Realizing your worth in tech comm

If Captain Janeway can take a look at herself and see where she’s grown and succeeded, so can I.

Hello all,

It’s been quite a while since I wrote an original post here, and that’s because I’ve been THAT busy.  I don’t even remember when that last original post was written, that’s how long it’s been! But I have a moment before things get crazy again, so I thought I’d catch up with you for a bit.

The past year or so has been crazy busy. I feel like I’m barely coming up for air right now. I had been working as a content strategist for the past ten months or so for a global pharmaceutical company, so at least I was partially employed. I say partially because I was told it would be a part-time contract job that would turn full-time contract job, and I wasn’t even making the hours initially promised.  While the pay was good, and I liked the fact that I could still work from home, it wasn’t enough to make a living with very few billable hours, so I had to look for something else. Next week, I’ll be starting a new job as a content management specialist at a global company that’s just a five minute drive from my house. While I will sorely miss working from my home, I will be close enough that I can get home quickly to continue keeping things structured at home. I’ll also be having the opportunity to do some work using DITA/XML, which I’m excited about. I’ve been learning about it for the past couple of years, but now I’m going to be learning to apply what I’ve learned.  This is the first time that I’ve actually left a job voluntarily in a long time. For most of the past ten years, I had to leave a job because of a contract ending and not being extended. Only once was it semi-voluntary whereby I didn’t like the job, and asked not to have my contract renewed (and then was unemployed for a while). This is the first time in a long time where I had a viable job, and left it for another one. I don’t think I’ve done that for so many years that I’ve lost track.

During this same time that I was doing the content strategy work and job searching, I also taught another graduate level university class, did some freelance work, and running the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter as President, Conference Chair, and Sponsorship Chair. Since we moved the STC-PMC conference to the Franklin Institute this past year, there was so much more preparation and fundraising with sponsorship from past years, and naturally with all these things going on, I decided to torture myself by taking an online course in UX Design from the University of Cape Town.  Throw in all the parenting and family responsibilities as well, and yeah, it’s not surprising that I got very burnt out for most of this year.

Understandably, I made some decisions that will hopefully alleviate some of these stresses. First, we’ll start with the parenting/family stuff. My son graduated from high school yesterday. So, no more calls from school, no more getting after him about homework and his grades, etc. We got him through his basic education. Next year, he’s going to be starting coursework on automotive engineering which I think will suit him well.  We’re not sure where his path is going to take him after this course work, but it’s a start with something that’s more along the lines of his interests and talents than traditional coursework.  So, that means that I don’t have to deal with homework or the stresses of “mom duties” in the same way. He’s a young adult now, and we’ll have to deal with things differently.

Next, I decided that I don’t want to teach next year or possibly for a while. My teaching adventures were good, but last year just put too much stress on me, and it wasn’t fun (it might have been the subject I had to teach as well). So, this is not to say that I’ll never teach again, but just not anytime soon.

The freelance job–well, that will still happen. That doesn’t take up much time at all, so that will stay.

I’m trying to better delegate my STC responsibilities for the next program year. We have a new “administration” coming in with the exception of me–I’m staying as president of the chapter. But that said, I’ve made it fairly clear that I can’t continue as the sponsorship chair and conference chair. I can help set up the venue for next year, but I can’t be doing the speaker management, publicity, and raising all the funding as well. It’s just too much. So, unless some people step up (and I’m happy to talk to anyone interested), we won’t have a conference next year. I just can’t do it all myself.  So, we’ll see what happens.  I’m still very happy to support STC and STC-PMC, but something has to give, and I need to delegate instead of taking it all on myself. Y’know?

I won’t take any more classes, either. The UX design course was something that I felt would augment my job pursuits whether I stayed where I was or went elsewhere, and I’m glad I took the course. My newly former boss was happy that I did take the course, and encouraged me to continue with UX design work because he felt that my knowledge between content strategy and UX strategy was a valuable asset he was sorry that he wouldn’t have available to him anymore.

So, the last part is related to that–moving on with the new job. It’s a full-time contract with opportunity for renewal and possibly more down the road (it’s a new department), but it’s an opportunity to work with others who do more of what I like, and an opportunity to enhance my learning as well.

So, what does all of this have to do with realizing your worth? Everything.

As a worker, I learned that I know a lot more about content strategy and how to approach it than I gave myself credit for. I can easily say with confidence that I helped to establish the parameters of what it means to do content strategy at the company I just left. There were no content strategy people there before–I was the first one they had, and while I had some frustrations in getting established there, I set the tone going forward on how content needed to be approached with the clients in conjunction with user experience design and strategy, visual design, and development. I worked on truly Agile teams, and made my mark. My former manager was sad to let me go, because he told me that he appreciated my way of thinking with marketing, content, customer experience, UX and other aspects of what digital should be about, and how I dealt with the incredible variety of clients we had and their different projects. There was a point that I knew I made my mark when he started quoting me on how to approach things! So in that respect, I started to truly realize my worth as a content strategist. It was no more “fake it ’til you make it”. I was doing it, and doing it well enough that my former manager said there will always be a position open for me if I decided to go back to that company. Nice invitation to have. 🙂

Between teaching and my STC-PMC responsibilities, I learned that I can help people learn and help bolster them to be better people at whatever they are doing. I’m not perfect at it, but I’ve worked to encourage people whenever possible, provide mentoring or advice when I could, but I tried not to be domineering as I did it. I know that I have a strong personality and that I could just force my way through everything, and it was a test in patience and encouragement and finding balance in letting others provide their feedback and suggestions as well.  My STC-PMC leadership as president and conference chair really put me to the test. I had so much on the line with the new location of CONDUIT in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute that it would either make or break the chapter. Fortunately, it helped to make the chapter stronger. We had new faces, and new presentations, and new ideas that came in this year as well as support from returning attendees and presenters. My council supported me in sometimes picking up the slack where I had dropped things, but continued to put their faith in my leadership.  I had always wanted the opportunity to be a leader, and a good portion of this year I was terrified of failing completely. While I had some failures, I had more successes, and so I came out ahead, and that made me realize my worth as a leader.

Even Captain Marvel had to discover that she had more to offer and had the power to be who she was destined to be.

So, through all the trials and tribulations of the past year or so, I’ve made it through. I am trying to simplify my life by dropping some things and delegating some other things so I can forge ahead towards new opportunities.  I’m truly hoping that everything I’ve gone through in the past year will take me in a positive direction going forward–hopefully in a less chaotic way. I need some time for me now.

I have a summer where I’m starting a new job that I think I’m going to enjoy,  less chaos related to STC-PMC, no courses to take or prep for teaching, and I can relax–just a little bit–to rediscover ME and appreciate that I’M WORTH IT.

What changes have you had in the last year–professionally or personally–that helped you find your own worth? Include your comments below.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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