What can you tell us about your experiences in the STC leadership as a director?
My term as director took place from 2004-2007. It was a time of great transition for STC. We were in the midst of an initiative called “The Transformation” whose intent was to move us from a 1950’s style of professional society to one that was relevant in what we called “The New Millenium.” To say this was a difficult exercise was an understatement. STC membership was factioned into three main groups, educators, publishers, and practitioners. The first two groups were the remnants of the two professional societies that merged, and the last group was the emerging and soon-to-be dominant group. We had to make sure all three of these groups were being served equally well. We also had to adapt to the internet, which was fast becoming a primary delivery method of value for many groups. Instead of depending upon face-to-face meetings, regional conferences, and the national conference, as well as print journals, we now needed to develop forums, email newsletters, content, which became our Communities of Practice. This was all fine and well and good, but we needed a governance structure that could address all of this change.
So – if that wasn’t enough, we unfortunately discovered the need to remove our previous Executive Director (and find a replacement) and in doing so found that much of our legal underpinnings were no longer adequate. This occupied a lot of our time and attention, and forced us to find a balance between “taking care of business” and providing excellent value to our membership. In reflecting back, I do believe our board did a very good job of this under difficult circumstances.
So – what did I learn from all of this? First of all, I headed up the bylaws committee. Sounds dull, but in reality, I flew to the Arlington VA headquarters weekly for a period of time to completely review and rewrite our Society bylaws with the help of a NYC attorney specializing in this. I learned the inner workings of these type of documents and just how important (and legally binding they are). It was an education in professional society management that I think few in our profession have the opportunity to have. Second, I learned a lot about non-profit organization governance. The third, was how to be a leader and balance the needs of the organization from a legal and sustainability perspective with the more immediate needs of the membership. All leaders run into this, but with STC we were front and center and often felt we were under a microscope.
How has your career morphed over the years and how have your experiences as a tech writer let you do what you do today?
Even though I no longer am a technical writer full time, my ability to analyze complex systems (whether they be technical, regulatory, or social) and make sense of them are a direct result of my experiences as a tech writer. I know how to ask questions and interview people in a structured and logical way. I can read large volumes of existing content and pick out what I need to know and what I don’t need to know. Also, I can write coherent reports, emails, studies, and proposals. Finally, my ability to put together a project plan, and execute that plan are right from my days as a technical writer. On a slightly different topic, I also started an ran a technical writing/instructional design company during that period which also helped me learn about business, sales, and organizational development.
What is a typical work day/week like for you in the roles you currently have?
My work today, as owner of BrainSpark, involves analyzing and planning workforces, and then developing systems that help them hire better, develop their staff, and build teams that function effectively. Typical days include a balance of new business development (sales), servicing my clients very well, and developing my skills so that I can be relevant and provide more value to my customers. I block my time out so that I can do these as effectively and as stress-free as possible.
Do you have any other thoughts to share with our readers?
I treasure my background as a technical writer. My B.A. degree was in technical writing, and as I look back over the past three-plus decades it turned into something much more than I could have ever anticipated. The skills and understanding of people and people-systems continue to serve me very well and have allowed me to help others be successful in their pursuits as well. Who could ask for more from a profession?