“Arriving at the Summit” 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, Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arriving at the Summit
Theresa Daudier | STC Member
Attending Summit was the culmination of several years’ worth of effort to move into the tech comm field, and was confirmation that I had arrived as an “official” technical communications professional. As a first-time attendee, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Summit (I was hoping to get a more comprehensive overview of the Tech Comm field–if such a thing exists).
I was interested in meeting people from across the country who practiced different aspects of technical communication and learning more about the variety of opportunities available. I was looking forward to the many educational sessions at Summit, because I was hoping to discover my specific area of interest. Although I’ve successfully entered the tech comm field, I am still trying to find my niche. I hope to specialize in a specific area of technical communication, but I need to learn about these areas of specialization. I was also looking forward to meeting other attendees.
I was immediately impressed upon my arrival in Washington DC, because I could see from my airplane window the Gaylord Resort in its amazing location right by the Potomac River. The Gaylord Resort was an excellent choice for Summit not only because of the river view, but because the hotel rooms were in the same building as the conference. It was a convenience that I really appreciated and that helped me focus my attention on the Summit activities. I especially enjoyed my commute the days I was there: I walked down the hall to the elevator and pressed the down button!
The Summit experience was like being fully immersed in the technical communication world. We ate together, attended educational sessions together, and even sang karaoke together (I supervised the singing)! There was such a wide variety of people who attended that it’s hard to define an average attendee. Because almost a third of all attendees were first-timers, I felt like I fit right in. I didn’t feel out of place for being a beginner. I also enjoyed not worrying about looking like a dork while I was there! I could passionately discuss grammar, punctuation, and improper word usage with anyone there and they would understand. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by people with similar interests. That’s not such a common occurrence for many tech comm professionals!
I came to Summit alone. I don’t have any friends or even long-term acquaintances in the technical communications field. The only tech comm people I know are the four writers I work with and the people that come to my local STC San Diego Chapter meetings. I knew one or two people from my local San Diego STC Chapter would be there, but I didn’t know if I would run into them or how easy it would be to find them in the crowds. As it turned out, although there were many attendees at the Summit, it never felt crowded or impersonal. Everyone I met was nice and they were all eager to share their experiences and were very welcoming. As part of Summit, everyone has the option to personalize their name tags with special identifying ribbons. This made it easy to get to know each other quickly. I decorated my name tag with the “First-time attendee” and “Platinum community member” ribbons. I met other people there who were also first-time attendees, and like me, they wanted to absorb everything they could. I also met people that had attended many times before and still enjoyed attending.
I think the fact that there are so many attendees who return to the Summit year after year says a lot about the quality of the people in our profession. I’ve always believed that Technical Communicators are a special type of people who care–about the quality of their work, about grammar and punctuation, and also about other people. My experience at the Summit completely reinforced this impression. Everyone I encountered was helpful or encouraging. I was often hesitant to approach groups of people already talking together, but I never lacked for company my entire time there. I had delightful conversations at the morning breakfasts. I even met a fellow attendee on the shuttle ride to Summit from the airport. I was continuously entertained by Todd DeLuca, wherever I went he seemed to always be there, and always with his amazing patriotic hat!
As a newbie to the TC field, I believed that most of the sessions would have valuable information for me. I tried to attend the sessions that I felt would benefit me both at my job and in my own professional development. For example, I chose to attend several sessions about translation and working with English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) writers. After attending different session types, I realized that I prefer topics that offer a broad view of potential applications, not just the nitty gritty “how-to” type sessions. I feel that a lot of the topics may apply better to people who came into the field years ago and have evolved along with it.
I’m glad that I attended a tech comm certificate program through the UC San Diego Extension that left me perfectly prepared for the tech comm world as it is now and also introduced me to STC. I’m eager to find my tech comm niche. After attending the Summit, I discovered that I’m most interested in content strategy and translation strategy, and that’s an area that I can leverage in my current job. I was also very inspired by Sarah Maddox’s session about her journey to creating her own app, demonstrating that tech comm professionals can expand their interests outside of the traditional tech comm field and actually participate in the creation of technology. I would like to one day follow in her footsteps.
My Summit experience was a success and I look forward to the next one!
Theresa Daudier started on her Tech Comm career journey with a technical communications certificate from UCSD Extension. She has a background in writing, teaching, is bilingual (French and English), and has a love of learning. Theresa currently works as a Technical Writer at ESET North America. She lives in San Diego, California with her daughter. They enjoy spending time outdoors gardening, hiking the many trails in the county, and kayaking in San Diego Bay. Theresa also enjoys creating intricate beaded jewelry.