STC Summit: What We Did Between the Educational Sessions

Attending STC Summit is a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and techniques for writing, network with new and familiar faces, gain inspiration from seasoned speakers, and interact with vendors that support our professional development goals. But STC MGL attendees Kelly Smith and Kylie Jacobsen made sure to enjoy all the conference has to offer, especially the social events.


The Summit welcomed three keynote speakers this year.

Andrew Lawless: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals

On Monday, Andrew Lawless, founder of the High Performance Consultant Academy, a Behavioral Scientist and Certified High Performance Coach gave a presentation on how to energize yourself to achieve your goals.

Judith Glick-Smith: Using Flow to Craft a Life of Excellence in Tech Comm

On Tuesday, Dr. Glick-Smith tech comm expert and past president of the STC discussed the concept of Flow as featured in her book Flow-based Leadership: What the Best Firefighters Can Teach You About Leadership and Making Hard Decisions. She related how the concept of flow can help us in our tech comm careers.

Scott Abel: Inclusive Language: Survey Findings and Best Practices for Content Strategy

On Wednesday, Scott Abel, content strategy evangelist, pointed out that inclusion is just being mindful of how we talk about and treat other people. He presented best practices for adopting inclusive language in the workplace. 

Networking events

Every day, the host chapter, STC Atlanta, planned a special outing for STC members. These events required pre-registration, and offered the opportunity to stretch our legs and hang out with new friends.

Illuminarium: After Dark

Unfortunately, neither Kelly nor Kylie could attend the first social event of the conference, but on Sunday evening, attendees were invited to meet up at the Illuminarium. The Illuminarium is an all-encompassing sensory experience which places guests in a room filled with lights, sounds, scents, and even in-floor haptics. STC members were admitted to the After Dark experience, which was described as the daytime experience, but 21+. 

Sky View Ferris Wheel

Several groups walked from the hotel down to the Sky View Ferris Wheel, where for $17 we got a view of the city, Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca Cola Museum, and the Georgia Aquarium. We took selfies and pics of the tall buildings and blooming magnolia trees.

Kylie and her first-time attendee buddy, Jodie, at the summit of the Sky View Ferris Wheel.

Dine Around

Kylie volunteered to host a dinner at Big Kahuna, a late-night spot to order surf-themed Mexican food in Downtown Atlanta. A group of 10 people made the short walk from the conference hotel to the restaurant by dodging the rain in the enclosed pathway through Truist Plaza. The best part of the dinner was that Kylie got to carry a sign that read “Big Kahuna” the whole way! 

The long table fit all ten members who went to dinner at Big Kahuna
Kylie with STC members ordering dinner at Big Kahuna

Kelly attended dinner at Gus’s Famous Fried chicken with about 25 people, including our student volunteers. The food was simple and delicious! We ordered appetizers of fried green tomatoes and fried okra, then enjoyed juicy fried chicken with a very subtle kick of spice. 

Georgia Aquarium

After the final keynote, several of us went to the Georgia Aquarium and took the Behind the Seas tour! In addition to viewing the sharks, rays, otters, sea lions, sea turtle, fish, frogs, and other creatures through windows, some of us got to go topside and look down into the 6.2-million-gallon saltwater tank, just a few feet from the giant whale sharks and other creatures. We learned where they came from, how they were rescued, and that if we were daring (and had a few hundred dollars to spare) we could swim or scuba dive with them! We also got to see the trainers working with the beluga whales and learn about the aquarium’s coral restoration project.

The tank view from below deck
Kylie topside of the same tank

STC Summit 2023 in Review

As summer winds down and your STC chapter begins to make preparations for another successful season, we thought we’d share a bit about our STC Summit 2023 experience to inspire your programming goals or cement your professional development plans for 2024. Please enjoy a reflection of our trip to Atlanta for STC Summit! 

Arriving in Atlanta

The STC held their seventieth Summit from May 13 through 17 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Georgia. Kylie Jacobsen and Kelly Smith attended on behalf of the MGL chapter.

If you’ve never been to Atlanta, the city earns the title Hotlanta! At one point the humidity was 81%! Rain and thunderstorms cooled things down a little later in the week. The food was spectacular, even at the breakfast and lunch buffets and always featured little touches of southern delicacies. 

The view from the hotel one evening showcased a brilliant sunset against the towering skyscrapers of nearby buildings.

New this Year

This year’s event featured a new buddy system where first-time attendees were paired up with experienced Summit-goers. Kelly signed up to be a buddy and really enjoyed the experience.

“I got to introduce my newbie to others in the Society, give her pointers, answer questions, and help her feel more comfortable. We shared several meals together, and she always had a familiar face to look for in a crowd if she had a question. I look forward to doing this again next year!”

Kelly Smith, STC Senior Member and Gold member

Kylie coordinated the group of student volunteers who helped manage some of the daily tasks of the conference. Eighteen university students signed up to volunteer to staff the registration desk, monitor the rooms during sessions, and help distribute awards at the award ceremony. Students represented schools from New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Georgia.

“Summit really can’t operate as smoothly without our student volunteers!”  

Kylie Jacobsen, STC Summit Student Volunteer Coordinator

Both the first-time attendees and student volunteers had the opportunity to meet each other and tour the conference space on Sunday evening, before the majority of attendees arrived. 

Inside the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. Photo credit: Kelly Smith

Chapter honors

A society-favorite, the annual Honors Celebration, occurred over lunch on Tuesday, May 16. The Michigan Great Lakes chapter was awarded the Platinum Community award for providing our “members rich opportunities to shape technical communication, both within and beyond Michigan Great Lakes Chapter.”

In addition, our immediate past president, Katherine Baeckeroot, was awarded the Distinguished Community Service award for her “exceptional leadership as STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter president, innovative programming and inexhaustible enthusiasm for providing additional value to the membership, and for your wisdom, experience, and sound advice.”

Kylie (left) and Kelly (right) sat together during the Honors Ceremony and took a photo of the screen when our chapter was announced as a winner.

STC-MGL earns Platinum Community Achievement Award 

Our chapter is excited to announce that we have earned a Platinum Community Achievement Award (CAA) for our community’s efforts in 2022.

The CAA Committee noted that STC-MGL remains one of the most consistent and active communities in the CAA process. For our programming plan and collaboration efforts, the citation on our certificate will read:

For providing your members rich opportunities to shape technical communication, both within and beyond Michigan Great Lakes Chapter.

Our community will be recognized during the 2023 STC CAC Virtual Leadership Program and members are invited to the STC Summit Honors Event where the Community of the Year and Most Improved Community will be announced.

We wish to extend a special thanks to Wes Schoenherr, STC-MGL Vice President, for spearheading the process for submitting our application and to the several community members who shared their documented activities, spent time reviewing the form, and providing feedback over the past few months.

STC MGL earned a 2023 Platinum Community Achievement Badge

Katherine Baeckeroot  Awarded a 2023 Distinguished Community Service Award

Katherine wins a DSCA award.
Katherine Baeckeroot, STC-MGL immediate past-president

Katherine Baeckeroot, STC-MGL immediate past-president, was nominated and awarded a Distinguished Community Service Award for 2023.

Katherine has been an incredibly involved member of Michigan STC Chapters since June 2017, and she even attended 2014 summit as a student at Michigan Tech. Katherine expertly navigated a significant portion of the migration from two Michigan-based chapters into one during 2020. At the time, Katherine was the president of the STC Southeastern Michigan chapter (which merged with the STC West Michigan Shores chapter). After 2020, she took on the role of immediate past president but because of the large amount of work required to successfully transition and rebuild a chapter, she was heavily involved in leadership, even agreeing to a second presidential turn in 2021. We cannot overlook the dedication and expertise she brought to the chapter, especially during the upswing in virtual programming.  Katherine has provided extensive support beyond what is typically necessary of past leadership.

Katherine established several innovative programs for the chapter. Namely, she created our succession plan, overall operating management plans, and established our programing structures, many of which she initiated with other chapters (such as Toronto, Chicago, and Ohio’s). She began the virtual book club program in 2018, a program our chapter hosts biannually to this day. As a chapter, we’ve read over 7 technical communication books and hosted discussions with members across the state over the material. Some of the textbooks have now been included in the college curriculum. She also co-created Tech Comm Trivia night questions in 2021 and designed the interactive playing board, which is publicly available for other communities to use. Additionally, she created the marketing materials for our chapter and approximately 50 blog posts promoting our chapter activities.

Katherine’s citation reads:

For your exceptional leadership as STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter president, innovative programming and inexhaustible enthusiasm for providing additional value to the membership, and for your wisdom, experience, and sound advice.

We’re so thankful for your contributions, Katherine, and congratulations!

Andy Fiss Awarded Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication at CCCC

Dr. Andy Fiss, STC-MGL member and Associate Professor of Technical & Professional Communication at Michigan Tech, was awarded a 2023 CCCC Technical and Scientific Communication Award for Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication. Andy and his book, Performing Math: A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom, were honored at the CCCC Awards Presentation on Friday, February 17, during the 2023 CCCC Annual Convention.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Andy to ask him a few questions about his work. When I asked him how he found himself conducting research at the intersection of communication, anxiety, and mathematical instruction, he answered that he was a mathematics major as an undergrad. He reflected on the weird reactions and phrases like “I hate math” he received when he told people his major and recollected that other majors didn’t get the same type of response. As a result, he started thinking about the history of the pedagogy of mathematical instruction and became curious where where communication and anxiety arose in that early work. Notably, related studies are limited to high school mathematics instruction. His book expands on the general dread many people express toward math by analyzing several historical documents including songs and plays written about math education.  

The selection committee awarded his book the title of Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication because it is “Compelling, well-researched, and a very interesting read. Though Fiss’s book focuses on the historical instruction of math, his ideas about classroom performance can be translated to other fields,” so I asked what can writers/communicators take away from your book, in or out of the classroom?  He replied that this book is a collection of stories of past practices and can shed light on general approaches to helping make things unfamiliar more familiar, much like the work of technical communicators.

The selection committee also said “… It offers some insight into how we may accidentally create anxiety when producing technical communication.” In response to my question about how this happens, he explained that, for example, the pedagogical practice of “chalk talk” suddenly required that students not only demonstrate proficiency in mathematics but also oratory instantly. The connections between increasing demands for skills outside the purview of a subject may certainly ring true to the technical writer experience today.  

Fiss has been the I am the faculty advisor for the STC student chapter at Michigan Tech and MGL member for 4 years. The book, published by Rutgers University Press, can be purchased at:

Best Practices for Tutoring Students with ADHD in the Writing Center 

By Maddie Cesarz

When I first started researching how ADHD affected writing and the writing process, I found an overwhelming number of articles, research, and resources filled with tips, tricks, and accommodations for students with ADHD. Only, all these sources were intellectually directed towards parents and/or teachers who are trying to help elementary or middle school age students.  

The problem with this is that none of these resources could directly help me, a college student consultant in the university writing center and soon-to-be-professional, learn how to better assist other college students with ADHD. So, that’s what this is: a guide for a peer-to-peer approach for consulting with college students and who have ADHD.  This guide may also be adapted for working with adult team members with ADHD in the workplace. 

What is ADHD? 

One of the most important parts of accommodating students with ADHD is having a good idea of what it is and how it works. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” In other words, ADHD makes getting through the day much more difficult than it should be. Someone with ADHD struggles with everyday things such as completing simple tasks, focusing during school or work, balancing between their work and personal life, and low self-esteem.  

With this understanding, I share how we can figure out how to identify some common signs and patterns present within a college student’s writing. 

The Signs and Identifying Them in Students 

Since college students are not obligated to, most might not disclose that they have ADHD – or even know that they have it – when they visit the writing center. And writing consultants don’t typically ask much about a student’s personal life, which makes it imperative that they know what the signs are so that they are able to recognize them during a consultation. 

There are two different categories the signs of ADHD fall under; I’ll call them internal and external. These signs are categorized in the context of what a consultant can and cannot see during a consultation. 

External signs are the easiest to identify since they are presented through a student’s actions and/or behavior, e.g., constantly adjusting in their seat, tapping their feet, playing with their hands, etc. However, it is important to know that hyperactivity isn’t always a set-in-stone sign of ADHD meaning the student could easily just be anxious or bored. So, use these external signs as an indication to look further. 

Internal signs, e.g., difficulties focusing and disorganization, can be much more difficult for a consultant to identify initially because they are often things people with ADHD struggle with on their own and aren’t usually obvious during the first meeting. What’s so fascinating about this category of signs is that they are sometimes projected within a student’s writing and can be identified as the student and consultant read together. If the tutor is noticing a lot of run-on sentences with many different thoughts, or a string of ideas that jump from one to another very suddenly, those could be signs a student has ADHD. The consultant can then try the two methods listed and explained below.  

Two Methods for Consulting with Students who have ADHD 

In creating these methods, I used inspiration from Susan Osborn’s “Writing Help for ADHD Students,” which, like most resources I found, was directed towards a parent searching for ways to help their K-12 age child with writing. I used the central ideas from some of her strategies and modified them in a way that can be used for an adult peer-to-peer approach as seen at the college level. 

Each method, Talking It Out and Writing it Out, are laid out here: 

Talking It Out 

This method will help a student who is having trouble coming up with specific points to make for their argument, or an overall direction for their paper. 

Supplies needed: Pen and Paper or Computer 

Have the student talk to you about everything they know about their topic.  

It’s crucial that you don’t limit them to talking about just the things they think are important, so avoid phrasing introductory questions in a way that is too specific. Perhaps start with: “Can you tell me everything you know about your topic?”  

Take notes  

While the student is talking, write down points they make that can or have the potential to be used in their paper. These things can be anything content related: argument points, transition ideas, the ‘why’ they think this point is important. 


Go over what you noticed with the student. Point out what points you think they can do further research on.  

Writing It Out 

This method will help a student get all their ideas out of their head and on paper. It can be used to either help ADHD freeze or come up with ideas. 

Supplies needed: Pen and Paper (recommended) or Computer 

Set a timer for 10 minutes and instruct the student to write non-stop about their topic.  It’s important that they don’t stop writing for the duration of the exercise, even if they get on a tangent that sounds like: “I don’t know what to write about, but I have to keep writing…” because the ideas will come out, they just have to keep their brain moving. 

If the student does say something along the lines of “I’m not sure what to keep writing about” you can encourage them to just write whatever is going through their mind, including “I don’t know.” 

After the 10 minutes are up, ask the student what ideas they came up with and start working on an outline.  If they said they couldn’t come up with anything, ask if you can read what they wrote about and see if you can see anything that they didn’t. 

While working as a writing consultant, I have used these methods a few times. Once with a student who disclosed to me that they had ADHD and two other times when I recognized specific patterns in a student’s writing, which were discussed earlier in this article. When I asked these students if either exercise helped after the session was over, they said that both or at least one did, which suggests these methods do help college students gain clarity and direction for their paper. 

Overall, writing consultants that incorporate this information into their consulting practices will not only benefit students with ADHD but any student who might be struggling with focusing their topic and writing their paper. 


“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health,

Collins, Tracy. “Writing Strategies for Students With ADHD.” Edutopia. 21 Apr. 2015.

Dendy, Chris Zeigler M.S., and ADDitude Editors. “Teaching Strategies for Students with  

ADHD: Ideas to Help Every Child Shine.” ADDitude. 7 Sep. 2022.  

DuPaul, George J., et al. “Peer Tutoring for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity  

Disorder: Effects on Classroom Behavior and Academic Performance.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, vol. 31, no. 4, Winter 1998, pp. 579-92. EPSCOhost,  

Osborn, Susan. “Writing Help for ADHD Students.” Writing Center of Princeton, . Accessed 13 Nov. 2022. 

Wender, Paul H., and David A. Tomb. ADHD: A Guide to Understanding Symptoms Causes,  

Diagnosis, Treatment, and Changes Over Time in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. E-book ed., Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 4 Oct. 2016. 

Maddie Cesarz

Madison Cesarz is student at Grand Valley State University, working on a Bachelor of Science degree in Writing with a minor in Anthropology. She has immersed herself in the writing community at GVSU by serving as a Writing Consultant at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors, and volunteering as a writer, reviewer, and copyeditor for student-run publications such as Fishladder: A Student Journal of Art and Writing and InWriting: The Writing Department Newsletter. Aside from writing, she plays the piccolo and serves as a section leader in the Laker Marching Band and is the Historian in the Mu Kappa Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.

If you’d like to contribute to our blog, please propose a blog topic and email it to  for review.

Kelly Smith Awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award

Kelly Smith, 2022 DCSA recipient

This year, Kelly Smith was nominated and awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award.

The Distinguished Community Service Award, or DCSA, is a societal level award that acknowledges the work of chapter members who provide exemplary service to the Society through their dedication to the chapter and its activities.

Kelly has been a member of STC, STC-SM, and STC-MGL for several years. And she has been an excellent contributor to our chapter. Kelly is our social media manager, membership manager, and co-webmaster, and during her time with our chapter she also volunteered as the newsletter editor for the Instructional Design and Learning special interest group. While doing all of this she completed her masters degree through Mercer University.

Her citation reads:

For your sustained contributions to the Southeastern Michigan and Michigan Great Lakes chapters through your exceptional service as Membership and Social Media Manager.

We’re so thankful for all that you’ve  done for our chapter, Kelly, and we’re delighted that you received this recognition at the societal level. Congratulations!

Peggy Frizzo Awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award

STC-MGL President, Peggy Frizzo
Peggy Frizzo, 2022 DCSA Recipient

This year, Peggy Frizzo was nominated and awarded a Distinguished Community Service Award.

Peggy has volunteered with STC for many years, and in particular she was a longtime member of the STC West Michigan Shores chapter. Peggy graciously agreed to help co-president during our transition from two separate Michigan STC chapters into one STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter. 

Peggy’s citation reads:

For outstanding leadership in multiple roles in the regional chapters before, during, and after the merge into the Michigan Great Lakes Chapter—for inspiration, enthusiasm, wisdom, and dedication to the community.

In addition to this, we also want to thank her for continually volunteering and making sure we get all the things done. So during our transition year and even after, Peggy has taken on co-webmaster responsibilities, chapter email management, Eventbrite registration, website events, and more. We’re so thankful for your contributions, Peggy, and congratulations!

Meet our 2022-2023 Extended Council Members

As we look forward to our annual December social event, it is my pleasure to introduce you to some of faces behind STC-MGL’s Executive and Extended Council.

Next up is Kelly Smith, our Social Media and Membership Manager. She shared about herself, her job, and her experience as an STC member.

Tell us about yourself

I received a Bachelor’s in English from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I later got a Master’s in IT and recently earned my Master’s in Science in Technical Communication Management from Mercer University.

Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career?

I originally thought I’d be a school teacher, but realized as I was applying to teacher’s college that that was not the career for me! I already had some basic programming skills from when I was a kid and had taken a couple of computer classes at university so I went back to college to learn programming. My first career job was as a programmer analyst, but I also ended up doing the bulk of the technical writing for our various projects. I realized I enjoyed that more, so I kept volunteering to write and do other tech-comm related work. Eventually I started applying for tech writing jobs and the rest is history.

Why did you decide to join STC?

I had heard about STC on various email lists (TechWr-L and Copyediting-L) and when I finally had a full-time position as an employee, I asked my employer to pay for my membership and they agreed. I wanted to meet other people in the industry, make connections, and expand my knowledge.

Where do you work?

I work on the business continuity team at Dart Container Corporation.

What are your job activities?

I write and edit procedures, reports, presentations, website articles, video scripts, and email messages. Because I’m on a business continuity team, part of my job involves planning and facilitating twice-yearly IT disaster management exercises, writing materials for and helping to facilitate annual business continuity exercises, and helping our internal users develop their disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

How has being an STC member helped you with your career?

Being part of a recognized association has helped me look more professional in the eyes of my company. Through STC, I met Pam Brewer and ended up earning my Masters in Tech Comm Management which also helped raise my status in the eyes of management. Volunteering for SIGs and my local chapter, and attending the annual Summits have helped me network and build friendships in the industry.

What advice do you have for students as they are entering the field of technical communication?

Go in the direction of your greatest interest, even if it’s not in your current job description. Keep learning. Take advantage of all the opportunities to learn on the job and through organizations like STC. Realize that not every tech comm job is going to be on a dedicated tech comm team. It’s possible to build a career in unexpected ways.

Meet Our 2022-2023 Council Members

For the past few months, the STC-MGL 2022-2023 Council members have been planning and hosting programs, virtual meetups, and a book club. As we look forward to our annual December social event, it is my pleasure to introduce you to some of faces behind STC-MGL’s Executive and Extended Council.

First, Vice President Wes Schoenherr shared about himself, his job, and his experience as an STC member.

Tell us about yourself

Wes Schoenherr wears dark rimmed glasses and a green collared shirt.
Wes Schoenherr, STC-MGL Vice President

My path before TechComm was a winding one. I grew up in Michigan and earned an English BA from Eastern Michigan University. After graduating, I went to Xi’an, China where I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) for four years with a basic certificate. While there, I met and married my wife, who is from Xi’an. We moved from there to San Francisco, where I earned an English teaching credential and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) MA from the University of San Francisco. I taught high school English in California for three years. My two children were born. Our family then moved back to Xi’an for a year where I taught ESL again. Finally, we moved to Kalamazoo, where my parents are. I taught high school English for three semesters at Battle Creek Central High School, then became a technical communicator. Whew!

Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career?

One of the aspects of teaching that I enjoyed the most was creating the instructional materials for my lessons. However, with all of the other demands that are on teachers (many of which I didn’t enjoy) I felt like I never had enough time or resources to develop those materials to the level that I wanted. I also didn’t have a good work/life balance. Technical communication seemed like a career in which I could spend more time on something similar to the part of teaching that I most enjoyed and was best at, and also have more flexible work hours. Having been in my new career for almost two years now, I know that it was the right change for me.

Why did you decide to join STC?

I had a lot of skills from being an English teacher that were transferable to being a technical communicator. However, I needed to learn some specifics of technical communication, develop a portfolio, and earn a certificate to show that I was invested in the career. At the same time, since I had just finished grad school, I didn’t want to go through a formal, multi-year program. 

I found STC by doing a Google search for “technical writer association.” After checking out the website, I decided to become a member for the discounts that I could get on the CPTC Foundation Certification Exam Prep and TechComm Fundamentals Bootcamp classes. I enjoyed doing the assignments that Leah Guren gave us in Bootcamp, so I was certain then that technical communication was the right direction for me.

I also joined the STC-MGL chapter and enjoyed participating in the virtual meetups and book club discussions. Talking with technical communicators in my region helped make everything I was learning seem more real and that the career change would really happen.

Where do you work?

I’m a Technical Content Developer at KMC Controls, which designs and manufactures HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) controls and software for building automation systems. Our products provide facility management teams with tools for achieving prerequisites and credits for LEED certification in the categories of Indoor Environmental Quality, Energy and Atmosphere, Sustainable Sites, and Water Efficiency for green buildings.

I found the job through STC’s job bank. KMC Controls posted it there first and would have posted it more widely later if they hadn’t found me.

The company is located in New Paris, Indiana. Most days, though, I work from my home in Kalamazoo.

To give you a more concrete idea of the industry, I’ll talk a little about the two biggest projects I’ve worked on so far. The first was creating documentation for a new hardware product that measures the amount of outside air that an HVAC system is bringing into a building at any given time. This is an important solution for meeting IAQ (indoor air quality) standards, especially in our pandemic era in which people are more keenly aware of IAQ.

The second major project was creating an online help system for our SaaS (Software as a Service) product, which is essentially Cloud software for a building’s operational systems (HVAC, lighting, security, etc.). Modern control devices (installed in places that most people never see in a building) send data to each other (on their own type of network) in order to maintain the desired indoor environment. That data is typically hard for a facility management team to access for maintenance and reporting. Our gateway and its software gathers the data (which is not on an IT network), sends it through the Internet to a Cloud database, and provides ways of visualizing it from an Internet browser window. This allows the team to use their laptops, tablets, or phones from anywhere to gain insights into the status and health of their buildings and make adjustments. Our software can also send the data through our API to third-party analytics and AI software that help optimize the functioning of the building’s systems for energy efficiency.

What are your job activities?

I’m responsible for updating the existing documentation (datasheets, selection guides, installation guides, application guides, and technical bulletins) for one of our hardware product lines. I also create documentation for new products (like our airflow measurement system) that get added to the line. Third, I’m responsible for the documentation for our SaaS product.

To fulfill these responsibilities I test out the products myself, interview SMEs, and revise the documentation multiple times as the products evolve. I use Adobe InDesign to update the PDFs. About a year ago I learned MadCap Flare and created the online help system for our SaaS product, with a PDF that builds from the same source files. We only had a 150-page PDF before. I’m hoping to gradually convert our PDFs for our hardware into Flare as well to create an online knowledge base.

In addition to all that, I do some smaller tasks, like making product pages on our website using WordPress, and writing up announcements of the documentation updates for our company’s monthly newsletter. Occasionally I also write scripts based on the documents for how-to videos that are put on our YouTube channel.

How has being an STC member helped you with your career?

When I was applying for jobs I received valuable feedback on my resume and cover letters from an instructional designer mentor (now retired from Bank of America), who I got connected with through STC’s mentor board.

Besides the learning and resume-building it helped me accomplish to get into this career, the STC continually gives me opportunities to learn new information and skills, which makes me more effective at my job. Additionally, I’ve found the STC’s salary database to be very valuable when negotiating salary. Also, I recently attended a webinar by MK Grueneberg titled “Designing Your Career: Making Power Moves!” which gave good tips.

Since I’m kind of a solo writer at my company, in the near future I plan to enter my work in contests held by STC chapters, and maybe even volunteer to be a judge one day. It seems like a great way to get wider feedback for improvements and also ideas by seeing what other technical communicators are doing.

What advice do you have for students as they are entering the field of technical communication?

This is kind of a hard question, since I never thought about this field when I was a college student. Recently I attended a TechComm KnowledgeXchange panel discussion where Tim Esposito (currently Vice President) coined an acronym to describe the core skills of technical communicators. The acronym is CAIRO: Communication, Adaptability, Interpersonal skills, Research skills, and Organization. I say focus on developing proof that you have those skills, and don’t worry too much about specific software tools or even the specifics of a particular technical industry.

I think I got hired because I proved to my manager that I had CAIRO. I trained myself a little in some software tools that turned out to not be the ones I needed for the job, but that helped prove that I could learn software tools quickly (Adaptability and Research skills). I didn’t know anything about the HVAC controls industry except the little I was able to learn before the interview, but they had training videos on their products that they knew I could quickly learn from.

Finally, don’t worry too much about a fit between yourself and the content of a particular industry. When I was a college student I  would’ve thought writing documentation for HVAC controls sounded boring. Actually, I’ve discovered that it’s pretty interesting. What I’ve found is that the process of the job is more important than the content. I could do this type of work for any industry because I enjoy designing and wordsmithing. By the way, I recommend attending a TechComm KnowledgeXchange event or even just watching the recorded panel discussions on YouTube. You can learn a lot about the field from them. You don’t have to be an STC member yet; prospective members are welcome!

What else would you like our readers to know about you?

During my lunch break at home, I enjoy working toward my personal fitness goals by rowing, boxing, strength-training, and practicing Tai Chi—activities I never had the time or energy for as a teacher!

Thank you for sticking with me through my long answers. I hope the details help student readers envision what this career can be like in reality.