Four years ago, Alice Brzovic volunteered as VP of Employment when the San Diego Chapter website said the chapter desperately needed volunteers.
She was drawn to technical communication when she worked for a market research company, where she learned about UNIX and nroff/troff. She first volunteered for a Society chapter when she wrote meeting reviews for STC Berkeley in the late 1990s.
Alice is now in her second term as president of STC San Diego. She tells us about her experience in that role.
What’s it like to be president of an STC chapter?
In the beginning it was difficult being president because I didn’t know what I was doing. I leaned heavily on DJ and others for guidance. Also, we had a lot of volunteer attrition.
Then positive things started to happen. Chris Zook of SD/PEN, Walter Hanig, and I started working on an advanced LinkedIn workshop. Sara Feldman volunteered to be VP of Programs, bringing a fresh approach to the position. We also moved our meeting location and started mixing up the monthly programming to make things more interesting.
My main concern from the beginning has been to recruit new volunteers so no one person has to volunteer for more than one hour a week. Without volunteers we would not have an STC San Diego. Right now we have a great team who is helping us engage technical communicators throughout the San Diego area.
What is your vision for STC San Diego?
I want STC San Diego to be a healthy, vibrant organization that provides networking and educational opportunities to anyone interested in technical communication as a career path.
It’s important for leadership to understand the needs of our community, which includes those new to the profession as well as senior professionals. Technical communicators are frequently laid off as projects end. And finding work at a mature age can be difficult.
So, I want everyone to know that STC San Diego is a place where you can feel welcome at any stage in your career.
STC’s mission statement is to “advance the field of technical communication and the skills of its members.” How does it feel to be a provider of this service?
I wouldn’t be involved in STC San Diego if I didn’t feel our mission was important.
At our meetings I always ask, who found work by attending an STC San Diego meeting? Many of us raise our hands. It feels good to be part of an organization that has at its core a culture of caring and appreciation.
You’ve done a lot of good things with STC San Diego. If you could give your successor one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do fun stuff like meet at craft breweries. It’s good to have conversations about DITA, but not all the time. So mix up the programming because people want to have fun at the end of the day.
I think some people perceive technical communications and technical communicators themselves as boring and old-fashioned. Can you comment on that?
Writing content can be boring when you feel no one will read what you are working on. So it’s important for technical communicators to be advocates. We have to lobby all the stakeholders to make sure a project is useful for the intended audience. If caring about the customer is old-fashioned, then I feel being an old-fashioned technical communicator is a good thing.
I don’t know what you mean by “boring.” We have to envision the deliverable, and we have to communicate that vision to all the stakeholders. We have to be good with people because we work across all levels of an organization and within teams. We also work with clients and subject matter experts. Then we pull all our information together and present it in a meaningful and interesting way to a diverse audience with varying skills and abilities.
Just think about all the great, exciting content streaming from the Internet to your phone. Technical communicators help make it happen. Now what’s boring about that?
What do you love about technical communication?
I like that technical communication requires both analytical and creative skills. You have to be a detective, and a good writer and graphic designer.
You also work with all kinds of people. You really have to get into the reader’s mind to understand what they need to know. Then you have to figure out the best way to deliver that information to them.
Finally, you add that creative spark that makes the content special. Technical communicators definitely care about what they do.