I was the president of the Society for Technical Communication Canada West Coast chapter for 2008-2009. It was a very vibrant and exciting year for the chapter, which had been faltering when I volunteered to be president, due to lack of volunteers to keep things running. The year ended on a high note, with the chapter winning the STC Pacesetter Award for using technology to serve our members.
The chapter also won a Pacesetter Award in 2012 for its information interview service, an idea that I pioneered and that other chapters (including the New York Metro chapter) have emulated. For details see the chapter website.
Liessi Häussler, president of Cyberscribe Solutions, said:
“Thanks for the kind mentions, Karen, and for all you’ve done to change this little corner of the world. Your time at the helm has made an enormous difference, all for the positive.”
Rahel Bailie, president of Intentional Design, said:
“I’ve worked with Karen as an STC volunteer for two terms, and both times she has shown a level of dedication and professionalism that is admirable. She revitalized the chapter during a time when, due to recession factors, volunteerism had dipped badly, and chapter operations were compromised. Karen stepped in, created a strategic plan, and socialized her vision throughout the membership. The crowning accolade was the chapter winning an award for creative use of technologies. Karen has shown herself to be a people person. Her leadership style shows how she values human relationships and works hard at ensuring that the volunteers are appreciated for their contributions.”
Pam Drucker, STC senior member and blogger at Shorter Documents, said:
“Your leadership pulled us through the 2008-2009 year. The outcome was an event to celebrate. It’s an understatement to say you oversaw many activities. This recap gives breadth to the year’s challenges and successes in thoughtful and meaningful terms. I hope you will repost your final message [to the chapter] on the wiki to serve as a guide for future executives. I simply want to say thank you for accepting the challenge, giving your extraordinary energy, and for fulfilling a vision that by all measures has allowed our chapter to thrive again. Great job!”
Highlights of the Year
I’ve selected some highlights from the year I was president, to show the community spirit I helped foster in the Vancouver technical writing community. Bringing people together and sharing our talents, knowledge, and wishes for the future helped our chapter members shine and grow during the year.
The May program meeting included an Academy Awards night for the chapter, with awards going to the full gamut of chapter members, from the newest to the most senior:
- Rahel Bailie was honoured for achieving the distinction of STC Fellow; our chapter’s other Fellow and co-founder, Sheila Jones of International Wordsmiths, welcomed Rahel into this elite echelon with an entertaining talk about Rahel’s accomplishments and contributions to the chapter and the profession.
- Heather Sommerville won the award for Volunteer of the Year, for her dual role as programs team lead and volunteer coordinator.
- Two Print Futures graduates shared the prize for the Julia Broderick Scholarship; one student, Amanda Lee, who received honourable mention, was at the program meeting to graciously accept the award in memory of Julia. The other student, Crystal Auffray, showed great enthusiasm for technology and technical writing and currently works in Victoria.
- The chapter won the Chapter Pacesetter award for our use of technology to enhance all functions of the chapter.
A Year of Great Programs
In looking back over the year, I was thrilled at the variety and quality of program events we had:
- September’s kick-off meeting began with an introduction to the volunteers and the year’s theme of making a difference, followed by RJ Jacquez’s remote presentation from San Diego, CA about the new Adobe Suite; the presentation was broadcast to remote participants.
- November’s program by Jack Molisani taught us all how to earn six figures as technical writers, and was also our AGM.
- January’s Yoga for the Office presentation, by yours truly, brought some flexibility into our daily work lives.
- February’s program with Joe Welinski gave us ideas for finding and creating work in technical communications by providing leading-edge user assistance.
- March’s Pecha Kucha presentation, with slide shows by eight of our chapter’s members, on a variety of technical and non-technical topics, was entertaining and helped us get to know our members better.
- April’s program on Ideation Design, with Jerome Ryckborst, gave us another method for promoting ourselves and contributing in the work place.
- May’s program, with Susan Patch describing Agile Development, encouraged us to get involved early and often in the product development process; we also had a chapter Awards ceremony, and Susan’s presentation was recorded for remote members.
All of the programs were well attended, with about 30 members on average, and close to 100 people came to the presentation on earning six figures! This year the executive decided to make the programs free for members, which seemed to encourage more people to come to meetings. We also had the enticement of wonderful refreshments, generously provided by Liessi Haussler and Cyberscribe Solutions! But these events would not have been possible without the hard work of Heather Sommerville, Pam Drucker, and various other elves who worked behind the scenes throughout the year, including Lois Patterson, James Lee, Bruce Sharpe, Tracey Heyworth, and Tony Chung.
We had 12 volunteers who continued on from the 2007-2008 program year in June 2008, and by the end of the year, in June 2009, we had 27 volunteers lined up for the coming year.
Active Forum Participation
I encouraged members to make use of the forum as a means of communicating their needs to the volunteer team, and for continuing to build the sense of community we share as a chapter. Tracey Martinsen was the forum gardener, planting seeds of topics for us all to ponder, explore, and contribute to if we felt called to do so. I was just thinking over the topics I remember, and concluded that Bumper Sticker Wisdom was my favourite. It looks like I’m not the only one; with 1,885 views, this was the favourite topic of the year!
Making a Difference
The theme I chose for my year as president was making a difference in the world, and I feel moved to have worked with a wonderful team of volunteers who are all making a difference in this world in many ways. Their contributions extended well beyond the generous giving of their time to the STC CWC chapter. Some of these ways were celebrated in the forum topic on Making a Difference, but many volunteers and members were too modest to post in public about the great things they do! Here are excerpts from postings in the forum that list a few of the ways our members are being the change they want to see in the world:
- taking public transit
- growing their own produce
- taking dogs to visit people in hospital
- introducing city dwellers to outdoor winter sports such as snowshoeing
- teaching yoga and meditation to young adults in prison
- helping feed the homeless and people with HIV
- working at the farmers’ market
- doing sound setup for church services
- engaging in Jewish-Muslim dialog at a synagogue
- raising children and teaching grandchildren
- revolutionizing the teaching system
- supporting cancer research
- buying items secondhand to reduce the strain on the earth’s resources
- supporting musicians and writers by promoting their work
- promoting awareness of how destructive big business is to our lovely planet and all who sail her
- helping a company develop a “smart grid” system that will help us make better use of our existing (aging) power infrastructure
- web designing for a charity that raises money for anti-poverty projects in India
- helping with a campaign to ban grizzly hunting in BC and protect grizzly habitat
We are all inspired and uplifted when people share their stories.