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.

End-of-Year Networking Event and Annual Business Meeting

Please join us on Tuesday, June 21 to celebrate the end of our successful 2021–2022 program year!

During this networking event, we’ll share our chapter highlights and accomplishments, discuss chapter finances, and introduce you to the 2022–2023 STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter executive council!


Tuesday, June 21

7:00–8:30 p.m.


Virtual using Zoom


Please register for this event on Eventbrite.

Upcoming book club: Heroic Technical Writing

Our next virtual book club is coming up on Thursday, June 16 in the book_club channel in Slack.

During this event, we will discuss Heroic Technical Writing: Making a Difference in the Workplace and Your Life by Bart Leahy.


  • Thursday, June 16
  • 7–8:30 p.m. EDT


Book_club channel in Slack


Registration is available on Eventbrite. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, May 17!

About the book

Bart Leahy uses his blog, Heroic Technical Writing, to help technical communicators navigate the working world. His book by the same name summarizes his decades of experience into six categories: Product, Process, People and Politics, Professionalism, Pursuing Work, and Protecting Yourself.

In his words, “I can give you first-hand accounts of what the day-to-day life of a professional technical writer is like—the awesome stuff you can look forward to and the stuff that sucks that English professors won’t tell you about.”

While this book is invaluable to those who are starting out in the field, more experienced writers will recognize their own experiences in Leahy’s anecdotes. His advice on dealing with the non-writing aspects of the job is particularly insightful and pragmatic.

The special topic, “What Should You Learn to Work in the Space Business?” breaks down the subject areas typically encountered when writing for the space industry. Leahy even includes a bibliography of his favorite books and other resources to help technical writers get familiar with writing and space-related concepts.

About the author

Bart Leahy is a self-described space geek and notes he is an “English major through and through.” He earned a B.A. in English Literature from Northern Illinois University and an M.A. in Technical Writing from the University of Central Florida. Leahy has worked for Walt Disney, the Department of Defense, and NASA. Freelancing and instructional design experience give him a unique view of the professional opportunities for technical writers. Find him on his blog,, Facebook, and Twitter @WritingGopher.

April 28: Tech Comm Panel Discussion

At some point in your life, you were probably asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. Maybe you answered firefighter, teacher, astronaut, police officer, or veterinarian. Although all honorable professions, perhaps you (like many others) were drawn to the field of technical communication.

Join STC-MGL on April 28 for a tech comm panel discussion. Come listen to current technical communicators describe how they discovered their careers and how STC supports them now. Joining us on the panel are Wes Schoenherr, Alison Phillips, Maryann Bowen, and Joana Donovan.

Continue reading “April 28: Tech Comm Panel Discussion”

Get That Interview! How to Beat the Dreaded Applicant Tracking System: A Recap of Molisani’s Presentation

Jack Molisani, professional recruiter and STC Fellow, provided information about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). An ATS, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) looks for wording from your application that matches the company’s job description and requirements.

Jack’s biggest tip was to stop applying through an ATS, but rather make connections directly with people. Start building your network before you need a new job. Here are some ways to connect with others:

  • Volunteer with your local STC chapter and/or SIGs
  • Run for office or volunteer at the Society level
  • Speak at the Summit or write for Intercom magazine
  • Local meetups groups (e.g., groups that need technical writers or JavaScript groups)
  • Build your virtual networks by joining LinkedIn or Facebook groups and posting in them
  • Speak at conferences, start a blog, post on social media

The goal is to be visible and memorable in your industry so that people want to hire you.

More information about ATS:

An ATS is driven through artificial intelligence (AI). The wording of your current and previous job titles must match the job you’re applying for. If applying through the ATS is your last resort, keep the following in mind:

  • Use short phrases
  • Keep verbs and objects in close proximity to each other (i.e., “wrote training materials”)
  • AIs can’t read tables, text boxes, icons, headers, etc. Make your resume as plain as possible. Keep your formatted version for the interview.

In short, people connections are better than relying on the ATS for a new career opportunity. They are long-lasting and will benefit you for years to come as you navigate through the industry.

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”

Virtual Lunchtime Meetup: December 16

Our next virtual meetup is tomorrow, Thursday Dec. 16. We’ll be meeting online from 12 to 12:40-ish ET. Grab your favorite beverage or your lunch and join STC-MGL members to discuss tech comm, STC, chapter events, and more. This is a great way to network with other technical communicators across southeastern Michigan in a relaxing and peaceful setting. We hope you will join us!

Register on Eventbrite here.

Three Steps to Successful SME Interviews

Learn how to interview Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) like a pro!

Please join the STC-MGL and STC Ohio chapters for our next collaborative program “Three Steps to Successful SME Interviews” presented by Nicky Bleiel, STC Fellow.

Interviewing subject matter experts is one of the most important skills needed for success as a technical communicator. During this program, Nicky will discuss how to cultivate sources, write questions, and keep cool during an interview. You’ll learn what to say and what words to avoid–and how to conduct an interview asynchronously. Nicky has interviewed many SMEs, as well as tech comm luminaries (including David Pogue, Dr. John Carroll, and Kathy Sierra), and she will share her experience with you.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

7–8:30 p.m. ET






  • STC-MGL or Ohio STC Chapter member: $0
  • STC student member: $0
  • STC member: $10
  • Honorary organization members (e.g., UXPA): $10
  • Non-member: $15

About Nicky


Nicky Bleiel is a Lead Information Developer at Innovative Systems. She is a Fellow and Past President of the Society for Technical Communication and has more than 20 years of experience writing and designing content for software products in a variety of industries. She has interviewed a number of experts in technical communication, including John Carroll, David Pogue, Kathy Sierra, and Nancy Duarte; and was Guest Editor of the all-interview “Legends of Technical Communication” issue of STC’s Intercom magazine. She is a popular speaker at many conferences, including the STC Summit, tcworld, WritersUA, CIDM, CPTSC, IEEE ProComm, and LavaCon; and has been published in STC’s Intercom, tcworld magazine, ISTC Communicator, and more. See for a list of her talks and articles.