Beating the Winter Blahs – and Other Insights from the January 9th Networking Lunch

The weather and driving conditions were far from ideal for the January 9th networking lunch at Panera Bread in Rochester Hills, but the hearty souls who braved the elements to share in a light lunch and good conversation found plenty to talk about between mouthfuls of hot soup and cookies.

At these networking events, besides the opportunity for networking and sharing war stories from the front lines of the technical communication battle, I look forward to hearing from our STC/SM members (and not-yet members) about their views of the chapter, particularly the value of chapter membership and the benefits that it can provide. So one of the things that I sought feedback about last Thursday was the program topics and speakers we’ve had in the recent past and that we’re planning for in the 2013-2014 program year. Many of the topics that members have asked for are related directly to day-to-day needs, such as information about tools like FrameMaker® and RoboHelp® by Adobe®, MadCap FlareTM, and XML, and strategies such as Agile and content management systems. But I was also reminded that there are other topics that members are totally unfamiliar with but would like to learn more about. For example, one of our members, Alison Phillips, who currently works with a customer in the auto industry, mentioned her interest in the subject of grant writing, which we are planning to present on in a panel discussion later this winter. Alison thinks grant writing is an area of technical communication she may want to pursue professionally at some point but she has no way to learn about it through her current work. She would like to learn more about it through STC/SM.

This reminded me that the desire to learn new things should be a big part of our overall educational quest. Too often, I’ve selected seminar topics or training sessions that were intended to improve my knowledge or skills in a particular area of technical communication but overlooked those that might broaden my background or expand my professional interests. In fact, this is what attracted me to being a technical communicator in the first place: the pure enjoyment I get from learning something new and then using my technical communication skills to help others to understand it as well.

And what better time to explore new areas of technical communication than the cold, dark, short days of a Michigan winter! Lisa Veasey and the other STC/SM council members have been working hard to develop a slate of programs for the rest of the year that cover a broad range of topics. And don’t forget that STC/SM is partnering with other organizations — Michigan CHI and UxPA, for example — to co-sponsor joint programs for you to attend, such as the World Usability Day last November and the holiday mixer presentation on the proper use of wireframes last month. We’ll be posting information on upcoming events like these on the STC/SM website as the information becomes available. We’ll also alert you to other events that might be of interest — such as the World Information Architecture Day event in Ann Arbor on February 15.

The STC/SM leadership team will do their best to keep you informed of opportunities to explore the world of technical communication. So keep an eye on the postings on our web page and blog and take advantage of all the learning and networking opportunities being offered. The cold winds and winter blahs will melt into spring before you know it!