Today, the first full day of the annual STC Summit, marks the 64th year that STC (the Society for Technical Communication) has been in business.
Hmm…What if I Photoshop all of the STC staff and directors’ faces into this image?
Which brings to mind a Beatles lyric:
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?
The “Will you still need me?” question is especially relevant as STC — a 20th century organization — copes with flat membership numbers and attempts to navigate the changing professional landscape of the 21st.
As I’ve said before, I think the technical communication profession — and the people in it — still do need STC. But the reasons are changing, and have been changing for some time. As a result it’s not a sure bet that STC will remain relevant over the next few years. Continue reading
Originally posted 24 September 2016. Updated 7 April 2017.
STC (Society for Technical Communication) members recently received word that CEO Chris Lyons will step down. A search for a new CEO
will begin soon recently culminated in the selection of Liz Pohland to succeed Chris.
Liz Pohland, just named as STC’s new CEO (image source: STSC)
I know a good bit about the CEO’s role and about the search process, having served on the search committee that recommended Kathryn Burton to the STC board of directors in 2006.
In the hope that our society will grow and thrive under its new leadership, I have some advice for the STC members (search committee and board of directors) who will evaluate candidates to be our next CEO.
He or She will be an association professional, aware of the challenges faced by today’s professional societies and up to date on best practices.
Beyond that, STC faces challenges in growth, in membership retention, and in a perception that it hasn’t kept up with the times. So there are certain skills and attributes that I especially hope our new CEO will bring.
Important note: By listing these skills and attributes I’m not implying that Chris or the existing office staff have fallen short in any way. I’m simply looking to the future. Continue reading
Now that STC has relaunched its CPTC program, it’s worth asking: is certification for technical communicators an idea whose time has come?
Full disclosure: I studied the certification question in depth as a member of the STC board of directors in the mid 1990s. Soon after I left the board, the leadership decided not to go ahead with a program. (My own position was neutral.) When STC launched the original CPTC program about 5 years ago, I wasn’t involved in the decision or in the deliberations that led up to it.
Will anyone want certification?
At the recent STC Summit conference, someone asked me whether I plan to pursue a CPTC certification. I said no, because I don’t think it would benefit someone with my experience and reputation. However, If I were a young professional trying to make a name for myself, I might very well feel differently. Continue reading
I remember trying to do this in STC without getting too far. Now tekom, the European professional society, has taken a stab at defining the job duties of technical communicators.
I think they’ve done a pretty good job.
Start with the 7 areas of competence (pictured). These aptly describe, in broad terms, the tasks associated with each stage of the content lifecycle.
Then look at the 27 fields of competence. For example, Content Creation — one of the 7 areas of competence — breaks down into identifying information sources, acquiring and selecting information, using tools to create content, and so forth. You can see these 27 fields in the Profiling Tool, a self-assessment that anyone can take.
Why a competency model?
All of this is a lot to digest. But by and large it reflects our jobs pretty well. In cases where I might quibble with the tekom definitions, it could be because I’m steeped in my own industry and tekom has tried to make the lists industry-agnostic.
Tekom identified four major stakeholder groups for the competency model:
- Company managers and personnel departments, who draw up lists of job requirements
- Educational institutions that develop training programs and curricula
- People who want further education in Tech Comm
- Practitioners who want to enter the field or enhance their skills
But that’s not all. Continue reading