Apart from my active tweeting, surprise karaoke singing, and constant networking, I was able to gather some great information from this conference. Let me summarize my most memorable seminars I felt were extremely useful and I hope you can get something out of it as well. The sessions I attended center around the theme of career advancement and future opportunities.
API Technical Writing: Why, What, and How – Sarah Maddox
I went to Sarah’s seminar because I want to learn more about Application Protocol Interface (API) documentation. Currently, there is a demand for technical writers with coding experience, especially to document APIs. Her presentation was extremely useful because she introduced you to API documentation, even if you did not know much about structured programming or write code. She showed you how to find patterns in code and how to write technical documentation for it. After attending her session, I felt more confident about learning how to code and then add it to my resume. As long as I understand the basics of programming, can identify patterns, and document it well, this skill will be essential for future opportunities.
In addition, Google was searching for technical writers with API experience. The recruiter suggested that applicants without programming experience try to learn a programming language and apply. There may be an opportunity somewhere that will need this kind of technical communication talent.
So, You Want To Teach Technical Communication – Michael Opsteegh
Another goal in my career is to teach technical communication for students. I felt it was appropriate to attend Michael’s progression to learn about ways to get myself in the door for teaching. I think that my contribution to the field will be to educate new and current professionals. Also, how can you teach technical communication to new professionals who want to enter into the field? I see a major opportunity in the next decade where we will see many professionals retire and we need to bridge that gap in demand for great technical writers who work smarter, not harder. Michael was very candid about how he got himself into the teaching field. He said it took him several years of networking until the right moment came up for when he could teach in the classroom. In addition to his experience, he suggested ways to get your foot in the door was to offer or volunteer to guest lecture. There are opportunities to teach, but it takes patience and persistence.
How Did You Get That Tech Comm Job? – Danielle Marie Villegas
Danielle, a.k.a. TechCommGeekMom, is one of my favorite presenters to listen to. Her anecdotes are straightforward and derived from her experience jumping into the field and how she turned into an amazing technical communicator. Danielle’s stories are relatable, regardless if you have been in the field for thirty years or three years. In her session, she talked about techniques for “getting that job” and suggestions to improve the chances of getting hired. The greatest takeaway from her session was to organize your resume based on functional skills instead of by job history. This format change is difficult to accomplish, but it is another way to showcase your skills by moving your skills further to the top of the page and keeping your job history concise without the selling yourself short.
I wish she could facilitate a two or four-hour workshop where you take your existing resume and have your peers help organize it into a skills-based resume.
Fixing Typos, Fixing Sexism – Elizabeth Barteau
Gender equality is an important topic to discuss and it’s important to find ways to write technical documents where gender specific words are not used and “he or she” is not replaced with “they.” (My apologies in advance, I anticipate comments about this topic and the proper usage.) I went to this progression because I wanted to support my former classmate from New Mexico Tech. (Disclosure: I suggested that Elizabeth submit a proposal for the Summit and see if it goes through. Luckily, it went through and now she can add it to her resume as having presented at a major conference.) During Elizabeth’s session, she mentioned that there are ways to write sentences that are gender neutral. She also brought research material that discussed the subject further. To be quite honest, I remember very little of maintaining gender-neutral sentences and this progression session was a great refresher.
Be the Captain of Your Career – Jack Molisani
Jack can sell you on his view of charting your career and taking the best opportunities out there. He is an excellent presenter who will spend an extra 15 minutes after his session is over and keep your attention. Many of his points are snippets from his recently published book with the same title, “Be The Captain of Your Career.” He derives his stories from his experience as a technical communicator, technical recruiter, and executive director of LavaCon. Jack’s main message is to keep sending ships, like how families sent ships to the New World, in hopes that one will return with unfathomable riches. His present-time analogy is to make connections, continue the dialog, and wait for one to return your message with the next great opportunity. I would recommend picking up his book, it reads as if Jack is with you narrating his book.
In conclusion, this STC Summit was my favorite of all. What I hope I can do next year is persuade more colleagues to consider going and make the case that attending Summit is not only educational, but also empowering for all technical communicators. In contrast to smaller events, where it is low cost and high value, this conference brings together technical communicators from across the continent and world to share their ideas and experiences with the rest of us.