Category Archives: STC

Society for Technical Communication

Reflections from the STC 2014 Annual Summit

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.

Last Thoughts

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.

STC 2014 Summit – Reflection in Tweets

I have to say that this has been probably my most favorite STC Summit trip. I really enjoyed the sessions, activities, and social hours.

Roger at the STC Business Meeting

Roger at the STC Business Meeting.
Photo by Rachel Houghton

Trust me, I am NOT an extrovert. I love my quiet moments and I am still recovering from this conference.

While I was traveling back home last week, here is my list of highlights from the Summit, some in the form of tweets.

I had a great time meeting eeryone and I hope I can volunteer more with other projects in store. I see that I may provide some help with community websites and offer my skills with WordPress.

More remarks about the conference soon. I need some downtime and house sitting a couple of dogs for a friend is helping me wind down.

Guide to Navigating STC 2014 Annual Summit

For the third year in a row, I am sharing my guide for attending STC Summit. Here’s my guide from last year and quick guide from 2012. I’ve updated it for the STC 2014 Summit in dry and hot Phoenix, AZ. After attending six STC Conferences, several regional conferences (Phoenix, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Rochester), and LavaCon, I provide here some hints to maximize your conference experience. Enjoy and share!


Tweeting at the Summit

Tweeting at the Summit



STC Summit Keynote

STC 2012 Summit Keynote

  • Spend 20-30 minutes planning which sessions you will attend. Read the Conference Program provided to you in your conference bag. Also, use the Lanyrd Conference Website to help you decide!
  • Select primary and secondary sessions for each hour, some session material may be available for preview on SlideShare.
  • Determine within the first 5-10 minutes if a session excites you; if not, go to your secondary session.
  • Ask questions at the end of the session.
    • Be persistent! As a presenter, I love when people ask me questions. So, do it!
  • Complete post-session speaker evaluation(s). Visit the STC 2014 Survey Monkey Survey site.
  • Look for presentation slides after the sessions from presenters on SlideShare.


STC Summit Networking

STC Summit Networking

  • Spend about $30 for business cards from VistaPrint if you have none. Remember to pack them.
  • Hand out business cards to anyone you meet.
  • Write a note on the back of each person’s business card to remind you how you met them.
  • Bring paper and electronic copies of your résumé. This may result in a job opportunity after the conference. Google representatives will be attending the STC Summit and are looking to hire technical writers.

Break Times

After the Conference

  • Continue networking via Twitter, LinkedIn, and e-mail.
  • Look for an e-mail during the summer announcing when [email protected] is available.
  • Read the conference proceedings.
  • Plan for next year, and convince your company to pay for it!
  • Look for a for Call for Speakers via e-mail; maybe you can present next year.
  • Keep up with current trends—check STC NotebookIntercomTechWhirl, and TechComm.

It’s your conference experience; make the most of it! If you want to hang out during the conference, find me by sending me a message via Twitter: @RogerRenteria. I will be attending and helping out at Leadership Day, and presenting during the Lightning Talks 2 session. Watch me stumble for five minutes. 🙂