This entry is being posted on behalf of Pam Estes Brewer, candidate for Vice President in the 2018 STC election. More information about Pam can be found on her STC election page. You can ask questions of the candidates on the STC Election Forum. The election begins 26 February and runs through 9 March.
“Let Me Add . . .” by Pam Estes Brewer, Ph.D | Candidate for STC Vice President
I am running for vice president of the Society for Technical Communication, a position that progresses to president in the next year. In my candidate statement on the official candidates’ page, I shared briefly about myself and my vision for STC. In this blog post, I explain my vision as well as my commitment to STC and its future. One of the signs of a healthy organization is growth. But too often, organizations define “growth” strictly in numbers of members. I want to help STC grow, first in quality of experience and second in membership numbers, by focusing on the following five areas.
From my candidate statement: “. . . we should research new ways to measure return on investment when organizations invest in technical communication.”
Let me add: For decades the field of technical communication has tried to define itself and describe its value—often from the top down. We need a collaborative, bottom-up approach to providing robust value claims. One of the most valuable collaborations between workplace and education in TC would be developing research that provides better metrics on “how” and “how much” technical communication benefits organizations.
From my candidate statement: “STC serves as a hub for networking and ongoing education; no other organization serves such an over-arching role in the field.”
Let me add: STC serves as a hub for the field of tech comm, and I often refer students and young professionals to it for just that reason. However, STC needs to update its organizational model so that it relies more significantly on the expertise of its members and so that those members have more dynamic channels of communication with the staff and board.
From my candidate statement: “STC has made significant contributions to professionalizing the field of technical communication.”
Let me add: Technical communication has long struggled to define itself and its identity. According to Bullough (1966, pp. 4-5) specific steps contributed to the evolution of medicine as a profession. In the table below, take a look at those steps and where STC stands.
|Steps to professional evolution
|How is STC doing?|
|1. Developing a specialized body of knowledge
|STC is developing the TC BoK. Thumbs up!
We need to put more resources behind this effort and become aggressive in making the content widely available.
|2. Institutionalizing this knowledge in universities
|STC is not doing well. Thumbs down! We have very low participation from educators and very few collaborations between practitioners and universities.|
|3. Relying on professional societies to qualify practitioners||STC has launched the certification program. Thumbs up! While university education is critical in the development of technical communicators, certification from the workplace side of the house is a healthy step in increasing the prestige of a field.|
|4. Developing ethics codes
|STC has established a robust code of ethics. Thumbs up!|
|5. Enjoying increased status (including money, power, and respect)
|STC needs research. The salary survey is a robust tool for looking at money and locations, but we need more. We need to know how our members view their status. Their power. Their respect. And we need to provide better metrics on the value of technical communication done well.|
|6. Being viewed by members as a “terminal occupation” (i.e., members did not leave).||Again, we need research. Is technical communication viewed as a terminal occupation or do we no longer consider ourselves technical communicators if we move into management, education, UX, etc.?|
Bullough, V. L., (1966). The Development of Medicine as a Profession. New York: Hafner, Inc.
If we make sure we are performing robustly in each of the above steps, we can support our members as they develop healthy professional futures.
From my candidate statement: “To build ROI for STC, we also need to increase our bridges forward and across the field of technical communication.”
Let me add: STC is interesting in the fact that it represents a large and diverse field, but it does not structure itself in a diverse manner. We focus inwardly, operating primarily on an older workplace, US-centric model. For these reasons, international members, educators, and students are not well-represented nor does STC benefit from their great skill and knowledge. We need to aggressively promote sustainable diversity by making sure a value proposition is clear for all diverse facets of our field. For example, STC India is currently doing great things, including presenting an annual conference that draws hundreds of professionals. How can we create more effective channels of communication between our diverse members?
From my candidate statement: “We should also increase opportunities between industry and academy, between international collaborators, . . .”
Let me add: Related to benefitting from diversity is increasing collaborations that maximize the skills of diverse groups. For example, grants are motivating rewards for faculty in universities. Even small, external grants are important to promotion and tenure. STC used to offer one or two research grants per year but has not done so in many years. Recently, I suggested that STC offer a small grant for some of the tagging work that needs to be done in the BoK. Gaining the support of faculty and students can help the work go much more quickly for STC, provide excellent experience for students, and provide a promotion/tenure credential for a faculty member. These types of collaborations offer winning opportunities for everyone.
In conclusion, let me just say that our greatest asset is our membership. That is where the expertise of the organization lies. I am not promising miracles if you vote for me as vice president, but I can promise to bring a clear eye, much experience, and skill at facilitating to my role as vice president and then president. I can also promise to focus on the five areas identified in this post, both in supporting what STC is already doing and in pressing for change where it is needed.
Let me add value to your STC membership. I ask for your vote. Polls open on February 26.
Please visit my LinkedIn page for more about me and for access to my endorsements (both from inside and outside STC). https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamestesbrewer
Official STC election page: https://www.stc.org/wiki/elections/2018-election-slate/pam-brewer/
Video candidate statement: http://bit.ly/pambrewer