Category Archives: Leadership

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What Value Does STC Provide to Its Communities?

Category:Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,Leadership,STC,STC Rochester,techcomm Tags : 

This post is a continuation of the ongoing discussion about the Society for Technical Communication to which I’ve been contributing on Larry Kunz’s excellent Leading Technical Communication blog ( Larry recently posted An Agile STC? Much of the discussion has been around what value STC provides to its communities. As I took part in the conversation, I’ve realized that this is a subject I should be writing about as well. Here’s more of the discussion. (Note that I’m actively involved in STC and a former Director.)

I don’t have up-to-date numbers, but roughly 50% of STC members are currently in geographic communities/chapters. The other 50% are not involved locally. That means there are two different membership experiences. When I stepped into the presidency of STC Rochester in 2010, we were very insular and had no information about what was happening at the society level. One of my goals was to reestablish that connection. I blogged extensively about determining our local value proposition at that time (, primarily about the local level, and we’ve worked hard (and successfully) to provide value to the community. I also wrote about the value of volunteering. ( However, I didn’t gain a full picture of what STC itself provides until I had the opportunity to serve at the Society level.

In terms of tangible benefits, STC provides a value calculator (

The tangible benefits are measurable. For me, the primary value is in the intangibles–the things not displayed by the calculator. I’ve always argued that what you gain from an organization can often be directly correlated with what you put into it. I have had so many leadership growth opportunities because I chose to be involved and step forward (and even create new initiatives such as the CAC Outreach Team to directly support community leaders) that the value to me personally has been enormous. Coupled with the professional network and friendships I’ve established, the cost to me has been minimal compared to what I’ve gained.

My experience, both at the local level and the international level, has absolutely transformed me professionally, in skill sets and in developing leadership skills. I attribute much of my growth in leadership skills to “iron sharpening iron”–working with other leaders towards shared goals, mentoring new and emerging leaders, developing a peer network of very smart practitioners who I can go to when I have questions or whom I can assist with answers from time to time.

My question has often been, what do people who are not actively involved as volunteers, at the local or international level, get from their membership?

Some may just want to support a professional organization that represents their profession.

Don’t forget that the STC works at the national and international levels to better the perception and value of techcomm. It was through efforts by STC that the Bureau of Labor Statistics now lists Technical Writer separately from other writers. At face value, that may not appear to have a direct impact on an individual member, but when HR departments benchmark salaries, that new category of Technical Writer makes a difference. STC has also supported Plain Language initiatives. (A good way to get a look at Society-level initiatives is by reviewing

Others may value the access to continuing education opportunities.

When I was on the Board, we revised the strategy and mission of STC ( We refocused on proving economic value (BLS info above, for example), but also on providing continuing education opportunities that equip our members to be successful in many fields. A techcomm mindset and the skills we develop around audience analysis and contextualization, much less actual technical skills, serves us well in multiple job roles.

  1. Here are a few of the things STC offers to support its communities:
    1. Through the Community Affairs Committee, direct support to chapters, including mentoring of chapter leaders,
    2. Specific webinars that are free to chapter/SIG members.
    3. Umbrella liability insurance for chapter events when a certificate of insurance is needed.
    4. Access to other community leaders.
    5. A number of webinars, both live and recorded, that address leadership-related subjects.
    6. A shared hosting platform that saves chapters the cost of having their own hosting.

For those of you who find value in STC, what have I missed? For those who don’t find value, what else would you like to see STC offer?

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The Content Era: Thought Leader Thursday Featuring Ben Woelk

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Lessons Learned

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Listen to the recorded session from Thursday, July 21st on The Content Era: Thought Leader Thursday hosted by Tom Aldous, where I spoke about Introverted Leadership and my leadership journey. I also shared how I’m leveraging my STC Summit 2016 presentation, An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership, to mentor introverted leaders and start building a virtual community to discuss issues affecting them and share resources.

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The Content Era’s “Thought Leader Thursday” hosted by Founder and CEO, Tom Aldous, brings up intriguing concepts with industry’s top Thought Leaders to keep you questioning the assumptions. Tune in Thursdays at 1PM EST as Tom picks the brains of some of the brightest minds we’ve come across.

This week Thought Leader, Ben Woelk joins Tom Aldous. Many of us might agree that Western society lauds extroverted leaders and their accomplishments. However, introverts make great contributions and can be effective leaders too. There are many introverts who may feel unsuited or unequipped for leadership but are not sure how to take that next step to increase influence and improve visibility. Ben will share key steps he took and experiences that have helped him become a successful leader and share recommendations for how introverts can leverage their innate skills and flourish in the workplace.He’ll also discuss how he’s using Slack to build a virtual community to support introverted leaders.

Listen to the recorded session.


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Summit Proceedings: An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership

One of the responsibilities for STC Summit presenters is to provide a paper for the Proceedings that are intended for use by libraries and instructors. Here’s my contribution:


Many of us might agree that Western society lauds extroverted leaders and their accomplishments. However, introverts make great contributions and can be effective leaders too. Many of us are introverts who may feel unsuited or unequipped for leadership, but are not sure how to take that next step to increase influence and improve visibility. Have you wondered how to empower yourself and leverage your innate skills to become a leader? This paper shares my personal insights and my leadership journey from shy team member to recognized leader. I’ll also share key steps I took and experiences that have helped me become a successful leader.
I am an Introverted Leader, despite outward appearances.
My introversion informs my approach to leadership.
I believe that self-understanding and leveraging introverts’
strengths have made me a better leader.

What is an Introvert?

NOTE: Please regard this section as a generalization. Individuals will differ.
Extraverts focus on the outer world of people and things. They tend to be active and have a wide breadth of interests. They understand things through experience. They may be reward seekers and desire fame. They are energized by contact and activities undertaken with others.
Introverts, on the other hand, have a rich inner thought life of ideas. They tend to have a depth of interest, preferring specialization to a breadth of knowledge. They may mull over thoughts and concepts, but not express those thoughts verbally or externally. Introverts recharge themselves by withdrawing from the hubbub to places of quiet and solitude.

How Introvert Strengths Apply to Leadership

Think of introverted leaders. Examples include Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, and Abraham Lincoln. What made them good leaders? Those are the characteristics introverts may want to emulate. Einstein is known for his depth and clarity of thought (and his genius). Although
Steve Jobs is the most well known leader of Apple, Wozniak was responsible for many of the innovations. Abraham Lincoln was not gregarious, yet was able to think and act strategically and provide leadership during what may have been the most trying times for the United States.

How I’ve Made it Work for Me

My strengths include my ability to identify gaps, my desire to make a difference, practicing a servant leadership model, and pursuing excellence. I’m also competitive. (That competitiveness can be both a strength and a weakness. I can push myself and others towards goals. However, I have an innate desire to win at whatever I’m engaged in.)
By no means do I consider myself to have “arrived,” but I am surprised by how far I’ve come. Most of my professional growth has come in the last 20 years. I never envisioned myself as a leader and certainly didn’t believe that I’d be able to stand in front of a crowd and still be able
to speak articulately. Although there are many formative steps I could look back on, building on small successes, reading about and better understanding introversion, understanding how I communicate best, and understanding my personality type (MBTI) have probably helped the
Growth opportunities include:
  • Overcoming conflict avoidance
  • Overcoming reticence
  • Not over-analyzing
  • Harnessing competitiveness


An introvert can employ a number of different strategies:
  • Network: Stop avoiding events
  • Understand how you work best. Get to know yourself. Take a personality assessment.
  • Let others know how you process
  • Leverage social media
  • Communicate in multiple formats
  • Recharge!
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York, NY: Crown), 2012.
Kahnweiler, Jennifer B. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers), 2013.
Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company), 1998.
Laney, Marti Olsen. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, (New York, NY:
Workman Publishing Company), 2002.
Petrilli, Lisa. The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership Kindle e-Book (Chicago, IL:C-Level Strategies), 2011.
_______, Jung Typology Test,
Accessed 4/11/2016.

Author Biography

Ben Woelk
Former Director, Society for Technical Communication; ISO Program Manager; Information Security Office, Rochester Institute of Technology; Security Guru; Introvert; INTJ; CISSP; Author of Shockproofing Your Use of Social Media: Staying Safe Online (Kindle).
From “An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership,” 2016 STC Technical Communication Summit Proceedings, 31-32