Category Archives: techcomm

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Eeshita Grover headshot

Episode 031: Eeshita Grover–Getting Out of Your Bubble

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Podcast,STC,techcomm

Episode 031 Show Notes: Eeshita Grover

Introduction

Eeshita Grover and Ben Woelk discuss the need to get out of your bubble to achieve your aspirations, the best placement of techcomm teams, and working in an open office setting.

Eeshita Grover headshot

Key concepts

  • Open workspace environments can be challenging for introverts
  • Technical writers and engineers work similarly, often preferring to focus on their work rather than interacting with others.
  • People in very public spaces have a surprising perception that their calls and other interactions are still private.
  • Working with marketing provides technical writers the opportunity to better understand how customers use products.
  • Mindset shift takes time.
  • Three keys to helping an introvert become more comfortable networking: 1. Knowing your subject matter really well. 2. Having people express confidence in you 3. it takes time.

Quotable

Achievement doesn’t happen overnight. At the end of the day, you have to want it. It became very clear to me quite early on that I’d have to get past my own bubble if you will. Get out of it and learn to be more forthcoming and talkative.

Three keys to helping an introvert become more comfortable networking: 1. Knowing your subject matter really well. 2. Having people express confidence in you 3. Realize it takes time.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Eeshita Grover. Eeshita is a director of marketing at Cisco and contributed to the STC Intercom May/June, 2018 article, “The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader.” You can contact Eeshita at eeshita@icloud.Com or on Linkedin, Eeshita Grover. I encourage our listeners to visit Hope for the Introvert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi. Welcome to the Hope for the Introvert podcast. I’m looking forward to our conversation. Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Cisco and what your workplace is like?

Eeshita: Sure. I’ve been at Cisco for 14 years and always been in the technical communications function. The key aspect of my job has been producing user-facing content for the data center products at Cisco. And it’s been a really fun ride. Lots of learning over the past 14 years. I can say with 100% confidence that there’s never been a dull moment. I get an opportunity to interface with a lot of cross-functional teams, all the way from engineering to marketing and sales and even customer support. That kind of summarizes my job role and my presence in the landscape, that I’m in good company

Ben: OK. So what’s the actual workplace like? I have no idea if it’s an open office, whether you have your own office. What it’s like working at Cisco?

Eeshita: So we do have an open space or open environment as they call it. There are no cubes. There are no offices. Even our vice presidents and senior vice presidents sit in the open workspace environment, which is challenging. I’ve been in this environment for almost two years and it still feels difficult because you’re out in the open all the time and you really don’t have much space to sort of be yourself or be in your zone as I call it. And in my current setup, I sit with my team of writers and on the other side of the floor we have a large group of engineers. And surprisingly, I noticed that there’s a lot of similarity in the ways engineers and technical writers work. There is that sense of “I want to just focus on what I’m doing,” and often people are focused on their monitors and watching what they’re doing. Now interestingly, on the opposite side of the floor, there is a marketing team and we are in the middle of engineering and marketing. That’s kind of how we are situated. And There’s quite a bit of chatter. There’s quite a bit of talk. A lot of phone conversations with customers, potential sales channels, etc. That’s how we are physically situated here in my current setup.

Ben: So are there issues with noise level and things like that?

Eeshita: Yes, it takes a lot of adjustment. Mostly everyone has their headphones on and they’re trying to just focus on on what they’re doing. There is that, even though some people are particular enough that when they have a private conversation, they will take it out. They go into a private room, but many times people are not conscious of it and they start their conversation with their spouse or their child while everyone else can listen. And that certainly causes a certain amount of hindrance for the rest of us.

Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t remember the name of the article, but I’d read an article about a study where there was a class and part of what they were doing was kind of seeing what the perceptions were of private space and public space and how surprised the people doing–the students doing the research work–about how people don’t seem–almost assume privacy. They’re in conversations. And if you go sit in an airport or a large room, you can hear people talking about pretty much anything, sharing credit card numbers, sharing personal information. It’s really surprising in a lot of ways. But I don’t know. It’s very strange. I don’t know whether the fact that we have headphones on and knowing that we’re the only person that can hear the other person, whether I–I’m not sure where the thinking is on that.

Eeshita: It’s actually in line with the question you asked me about how we are situated. My team of technical writers actually reports into marketing in the business unit that I work for at Cisco. And traditionally or more often than not, we’ve seen technical writing teams reporting into engineering or engineering operations. But this setup is kind of unique, and I personally think from a functional perspective, it serves us far better because the content we produce is–we are in closer proximity with the people who actually read our content and use it. But from a personality perspective, I think writers on the team still have a bit of a hard time trying to figure out how to even how to level set or how to strike a conversation or even try to understand marketing perspectives. It’s not a question of alignment. It’s more a question of how you approach your jobs.

Ben: So what do you see as the main difference there?

Eeshita: Traditionally technical writers have been very inward focused. The goal being, okay, here’s your piece. You go write it and once you’ve written it, one of your SMEs is going to review it. And that’s the last time you update the content and then you really don’t get an opportunity to talk to someone who’s actually using the content. But when we are–now that I am part of a marketing organization, we get consistency. You get constant feedback from our customers who are reading our content and voicing their opinion and voicing their concerns about what is it that they need from us. But this is again, something that writers are just not familiar with it. It catches them off guard. There is that general tendency of how come this is happening. There’s that question mark that, oh my gosh, why did this come to me now? And I have realized that it’s not a result of the fact that they don’t want to improve. I think it’s just the fact that it’s a different environment. It’s new. It’s a different way of doing things and that is where the mindset shift comes in and mindset shift takes time. It does not happen overnight. Right?

Ben: Now, was this the same alignment before you went to the open floor plan type workspace?

Eeshita: Yes it was. This alignment happened about four years ago.

Ben: Okay. I’m trying to think because I kind of wear both hats because I always have a communication role. I’m translating my technical content to a non-technical audience or at least one that’s not so versed in the jargon. So for me, I’m used to that but I haven’t done software documentation or hardware documentation type work in a really, really long time. Almost everything has been what is this going to mean for the end user? So that part makes a lot of sense to me, but it’s such a different skillset. I think, or it can be a different skillset between being used to working with engineers as subject matter experts compared to working with marketing people. And part of what you’re referencing is the marketing people from what you’re saying seemed to be more outgoing than either the engineers or the technical communication group.

Eeshita: Definitely. And the sheer fact that marketing brings a more customer-oriented perspective is also new. It’s different. It’s a different way of thinking for technical writers who are more comfortable in the traditional way of doing things. When you think about it, being part of marketing suddenly puts technical writing in the forefront of the food chain. It puts in the front of the food chain versus at the very bottom. And suddenly you are the first customer-facing team who’s looking at the product in terms of how it’s designed and also how it’s going to be used. And this is truly where you are going to be expected to play the role of the user’s advocate and all those wonderful phrases that describe technical writing. Many a times I catch my writers and I will point out that we don’t need to explain to the user how a feature has been designed or how it’s been coded, what they really need to know is how to use it.

Eeshita: And then there’s that sudden realization that, “Oh, I was speaking to an engineer and the engineer just told me how they coded the feature, not really how it’s going to be used.” So that gives you another perspective and that’s where marketing comes in and says “Hey, wait a minute. You need to think about it from a user’s perspective.” So the whole concept of sometimes–and this is another point I’ve made with my writers, is that I have come to a realization that we’ve been doing our jobs wrong. Maybe, or maybe we were missing the mark because we have relied on engineers to give us feedback for our content. But the product is not really going to be used by an engineer or really the user doesn’t really care about how the product was designed. What they need to know is how do I use the product?

Ben: Right. So what might have been very handy if it was a software thing such as a system administrators guide, where they may need to know a lot more detail. Because the audiences, again, which it’s supposed to be anyway, but the audience is really the key determinant in terms of what kind of content you’re going to share and how you’re going to share it. Yeah, I can well imagine the engineers going very much in depth about something they’re very passionate about. But for the person who’s going to use the product, like you said, it may just be totally irrelevant. It may not be something they’ll ever do.

Eeshita: Precisely. Yep.

Ben:  Yeah, there was a really–and I’m sure you’re familiar with this book, but there was a–I think it was Alan Cooper’s book on the inmates being in charge of the asylum, and it talked about engineering driving features and products, and part of his discussion was how you kept getting all, “Well, let’s add that. We can do that. Let’s add this.” So I can have it do that without necessarily looking at the usability side of it or whether those features were something that anyone would even want to use.

Eeshita: Yep. That’s very true.

Ben: So it’s an interesting read. It’s been several years since I looked at it, but some of these things just don’t change. So, yeah. It sounds like an interesting structure that you’re in there.

Eeshita: Yes, I really do think that if you are wired to understand your users’ way of doing things and you’re interested in how they’re going to actually use the product, I couldn’t think of a better place to be in as opposed to where I am at right now. Interestingly, recently I attended a couple of sessions related to customer journey mapping of our product and it was quite an eye-opening experience because high tech companies create these products, and they start to ship them and they start to sell them. Very rarely, even today, not much importance is given to usability or let’s vet the product enough before it’s made generally available. That’s one aspect of the story.

Eeshita: The other aspect of this story is the product is really powerful. It comes with a great brand on it. It comes with a great brand name and there’s credibility associated with the product. We definitely need to invest in this. And that’s where the big decision makers come in and put a stake in the ground. And the decision is made for people who have to ramp up from ground zero to learn how to use the product. And that is where the content that my team creates comes in is, is front and center, and that’s where the value add comes in.

Ben: Right, and it’s a very competitive marketplace so you constantly have that. In some ways you have to get it to market or you may miss the opportunity completely. I recently watched a show. It’s on Netflix. It was an A&E program to start with called Halt and Catch Fire. And it had to do with the beginnings of the personal computing industry and it goes forward a decade or so after that. But the whole race to get something to market first and if someone beat you there first, whether it be a portable computer at the time when they were such rare things, or Yahoo getting their search engine embedded into Mozilla initially, it’s kind of like, “Well they got the market share because they got there first.” So I understand the tension. But I guess part of the brand name thing is that people will expect the company to stand behind it and work through whatever the issues are and make the improvements. Yeah, definitely an interesting space in which to work.

Ben: So we connected initially becausey ou were at Lavacon, and you had done a presentation about Introverts and Leadership and we connected after that. And we’ve chatted quite a bit really over the years. And so I’d like to get an idea of–now, so you’re a marketing director, you’re situated between engineering and marketing. How does that work for you? As an introvert, how do you approach your work? What do you find to be strengths? What do you find to be challenges?

Eeshita: What I default to in terms of strengths is always my knowledge around content, and obviously to some degree in my product level knowledge that I have gained over the years. My challenge still remains terms of going out there being sort of the “go getter” or someone who’s going to be absolutely comfortable starting a conversation with a complete stranger. Those are some of the things that still pose to be a bit of a challenge for me. I am thrown into those situations and I have to tell myself that I just have to do it. That’s the only way. Over the years I’ve been able to overcome my inhibitions or shyness if you will, by just constantly telling myself over and over again that I know my subject, I know this best and my job here is to really rely on my own knowledge, my own experience and make sure that the points I make, how I contribute to a discussion is really about me talking through my own expertise.

Eeshita: Not feeling that. Not thinking about the fact that I know less than XYZ or this person knows more than me. That’s always going to be the case. Someone out there is going to obviously know more than you, but there have been–it’s been a series of several incidents where a lot of self assurance has come into play. There have been instances where I have often relied on my own friends’ and my own colleagues’ confidence in me that, “Hey, you know you got this. You know how to do this.” And that has helped immensely. So it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But at the end of the day, you have to want it. You have to want it. And I did. I always knew that I wanted to reach a certain point in my career. I wanted–I have had aspirations, I still have aspirations. And it became very clear to me quite early on that I’d have to get past my own bubble if you will. Get out of it and learn to be more forthcoming and talkative–engaging. Those are the things that are–that don’t come inherently to me.

Achievement doesn't happen overnight. At the end of the day, you have to want it. It became very clear to me quite early on that I'd have to get past my own bubble if you will. Get out of it and learn to be more forthcoming and… Click To Tweet

Ben: So I’m hearing three different things really that have helped you along this. One of these is knowing your subject matter really really well so that you are comfortable and you can rely on that expertise. The other thing I heard out of that was having people express confidence in you. “You’ve got that,” I think is the way you phrased it. I think that part is really really important. And the third thing you mentioned really was it takes time. For me, I’ll look back at it as a series of small successes mainly, but of course there are failures at times too. But you know, definitely a series of things I can look back on that are in some ways markers. I had a friend who referred to them as tokens in a sense that you can look back as achievements that help you realize that, yes, you actually should be in this space. So I think it’s really interesting.

Three keys to helping an introvert become more comfortable networking: 1. Knowing your subject matter really well. 2. Having people express confidence in you 3. Realize it takes time. Click To Tweet

Eeshita: Yup. What surprises me is that I always knew that there wasn’t–I never had stage fright. You put me up in front of people and I have to present. That was never an issue with me. But at the same time, if I was to go to a get together where I probably knew five out of 10 people, even that would be a challenge for me. So it was getting to those self realizations and getting to understand yourself. Like, okay, I’m perfectly comfortable if I’m put in front of a room full of strangers and I have no issue with that. But on the contrary, even I have to be in a get together, where I probably know 50% of the people, there’s that whole “I don’t know if I want to go. Oh, I’m too busy.” You know all of those excuses. [Ben laughing]

Ben: Sounds like me quite a bit as well. Typically I don’t want to go, but that doesn’t mean there’s always an option around it.

Eeshita: Exactly. And that’s kind of where I picked up. I’m okay, as long as I’m talking about things that I know of and I have fairly decent knowledge and experience. I can make conversation. I can talk about those things. And so you get to that point where like “Let’s play it by ear and see how it goes. It might not be that bad,” and slowly but surely you start getting comfortable in those settings as well. And like I said, it takes time. And if I was to tell you how many years it took me, I would say it took me about seven-eight years to sort of be who I am today from what I used to be.

Ben: Well. Awesome.

 

 

Extras

Why Introverts Make Successful Leaders, Lavacon 2017


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Melanie Seibert headshot

Episode 018: Melanie Seibert–Collaboration as an Introvert

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,Podcast,techcomm

Episode 018 Show Notes: Melanie Seibert

Introduction

Melanie Seibert headshot

Melanie Seibert and Ben Woelk chat about what it means to be a content strategist and collaboration as an introvert.

Key concepts

  • Content strategy
  • Collaborative workspaces
  • Creativity exercises

Quotable

So for an introvert, it’s really interesting to be expected to be in office during core business hours every day and working and collaborating closely with people. So it’s interesting to have the opportunity to do that and to find a balance between wanting to sort of get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people.

Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I sort of shy–I tend to shy away from conflict. I don’t feel super comfortable in a situation where I’m expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. That makes me pretty uncomfortable. So my style is more–I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client.

I’ve learned over time that collaboration, while it’s not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to kind of get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs–the products that we make–are so much better when I’m collaborating with other people.

When you get in a room with more than one person and you’re all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

I’ve been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn’t understand or value introverts as leaders as much. They definitely had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. And so in that type of environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective.

It’s kind of fascinating how you need the time and the quiet and the space, or the books even, to recharge. But you’re still able to go out and be very very social. So you’ve definitely built on that skill.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Melanie Seibert. Melanie is a senior content strategist at Willow Tree, Inc.. She’s taught content strategy at General Assembly and helped create digital experiences for Razorfish, RackSpace, and C-Panel. Melanie opines about content strategy on her blog, Prose Kiln at ProseKiln.com. I met Melanie last spring at the STC Summit Conference in Orlando, Florida. You can contact Melanie on Twitter at @Melanie_Seibert, I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com, where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Melanie. I’m really excited you’re joining us today. I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Melanie: Hey Ben. Yeah, it’s really great to be chatting with you again.

Ben: Great! So I want to find out a little bit more about Content Strategy, because I’m not sure how much our listeners will know about this, and honestly, I didn’t know much about it myself until a couple of years ago when I ended up on that Content Strategists list and figured I’d better look this up, and then discovered, “Oh yes, I do do content strategy.” I just wasn’t aware of it. [Melanie laughing] So what can you tell us about your job? What does it mean to be a content strategist? And what is your workplace like?

Melanie: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I got into content strategy. I was a technical writer at a software company and I found that I was documenting UIs [user interfaces] where I had feedback for the Ui itself. So, I would say something like, “Oh, I think that we maybe don’t need to document this, if we change the interface a certain way.” And started really looking into and getting interested in Usability and User Experience from that, and learned that there’s this thing called content strategy. And at the time, Christina Halvorson had just published the first edition of the book Content Strategy for the Web, which was the first book–really popular book about content strategy that I knew about and that I read. And as soon as I learned about it, I was kind of hooked. I had been working as a writer for a really long time and started asking a lot of questions about why are we writing certain things or how should we write them. And the idea of content strategy is really to set up writers and content creators for success. So doing the planning, and the research, and the scheduling, and answering the questions of why, so that when it comes time to create content, writers have that information, and are supported in their role.

Melanie: And that was just super appealing to me, so I’ve been a content strategist ever since then. Today, I work at Willow Tree, which is an agency that makes mobile apps, websites, things like chatbots. But we got our start–the agency got its start–as an app agency. So it’s really a different type of environment for me. I’ve been here for two years. I had never really worked with mobile apps before I came to Willow Tree, but I’ve learned a ton about content strategy and how content works in mobile apps. So it’s been super fun. The company is really amazing, too. The culture’s great. The people are super competent and driven and I learn a ton from them. One thing that’s really interesting about my workplace, is that the company has a really strong point of view on co-location. So for an introvert, it’s really interesting to be expected to be in office during core business hours every day and working and collaborating closely with people. So it’s interesting to have the opportunity to do that and to find a balance between wanting to sort of get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people.

It's interesting to collaborate with people and find a balance between wanting to get away and do my thinking alone, and then having collaboration time with other people. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: So it sounds like an interesting challenge for you being in that kind of workplace in general as a content strategist and maybe work in life in general. Melanie, you said you’re an introvert in the workplace, which obviously was one of the main reasons you’re a guest on the program today. How do you find that being an introvert affects how you approach your work and maybe how does that translate to how you approach life in general? And if so, how?

Melanie: Yeah, so it definitely does. Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I sort of shy–I tend to shy away from conflict. I don’t feel super comfortable in a situation where I’m expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. That makes me pretty uncomfortable. So my style is more–I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client.

Being an introvert to me and my personality means that I tend to shy away from conflict. I don't feel super comfortable in a situation where I'm expected to sort of take the lead and command people to do things. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

On style--I like to collaborate with people. I like to support the people on the team and we all together sort of create a great experience for the client. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: Let’s talk a little bit more about what it’s like being an introvert in your workplace, what you’re finding as challenges and in terms of what do you think of strengths that you have in doing that?

Melanie: Yeah, so as I mentioned, we’re collaborating a lot in my workplace, and sort of my natural bent is to want to sort of go into a hole, and think and do my work alone. I kind of learned that early on in school projects where you realize that you have more control over the output if you just work on it yourself. You don’t have to sort of rely on anyone else, but that obviously doesn’t work when you’re working on a team and you’re working across disciplines to try to create something. So I’ve learned over time that collaboration, while it’s not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to kind of get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs–the products that we make–are so much better when I’m collaborating with other people. People just bring perspectives–that it doesn’t matter really how long you spent thinking about something yourself. When you get in a room with more than one person and you’re all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. So it’s–it’s really been actually helpful for me to grow and kind of learn the value of collaboration.

We're collaborating a lot in my workplace, and sort of my natural bent as an introvert is to want to sort of go into a hole, and think and do my work alone. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

I've learned over time that collaboration, while it's not sort of my natural mode, is definitely more than worth the sort of effort that it takes me to get out of my comfort zone, because the outputs are so much better. Melanie… Click To Tweet

When you get in a room with more than one person and you're all focused on the same thing, you can get perspectives that you wouldn't have access to otherwise. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Melanie:  I’ve also had issues in previous–I’ve been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn’t understand or value introverts as leaders as much. They definitely had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. And so in that type of environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective. And so in that past job, I really didn’t have an opportunity to grow because I wasn’t considered to be sort of leader material. So it took a while over time to sort of learn that I have strengths in other areas than commanding. I have strengths in collaboration. Sort of positivity is a strength that I usually bring to the team. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder, but it’s another type of personality inventory where they sort of list–there are 34 strengths and you have a top ten and a top five. And so the idea is that everyone sort of has their own unique mix of strengths and it’s not that there’s one combination that a leader must have. You can be any combination of strengths and be a leader or be a valuable team member. So it’s taken me some time to figure that out, but I’ve definitely learned that over the years.

I've been in settings before where being an introvert was difficult because the organization didn't understand or value introverts as leaders as much. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

They had a view of leadership as a command-and-control type of leadership. In that environment, an introvert could be seen as ineffective. Melanie Seibert Click To Tweet

Ben: You talked about how in your workplace–that you’re in an environment where you’re expected to collaborate with everyone. In some of my discussions with other guests, one of the big challenges for them has been being in meetings–I guess or collaborative sessions, where as introverts we are so used to processing internally and in many ways finishing our processing and coming up with a well-rounded or well-defined response. How does that work for you? And when you say that you’re–is everybody around a table? Is everybody in a room? How does this actually work?

Melanie: Yeah, there are different types of workshops or activities that we do together, but I will say that typically people are around the table. We have whiteboards, and I think what helps is giving people space and time within the meeting to sort of think. We’ve done activities where there’s a prompt and you’re given two minutes–or five minutes–to think and write something down and then everyone comes back and shares their ideas. Those types of things for me are really great because I don’t feel like I have to sort of jump in, and if everybody’s writing something down then you kind of go around the room and give everyone a chance. So it’s not just the most outspoken people who are contributing. Everybody’s expected to contribute and it just kind of sets up that dynamic so that you don’t–it helps to mitigate that, because I don’t think–I think that’s a common problem. I definitely have that problem. I don’t like to interrupt people. I don’t like to sort of speak up and raise my hand if there’s a momentum to the conversation. So I always assumed that there are other people in the room like me. I think that having an activity that’s crafted with that in mind is pretty helpful. Another thing that I like is to sort of think about it ahead of time. So if you can provide people with the material or whatever it is you’re going to be discussing prior to the meeting, I always like to take that away and look at it ahead of the meeting because I’m the same way. I take time to process and think about things. I’m not as good on my sheet. So that really helps.

Ben: It’s interesting timing wise, because the podcast, I’m currently working on editing with Helen Harbord, I met at TCUK in England early this last fall, and the discussion we were having around meeting behavior got into there are really two types of indiv–I’m sure there are more than two types.–that we talked about two types of people in meetings. You have people like us who are very much waiting for an opportunity to speak, waiting for the other person to stop. But then you have other people who will speak until they’re actually interrupted. So, and don’t assume–and they don’t necessarily assume that anyone else has anything to say unless they actually jump in and interrupt. So we were kind of laughing about that dynamic and how difficult that could be in any kind of workplace setting where you’ve..So you have the A types who do this and the B types who do that. So it’s just funny because some of the themes that we have are recurring. They’re just very common challenges for us as introverts.

Ben: So you had mentioned–we do a pre-podcast questionnaire that we–that I send to our guests so that we’ve got a little bit of a framework about what we’re going to talk about. One of the things that you mentioned on there is that you have, I believe it’s online courses that you’ve developed. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Melanie: Yeah. I got into developing online classes after I learned about General Assembly. And I was working in Austin, Texas at the time and General Assembly was new. If you don’t know what General Assembly is, it’s a company that offers classes to help people. I would say mainly career switching type of folks who want to get into tech or UX or design. It offers classes and I was interested to see whether they had anything on content strategy, because I just think content strategy is like so fascinating and I just wanted to share it with people. And I also feel like it’s a really great career option for people who are in marketing or copywriting or tech writing who sort of find themselves asking a lot of the questions about why we’re doing what we’re doing. So I contacted them and they let me do sort of a two hour Intro to Content Strategy, and I posted about this on my social media and my friends from other cities kept emailing me and saying this is really cool. Is it online anywhere? And at the time they didn’t have online courses and I said, “Well no, but I’m sure if you go online and Google you can probably find something similar.” But when I went online I really had a hard time–at the time this was probably two years ago–finding online courses on content strategy. So I just took that course and took that feedback and made it an online course. So today I have two courses. One’s free and if you go to my website you can sign up for it. It’s just a series of seven emails that come to your inbox and it’s seven discrete lessons and things that you can start doing right away to sort of dip your toe into content strategy and see what it’s like, and if that’s the kind of thing that interests you. And then I also have for people who want to keep going and learn more. I do have a paid course and they’re both listed there on my website.

Ben: I will take a look at that. Like I had mentioned I found out I was a content strategist because the term was relatively new in the industry, and I’m interested in seeing what I can find out from the course, but I do recommend it to our listeners.

Ben: Well, Melanie has been great having our conversation today. I appreciate your time!

Melanie: Yeah, thank you!

Extras

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I’m a keynote speaker at the TCUK 2018 Conference!

Category:Internet Safety,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,techcomm Tags : 

TCUK BannerI’m thrilled and honored to be one of the keynote speakers at TCUK 2018 in September. Technical Communication UK is the annual conference of the  ISTC (Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators). The conference venue is the De Vere Hotel at the Staverton Estate in Daventry, Northamptonshire, England. I’ve been interested in attending the conference for several years–being asked to keynote was an unexpected blessing.

Theme and Programme

The 2018 conference theme is “The Pursuits of the Polymath” (programme). Polymath isn’t a word we use often in the United States. A polymath is a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. Quoting from the TCUK website:

The theme concentrates on the many different skills that technical communicators bring to the profession, so as to support the needs of a diverse and growing clientele.

My role as a technical communicator includes skills in leadership, technical communication, and cybersecurity.

I’ll be speaking three times at the conference, providing the opening keynote about my  Journey to Leadership as an Introvert, facilitating a workshop on Temperament-based Strategies for the Workplace, and wrapping up with a discussion of Digital Self Defence: Staying Safe Online. Yes, I’ll be busy, but I’m excited to share my passions with my European colleagues.

European Perspectives

I’m looking forward to hearing a non-North American perspective on the work we do as technical communicators. Although there are shared challenges, there are also differences! Many of our European colleagues are doing exciting cutting-edge work around Information 4.0, AI, and molecular content, aspects of which are becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. I’m also expecting some interesting discussions with the ISTC folk about the challenges they and STC face as non profit organizations.

I’m eagerly anticipating meeting a number of friends face-to-face, whom I’ve followed and chatted with over the course of my career. We’ve often rued the fact that we haven’t had that opportunity. Now we will!

Do you have plans the last week of September? If not, join us at TCUK! I look forward to sharing my TCUK experiences in the Hope for the Introvert podcast series.


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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 (https://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. (https://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 (https://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 https://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 (https://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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An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadchange,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Presentations,STC,Summit,techcomm Tags : 

An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

I had the privilege of presenting An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at the STC Summit Conference in Anaheim. I was a bit apprehensive about the presentation, because I was talking about myself and sharing stories that made me vulnerable. (As an introvert, that’s not something I’m comfortable doing.)

The response was amazing. For those two days of the STC Summit and the week afterwards, I have made more and meaningful connections than I’d made in years. My next post will talk about how I’m trying to keep the discussion going.

 


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