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: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/performing-math/9781978820203

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.

Alison Phillips Awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award

Alison PhillipsThe Distinguished Community Service Award recognizes STC chapter members who provide exemplary support, commitment, and service to their local STC chapter. This is the highest level of recognition of all STC community chapter awards, and to receive the award is the utmost honor. This year, our dedicated member Alison Phillips was awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award. Her citation reads as follows:

“For your exceptional contributions to the Southeastern Michigan chapter; leadership in establishing the Michigan Great Lakes chapter; and for continuously exemplifying professionalism, kindness, and concern for all members.”

In 2019 and 2020, Alison led the effort to combine the Southeastern Michigan and West Michigan Shores STC chapters, establishing the STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter (STC-MGL).

The STC-MGL council extends our hearty thanks and sincere gratitude to Alison for her unceasing commitment to our community. We deeply appreciate her and her service.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Alison. Please continue reading to learn more about Alison, her role in the community, and the motivation behind the chapter merge.

Continue reading “Alison Phillips Awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award”

Meet our President, Peggy Frizzo

STC-MGL President, Peggy Frizzo
STC-MGL President, Peggy Frizzo

Over the past year, our President, Peggy Frizzo, has worked tirelessly to ensure our transition into the newly combined Society Technical Communication, Michigan Great Lakes chapter was successful. Among her many tasks, she hosted programs, virtual coffee meetups, worked on the website, and improved process flows by streamlining work.

We are so grateful for all that she’s done for our chapter!

So that you can get to know her better, Peggy recently took some time to share information about herself, her job, and her experience as an STC member. Keep reading to learn more!

Continue reading “Meet our President, Peggy Frizzo”

An Interview with Mary Jo David, STC Associate Fellow

On May 7, 2019, Mary Jo David was awarded the STC Associate Fellow award at the 2019 STC Summit in Denver, Colorado. Mary Jo David is a member of the STC Southeastern Michigan Chapter, and we couldn’t be more happy for her! The STC Associate Fellow is a prestigious award within the technical communication community; it honors long-standing STC members who have contributed their time and dedication to the field of technical communication.

Featured, left to right: Jane Wilson (STC immediate past president), Mary Jo David, and Ben Woelk (current STC president).

After the Summit, we interviewed Mary Jo, and we would like to share some of her insight with you. Keep reading to learn more about Mary Jo and her journey as a technical communicator. Continue reading “An Interview with Mary Jo David, STC Associate Fellow”