What Value Does STC Provide to Its Communities?

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What Value Does STC Provide to Its Communities?

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 (http://larrykunz.wordpress.com). 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 (benwoelk.com), 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. (http://benwoelk.com/why-i-value-stc-rochester/). 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 (http://www.stc.org/membership/join-or-renew-now/1408-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 http://www.stc.org/images/stories/pdf/stc2015yearinreview3.pdf)

Others may value the access to continuing education opportunities.

When I was on the Board, we revised the strategy and mission of STC (http://www.stc.org/about-stc/the-society/mission-vision). 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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Continued Thoughts on an Agile STC

I’ve been contributing to an ongoing conversation about the Society for Technical Communication on Larry Kunz’s excellent Leading Technical Communication blog (http://larrykunz.wordpress.com) where he’s recently posted An Agile STC? As I’ve taken part in the conversation, I’ve realized that this is a subject I should be writing about as well. I’ll start by sharing some of the discussion here. (Note that I’m actively involved in STC and a former Director.)

Background

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) was established in the late 1950s and currently has about 6000 members worldwide. Like other professional organizations, it has seen decreases in membership as the baby boomers age and the technical communication profession has become increasingly specialized. The Society has somewhat autonomous self-governed geographic chapters around the world that range in membership from around 10 members up to 150 or so. Geographic chapter membership is not mandatory, and about 50% of STC members are members in local chapters. I’m a member of the STC Rochester Chapter, which has been recognized as Community of the Year twice in the last four years.

Discussion of Agile Methodology

Larry referenced a recent post by Australian technical writer, Swapnil Ogale, The ASTC is failing us in which Sawpnill discusses the need for new structures and focus on gaining new members. Building on Sawpnil’s discussion, Larry wrote about the application of Agile principles by STC communities and the need to, as I would describe it, discard old wineskins and use new wineskins that may be more appropriate to our culture. (The wineskins terminology comes from a Bible passage, Mark 2:22, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (NIV translation). I believe that terminology is apropos for structural discussions concerning chapters as well.

In reference to Larry’s assertion that Agile principles are needed at the chapter level, smaller focused activities might provide a viable path forward for many communities, especially given the challenge in recruiting volunteers for long term roles. (There’s a free CAC webinar on recruiting volunteers on July 22nd, 2016. Alice Brzovic and I are speaking. The webinar will be recorded. Register on Eventbrite (http://www.eventbrite.com/e/recruiting-new-volunteers-tickets-26552383895)

Rochester Chapter

When I look at the Rochester Chapter’s ability to continue to provide service to our community, sprints play a key role. Along with ongoing programming, there are a large number of shorter sprints associated with our annual Spectrum conference. These sprints provide a relatively short high-impact volunteer engagement period that I believe has really helped hold the chapter together (along with some outstanding leadership.)

Next week we are engaging our Buffalo-area members and their colleagues in a networking dinner–our first engagement with them in well over a decade. This wasn’t part of our planned programming, but connections were made, an idea floated through LinkedIn messaging, and several people have put an event together very quickly.

Innovation

Given STC’s changing demographics, it’s important that we examine new models and embrace those that are effective. STC’s Community Affairs Committee is well positioned to play a mentoring role here.

We absolutely have to innovate and attract members who become active volunteers. STC at the society level and chapters are structured very differently. There’s ample opportunity for innovation at the chapter level. Some structural changes at the higher level may be beneficial.

Alienating long term members who are used to that structure is somewhat of a concern. However, the baby boomers who built professional organizations are retiring in droves, and the structure and programming has to work for succeeding generations. Although I don’t agree with all of her points, Sladek, The End of Membership as We Know It, has good discussions around the need for organizations to transform. Post-baby boomers generations are looking for meaningful engagement for shorter periods and not necessarily a lifelong commitment.

I’ll continue this discussion in an upcoming blog post.

 

 

 


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community

Building a Virtual Introverted Leader Community

Building a Virtual Introverted Leader Community

Anyone who is at all connected to me on social media has seen my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter posts about the Introverted Leadership Slack Channel I’ve set up. I wanted to share what’s happened so far and my my vision for this nascent virtual community.

Background

At the Society for Technical Communication Summit 2016, I presented An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership. The presentation is a brief discourse on my leadership journey and my thoughts on introverted leadership strategies based on my readings of Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, Lisa Petrilli, An Introvert’s Guide to Leadership, David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, many discussions with fellow leaders, and my own experience and observations at conferences and events.

My experience in in presenting An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership was profound and I was able to connect with attendees to a much deeper extent than I have experienced at other conferences. Keirsey talks about the ability for N’s to make instant connections. I saw that firsthand at Summit 2016. (I’m typically pretty reticent at home. Being able to make deep connections is not typical for me. I’m an INTJ and dread small talk.) (For those of you unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs and Jungian temperament studies, humanmetrics.com and 16personalities.com provide an overview.) Given the positive response at Summit 2016, I really wanted to extend the experience and find a way for introverted leaders to support one another.

Planning and Action

As an INTJ, I often spend a good amount of time in analysis and planning. I didn’t feel that I had that luxury. Conference connections can be ephemeral and excitement abates. I needed to act quickly. Three weeks ago, I knew next to nothing about Slack. On May 20th, I put up a Slack channel and recruited one my new “instant N” connections, Carrie Sheaffer (who had some familiarity with Slack), to help me administer it.

We are a little over two weeks into the creation of a virtual community. We’re at 81 participants overall. We’re discussing Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking at a leisurely pace of a chapter a week. (We’re currently at 22 team members in that discussion.) We’ll choose another book relevant to introverted leadership after Cain.

Multiple Focuses

Although my primary focus was providing a forum for introverted leaders to support each other, I also saw an opportunity to create a study group for the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) exam. We’re currently at 25 students preparing for the exam and most of us will take it in October/November.

Building the Virtual Community

I’ve built the community by reaching out to the two professional organizations in which I’m involved, the Society for Technical Communication, and the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Information Security Council Awareness and Training Working Group. (As you might imagine, there are a good number of introverts in both organizations.) I’ve also increased my LinkedIn contacts by about 200 connections to build my network and have shared An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership with that network. I don’t believe I’ve met more than 60% of the current team members face to face.

My Vision

I have developed a passion for mentoring and coaching introverted leaders. I want this virtual community to provide a place for introverted leaders to talk safely about personality, the challenges their facing, and to encourage each other. (I realized a couple of days into building the Introverted Leadership Slack channel that I needed to provide group rules that I’ll share in a future post. The rules can be boiled down to a statement Garrison Keillor made during his Radio Romance tour that he was determined to lead a life of obstinate kindness.)

I will measure success based on how much we can accomplish goals derived from “I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for introverts to take stock of their own talents, and how powerful it is when they finally do.” –Susan Cain, Quiet, p. 7,

Will we build an enduring community? The jury is still out, but I’m excited about our first baby steps. We have discussions around introverted management, personality types, the CPTC, techcomm, and even a channel set up to facilitate playing Exploding Kittens.

I’ll provide occasional updates on our progress over the coming months, and I’ll also share how well our CPTC study group does on the exam.

It’s not too late to join us! If you’re interested, get in touch. I’m not hard to find.

Ben
@benwoelk
https://www.linkedin.com/in/benwoelk