I came across this via Viqui Dill on Facebook. This is done by Carolyn Kelley Klinger, who is a very active member of the STC. This is a great overview of the potential of tech comm in the coming year. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!
The event is still about three and a half months away, but I decided that this year, I’m going to go to another big tech comm conference. I really feel that going to a professional conference truly benefits me, because I learn SO much from people who have more experience and know-how than I do. Just attending the Adobe Day at Lavacon last fall boosted my IQ enormously, and I have to credit information that I learned there in helping me get the content strategy/web publishing job that I have now. All the forward-looking thinkers attend these sort of events, and I don’t want to miss out.
I’m going to a really big one this time too. I’m going to my first STC (Society of Technical Communication) Summit. I’ve been a member of the STC for the past year, and just re-upped my membership for a second year. It’s not a cheap membership, especially for someone who’s just getting started. I started at the affordable student rate when I was still a student, and fortunately I can still take advantage of their “new professional rate” being that I’m still rather new out of school. It’s been worth it, as I’ve met several people who are members, and I think there needs to be some sort of organization that helps to bind the profession together and provide resources for all tech comm professionals, both new and experienced. This year’s Summit is in Atlanta, Georgia. I haven’t been to Atlanta for slightly more than twenty years, and again, it was for computer training, I think. Atlanta has changed a bit since that time, so it should be interesting to see it now.
I’m looking forward to not only going to the various talks and events from the STC Summit, but I’m also looking forward to seeing people I know from online and those whom I met at Adobe Day at Lavacon, but also meeting new people. Conferences are a great way to connect with people who have similar professional experiences as you do, and that you can share information in person. Ha, I was just thinking this is almost like the biggest gathering of “Technical Communicators Anonymous” addicts! But seriously, It’s an incredible opportunity to meet with the movers and shakers in the tech comm world, as well as meet those rising stars and foot soldiers who brave through content every day like you do. It’s a great time when the academic side of tech comm meets the corporate side of tech comm. So, just from a social networking perspective, it’s going to be big.
I also heard from a little bird that there might even be another Adobe Day event especially for the STC Summit, but that hasn’t been confirmed. And if there is, you know that I’ll be there to check that out. I loved my Adobe pre-conference experience from Lavacon a lot, as you know, so I can’t even imagine how great this one could be….If there is another one, you can be sure that I’ll be passing the word along and letting all of y’all know. (Yes, practicing my Southern accent in writing already. ;-))
I think the difference, this time, will also be that I am truly a tech comm professional now. Yes, I’ve been talking the talk for a long time, blogging, doing the social media thing, doing some odd jobs here and there, but only in the past month have I gotten a real tech comm job working on content management. I will not be an unemployed wannabe this time around. For the STC Summit, I will be a fully-fledged technical communicator.
And for these reasons, I can’t wait to go! I know I’ll be packing my iPad and iPhone…but what else will I need (other than clothes, of course)? STC Summit alumni–let me know! Let me know if you’ll be going too!
I’ve been reflecting a lot, lately, into what makes me continue to pursue a technical career, especially in technical communications. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been doing in the last year to stay on top of trends and issues in the technical communications field, because the last thing that a prospective employer needs is someone who is stuck in his or her own ways, never learning and never progressing. Technology is constantly changing, and both technical communications at-large as well as the e-learning world are both in the flux of a “revolution”–a revolution that reflects that these fields are in the process of changing and revitalizing in order to keep up with modern thought and technological advances. One of the reason I try to stay as active as possible in social media is to stay on top of those trends and have an understanding of the current issues and advances in these fields so that I can go into a job understanding what the needs of a company are in order to help that company move forward.
And yet, it seems like there are so many companies, from my own observation, that are terrified of change and progress. Is it too much too soon? Perhaps it is. I’ve talked about this topic before at length specifically in regard to how the m-learning revolution is trying to make headway in the e-learning field in my post, “What Are You So Afraid Of?” back in July 2012. But as my most recent experiences personally have been more tech comm related, I’m starting to think that this fear of progress extends to the tech comm world as well.
I remember a big part of what was mentioned at the Adobe Day panel was the idea that as technical communicators, we understand the value of our work better than the higher-ups in managerial positions, and it’s our duty, in many respects to make sure that these higher-ups understand that value and the ROI (return on investment) that using structured content and other tools at a technical communicator’s disposal will benefit the company in the long run. When I’ve gone on interviews or worked at various jobs, I talk about the advances that are going on involving mobile technology and how companies need to keep up with this fast-growing technology. While the interviewers or other people I speak with are impressed with my knowledge and agree the changes need to be made, the argument made is that the higher-ups, who don’t understand this value of technical communications as well as we do, insist on sticking with old ways, and slowing down progress for the sake of comfort levels. It’s a “Don’t fix what ain’t broken”-kind of mentality. I know that sometimes budgets can limit how soon progress is made, because ever-changing technological advances can be expensive, especially if one is always trying to keep up with the latest and greatest. But I also know that spending a lot of money on ancient systems that aren’t keeping up with current technology and even supporting such ancient technology and methods that aren’t even supported today is throwing money away too. Would we even have smartphones or cell phones if we settled for landline phones only? Would microprocessing computers have even been invented if we settled for manual typewriters long ago? Settling for the old doesn’t really benefit anyone, especially global companies that want to stay ahead of the competition.
The photo above is a favorite character on one of my favorite TV series, “Torchwood,” named Captain Jack. Captain Jack is generally a fearless guy, especially since he has some sort of capability where he cannot die. In that sense, when up against some sort of danger personally, he’s got nothing to lose at all. But since he’s lived for so long, he also respects the past and understands the full impact of his actions and how they affect others. Despite having nothing to lose by his actions, he’s actually the conservative one when it comes to making decisions, basing his actions on what he knows and what he researches first. He is cautious, but he’s not against trying something new if it makes sense. If you see him with a facial expression like the one he has above, you KNOW that something REALLY bad is going on, and it has greater repercussions beyond himself.
There are times that I have that same feeling, at least in my own mind. While I respect that certain systems work and work well, and I know I’m not the most experienced technical communicator out there, I’ve done some due diligence, and again, I try to keep up with what’s going on in the world so that I’m ready to keep up with the latest advances and thought in the field. When I hear that companies are hesitant to budge from an old way of thinking, I feel frustrated. How are these companies supposed to keep their standings as world-class, advanced companies when their communications are not cutting edge, or at least up-to-date? Again, I understand that executive managers have to look at the full picture and work within budgets, but with a world that is going mobile faster than anyone can keep up with, why aren’t big companies even attempting to keep up even a little bit? Just as I had mentioned in the last article on this topic relating to m-learning mentioned above, I see it occurring in tech comm itself as well, with companies not keeping up with the latest version of how documentation outputs have to be changed to keep up with mobile technology. There is little risk with proven methods.
As a global economy–not just in the United States–we are trying to emerge from one of the biggest financial crises in economic history. Looking back at history, it’s usually during these times of economic woe that some of the greatest leaps in technology and business have been made, using great intellect and creativity to push things forward when resources were scarce. This is a time of emergence again. There are so many companies that have taken the leap forward to help take us to the next step. Smartphone and tablet manufacturers have brought us the next means of gathering information and providing communication between us. In turn, software manufacturers, like Adobe with TCS 4 and MadCap with Flare, among others, have provided us with tools to help take the content that technical communicators write to a new level of efficiency and flexibility among all the new mobile devices in the world while still keeping up with desktop capabilities. If any companies embrace any of the changes that are going on in the technical communications field, they can deliver bigger and better communications thus benefitting from the changes, not being hindered by them.
So, what are you so afraid of, corporate world? Help technical communicators help you. Even the smallest step forward will be step towards a better future for your company.
This post is just a quick summary of the Adobe Day at LavaCon 2012 series from this past week. As you see, there was so much information that it took six posts to try to summarize the event!
Being in Portland, Oregon was great. It was my first trip there, and being a native Easterner, my thoughts pushed me to that pioneer spirit of moving westward in this country. Once there, I saw a hip, young, modern city, continuing to look towards the future. The information I gathered at Adobe Day was general information that was endorsement-free, and practical information that I can use going forward as a technical communicator, and that by sharing it, I hope that others in the field will equally take on that pioneering spirit to advance what technical communications is all about, and bring the field to the next level.
To roundup the series, please go to these posts to get the full story of this great event. I hope to go to more events like this in the future!
- Adobe Day Presentations: Part I – Scott Abel and Structured Content
- Adobe Day Presentations: Part II – Sarah O’Keefe and Content Strategy
- Adobe Day Presentations: Part III – Joe Welinske and Multi-Screen Help Authoring
- Adobe Day Presentations: Part IV – Val Swisher asks, “Are You Global Ready?”
- Adobe Day Presentations: Part V – Mark Lewis and DITA Metrics
- Missed Adobe Day at LavaCon2012? Here’s the scoop…
As I said, I really enjoyed the event, and learned so much, and enjoyed not only listening to all the speakers, but also enjoyed so many people who are renowned enthusiasts and specialists in the technical communications field and talking “shop”. I rarely get to do that at home (although it does help to have an e-learning developer in the house who understands me), so this was a chance for me to learn from those who have been doing this for a while and not only have seen the changes, but are part of the movement to make changes going forward.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blog posts. I still have many more to come–at least one more that is inspired by my trip out to Portland, and I look forward to bringing more curated content and commentary to you!