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My 2016 Tech Comm Resolutions

It's been almost four months since I last posted to this blog, and many exciting events happened. My employer, Canary Systems, Inc., decided to retain me as their technical writer after my 90-day probationary period, I stepped up to become the vice president of the Society for Technical Communication (STC)'s New England Chapter, and I was the student liaison to the STC Board of Directors for their November 2015 meeting. I am finding new ways to polish my skills and learn the profession by taking on these duties, and I want to set resolutions for my career in 2016.

Be More Hands-On
My first resolution is to be more hands-on at work. By that, I mean do more than just sit at my desk and compose Canary Systems' instruction manuals and help files. When I first interviewed for my current position almost eight months ago, the president and marketing director told me that their long-term plans included overhauling how they present their information to users, and creating a better training program for clients and users new to the MultiLogger® software. When I heard this at my interview, I expressed my interest and excitement, but I have not yet had a chance to be part of that process. I am still helping them catch up with their documentation obligations for the 2015 release of the software, and I will start on the 2016 documentation soon. However, I am hopeful that once I catch up with the documentation obligations for 2016, I can devote most of the year to improving Canary's Systems' library of application notes, and I can be a part of improving the training program for new users. That way, I can feel like I do more than just update the user's guides and help files, I will feel like I'm a part of the creative process for delivering information to users.

Learn New Skills
I have used many of the skills I honed in my undergraduate and graduate education at my current position, but I'm always looking to learn more skills to stay current in the field. This past year, for example, I finally got to use Doc-to-Help, an authoring tool used to create help files for software. However, I'm using version 2011, and I know that it has since been replaced by version 2014. In addition, there are other documentation tools that could improve my productivity and expedite the documents' release, including single-sourcing software and content management systems, which would allow me to keep a library of information, and then I could insert or remove pieces of information as appropriate, rather than tediously typing away the keyboard in front of Microsoft Word to update a user's guide. When I visit the Society for Technical Communication's Summit this year in Anaheim, California, I know there will be vendors from big-name companies like MadCap and Adobe who will answer my questions and point me in the right direction so I can choose a product that will benefit everyone who's involved with documentation at Canary Systems. When I find a suitable software package, I want to learn it so I can take my skills to the next level and pass the fruits of them onto Canary Systems and its users.

Being Active in My Role as Vice President of STC New England
As I mentioned earlier, I was inducted as vice president of STC New England. I assumed my role last month, and my first tasks were to continue the chapter's student outreach and to coordinate a program for this February. I am trying to combine both. For the program, the New England chapter is working with other chapters in Rochester, New York, and the Twin Cities in Minnesota to have a coordinated webinar on the same topic. Each chapter will showcase their speakers, and the webinar will switch from one chapter to the next when it's their turn. This is an ambitious way for different STC chapters to work together to deliver ideas.

I contacted the director of programs in the Rochester chapter, Ben Woelk, to pitch ideas about the program's topic, and he thought some were promising, like how social media is used in technical communication. I told him I got in touch with a newly-hired professor, Katherine DeLuca, at my graduate alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, who will be teaching a course on social media, and she plans to use technical communication pieces as a part of it. I wanted to ask her what her thoughts on the topic were, to get some talking points for the program, and to create suggestions for the presenters. But when I contacted DeLuca, however, she told me she had not yet finished the course syllabus, and she is not certain about how she will use technical communication in the curriculum, but she did offer to send me a copy of the course's syllabus when she completed it. In addition, I will contact some of my former professors to try and arrange to stream the webinar to students at the university, so they can see what professionals have to say about the topic, and they may take some of the information with them to their classes and careers.

I hope to use my experiences in the above program to be more active in the chapter-coordinating events, increasing student outreach, and finding new venues to promote and and grow the chapter's presence to technical communicators in New England.

I have a lot of goals to meet for this year, and I hope to meet them. I don't know what adventures await, but I will find out and hope to use them to my advantage and advance my career.

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