleshoot content mishaps along the way. Her extensive teaching experience has aided her in being patient, flexible, and an apt problem solver. Celeste is a lifelong learner and has grown to love the technology involved in technical communication and the learning process as both teacher and learner. Celeste’s future as a technical communicator is hopeful, and exciting for her family as well. Another plus is that now, she won’t have to get family time by dragging them to the band concerts and contests anymore!


Consider reading these posts.

Summit Spotlight: Design Thinking Workshop
Community Spotlight: Make Your Documents Accessible to Everyone
STC Roundtable Week 3: The Future of Technical Communication Panel Discussion

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