Experiencing STC’s Contagious Culture for the First Time
By Roxy Greninger | STC Member
Companies around the world invest heavily in the definition and development of their corporate culture to attract and retain the best talent. What intrigues me is that while it’s clear STC exists to advance the field of technical communication through dissemination of knowledge and skill, members have organically achieved the ideal culture for which companies strive. Here’s what brought me to STC and the unexpected return on investment.
Culture is the sum of the ideas, customs, and social norms shared by a group. In my work as a Culture Program Consultant, I’m always looking at the culture of new groups I encounter. Here’s what I’ve found with STC. I first learned about STC in the fall of 2017 when 2018 Spectrum Conference Co-Chair Megan Palumbo invited me to speak. I have a background in technical communication, but recently moved into a culture and organizational effectiveness role, so Meghan proposed that I speak during Spectrum Leadership Day. Although I’d never heard of STC before, I’m glad I said yes, because I didn’t know what I had been missing! Two months after speaking at Spectrum, I joined STC, became a 2019 Spectrum Conference Co-Chair/Rochester Chapter Vice President, and boarded a plane bound for Orlando, Florida to attend the 2018 Technical Communication Summit & Expo.
What attracted me to STC and the reason I joined was the inclusive and innovative culture. I was warmly welcomed upon arrival the afternoon of my Spectrum presentation. Throughout the conference, attendees introduced themselves, asked questions about my work, and shared their perspectives with me. And it didn’t end there—a number of those I connected with at Spectrum followed up via LinkedIn, email, and even by phone. I can’t recall a time when I’ve been to an event with guests from varying industries and cities that have so much in common and are eager to share best practices without a price tag attached.
At Spectrum, I consistently witnessed acts of respect, inclusiveness, pride, curiosity, and fun. Nervous speakers received a boost of confidence as their audiences produced attentive nods and smiles rather than peering down at their phones or laptops. Varying opinions were met with thoughtful listening and questions seeking to appreciate differing viewpoints and backgrounds. Introductions were made with anyone within arms’ reach, and new faces didn’t find themselves alone for long. There was a genuine sense of helping others realize their full potential through sharing and mentorship.
What I didn’t expect was for this culture to extend beyond the Rochester Chapter because, without definition or development, the shared set of values and behaviors that make up a culture must be passed onto others through experiential learning. Just as an organization defines why they exist with a mission statement and calibrate their strategy to stay aligned with that mission, successful organizations are now also defining their culture as part of the corporate strategy and holding employees accountable to it. STC’s mission and vision statements can be found on their website, but neither STC nor its members have defined the core behaviors they wish to exhibit in pursuit of this mission. Does the camaraderie exist because STC members don’t see each other every day, and encounters are like visits with long lost friends rather than coworkers? Does the culture thrive because there is no workplace competition, so there is no fear of making mistakes and missing out on a promotional opportunity? Or does this culture exist because all of the members share similar skills and interests necessary for the technical communication field? After all, at work my colleagues and I share the same mission, vision, and strategy, but it’s rare to find any that read the same books I do. I adore my company and the culture we’ve built, but I’ve worked with my colleagues for 13 years, and we are still aiming for the culture STC members have. Perhaps STC has the model culture because culture is a dissemination process, and that's what STC does best.
Return On Investment
For me, as a Culture Program Consultant, this cultural immersion was probably my primary takeaway. I originally planned to use vacation days to attend Spectrum, but after I introduced 7 new concepts to my company, my vacation bank remained intact, my STC membership was paid for, and my expenses to attend the Summit were covered!
I attended many sessions at the Summit, but here are some initial returns on my company’s investment that I brought back to them:
To illustrate my organization’s successful retention of talent and lead a discussion about what has improved over the years, I recreated the Leadership Program activity of members lining themselves up by the month and year they joined STC from oldest to newest. Just as we did for the most senior member of STC, participants at my workplace workshop applauded the employee who joined our company in 1979, and asked her to share why she stuck around.
I admired the Florida Chapter’s focus on developing future chapter leaders and the mentor behaviors I observed. As an organizational developer, these observations and best practices within the Chapter’s Fast-Start Leaders’ Guide will help grow my organization’s internship program, as well as our leadership successor programs.
As a member of my company’s communications and innovations workgroups, sharing what I learned during the Adobe Technical Communication Workshop, “Perpetual Innovation” session, and “Avoiding Surprise: Anticipating Potential Disruptors on the Horizon” session have proven most invaluable.
During the IDL lunch, I inquired about recommended schools or programs for someone I’m mentoring, and they connected me with the vast resources of their Special Interest Group website. Thanks to the extensive list of academic programs online, my mentee has selected a Master’s Program, and he’ll be enrolling soon!
While wandering through the Expo Hall, I solved the mystery of my company’s unexplainable disappearance of images from our intranet thanks to the help of TechSmith Snagit expert Daniel Foster.
Some people hang posters with inspirational quotes at their desks, but at mine you’ll find the Infographic Cheat Sheet poster I brought back from the session “Make Powerful Infographics…Fast!” instead. The news is traveling, because my colleagues have already started visiting my desk to reference it.
I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention both “All I Know About Collaboration I Learned from Rock & Roll” and “Technical Communication as Health Communication: The Future Is Now” sessions, because although I haven’t officially connected back to either presentation yet, I’ve caught myself referencing points made during both sessions regularly in the weeks following the conference.
Normally, when my company sends me to a conference, I find myself among attendees from the same industry attempting to solve the same business problems with tools from the same toolbox, or we are from different industries focused on developing a shared set of skills. What I found most exciting about both the Spectrum and the Summit was that attendees from a variety of industries were leveraging their diverse experiences and backgrounds to make unexpected connections. It’s unexpected connections which are the seed from which creative ideas are born. It is this diversity of thought that drives innovation and advances an individual’s career development, as well as the success of their field and their company. This inclusive and innovative culture is why I joined STC, and it’s why my company enables my participation.
Attending a conference is an investment. When you attend a conference on your own or at the behest of your company, what do you expect for a return on investment. Do you attend hoping to solve specific problems? Do you glean new ideas from the new connections you make and the resulting conversations? What takeaways did you have from #STC18?
Roxy Greninger and her family live in Rochester, NY, where she is a Culture Program Consultant for Excellus BCBS. She enjoys reading, painting, and volunteering in her free time. Roxy is Vice President and 2019 Spectrum Co-Chair for the Rochester Chapter of STC.