Expanding Our Networks—One Event at a Time

Five of us commiserated during Happy Hour at Doc’s Sports Retreat in Livonia—the site of our latest casual networking event, which was held on March 19, 2014. Some ate, some drank, and each of us shared what it’s like to be a technical communicator for different companies around the metropolitan Detroit area. The make-up at these gatherings always varies, with some people employed, some self-employed, and some looking for work. At this particular happy hour, four of the attendees are currently employed by other companies and one is self-employed.

All sorts of topics worked their way into our conversation: Robohelp…Madcap Flare…Doc-to-Help…Framemaker…Word…WordPerfect (yes, you read that right!)…single sourcing and reuse…PDF collaboration…Pass the chips(!)…STC…The Summit…writing for insurance agents…ICD-10…training…hidden sources of gluten…company portals…best companies to work for…mergers… XML…Epic Editor…Arbortext (the company and the old building in Ann Arbor)…contracting… procedures and job aids…the Internet’s birthday…blogs vs. newsletters…STC SIGS…lone writers…the evolution of page layout and font cartridges…Paris…French…German…being a courteous traveler…and the list goes on!

Most importantly, those who attended have expanded their professional networks, which, over the course of years, can prove to be very beneficial. Welcome to my network, Cheri, and it was great seeing you again, Sharon, Marty, and George!

Tales from an STC-SM Networking Lunch

Networking lunch at Palm Palace, Ann Arbor

On Friday, March 7, STC-SM held a networking lunch at Palm Palace in Ann Arbor that I was fortunate to be able to attend.  I was able to catch up with some blasts from the past such as Lisa Veasey, my personal technical writing guru after David Pogue, and Maryann Bowen who was the Vice President of the chapter in 2009 when I was selected as the recipient of their scholarship to attend the STC Summit in Atlanta that year.  That was an amazing opportunity and experience.  I still even use the “leather” portfolio that all attendees received (along with my Anderson Cooper bookmark thanks to a side trip to tour CNN studios).  This lunch also enabled me to meet a few new faces:  Mary Jo David, Nancy Hoffman, and Chris Juillet. Continue reading “Tales from an STC-SM Networking Lunch”

STC/SM Casual Networking events…a great way to network on a small scale

Six of us gathered at Mr.   Joe’s in Southfield this past Tuesday (February 25, 2014) for an STC/SM happy hour casual networking event. I met three technical communicators I didn’t know and caught up with two others whom I’ve met before. Enjoyed some good conversation   on many topics.The one that stands out was the discussion about content management systems—what they are, who uses them, and how effective they are. Future casual networking lunches and happy hours are scheduled in March and April. Hoping to see some old friends and meet some new ones! See the schedule below. RSVP if you’’ll be attending. That way we can make sure to   have enough seating available, and we can notify you if something changes due to inclement weather, etc. At these events, attendees are responsible for purchasing their own food/beverages, but the camaraderie and conversation are free!

  • Friday, March 7, 2014: Networking lunch, 11:30-1:00, at Palm Palace, 2370 Carpenter Rd., Ann Arbor. RSVP by noon on Thursday, March 6 to membership@stc-sm.org
  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014: Networking happy hour, 4-6 p.m. at Doc’s Sports Retreat on   Victor Parkway in Livonia (near I-275 and 7 Mile Rd.) RSVP by noon on Tuesday, March 18, to membership@stc-sm.org
  • Thursday, April 17, 2014: Networking lunch, 11:30-1:00, at Niki’s, 735 Beaubien (Greektown) in Downtown Detroit. RSVP by Wednesday, April 16, to membership@stc-sm.org
  • TBD: Another networking event for Detroit’s northern suburbs…stay tuned for date and place!

The Brainiac Paradox

Mark Cornillie.

STC/SM members and friends who attend our program meetings come for a variety of reasons and that was indeed the case for the “The Brainiac Paradox” program on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. For example, I attended “The Brainiac Paradox” event because I was curious about how Mark Cornillie, the author of the book by the same title and the featured speaker, defined the term “brainiac” and wondered whether I qualified as one. Mark Lockwood, a chapter member and past president, half-jokingly told me that he attended to “find out why he has a job as a technical communicator.” I’m guessing that some guests came just for the food. But regardless of the attendees’ personal reasons for going, the brainiac event was a great opportunity for everyone in the room to hear about Mark Cornillie’s investigation into the world of individuals whose superior mental abilities don’t always make them successful in other areas of their lives.

Mark explained that the brainiac paradox he investigated involves people who demonstrate recognized genius but are often socially “atypical” or disadvantaged. He asked why some people excel in one area of their lives but not in others. He discussed how the individuals he studied strongly display the characteristics of the brain’s left hemisphere (they are often logical, analytical, mathematical, and organized) but seem to be severely lacking in the brain’s right-hemisphere traits (they are typically not intuitive, empathetic, emotive, or holistic). He gave examples of the impact this paradox had on these individuals’ performance in both personal and organizational settings, and how hard it was for them to relate to others in team or collaborative settings. Continue reading “The Brainiac Paradox”

Letter from the Membership Manager

Announcing a New Batch of Local Casual Networking Events

Your local Southeastern Michigan chapter of STC is unveiling some new dates for upcoming casual networking events around the metropolitan Detroit and Ann Arbor areas. Some are lunches and some are happy hour events this time. Please RSVP in advance if you’ll be attending so we make sure to have enough seating available and so we can notify you if something changes. At these events, attendees are responsible for purchasing their own food/beverages, but the camaraderie and conversation are free!

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2014: Networking happy hour, 4–6 p.m., at Mr. Joe’s, 26077 West 12 Mile Road, Southfield. RSVP by noon on Monday, February24 to membership@stc-sm.org.
  • Friday, March 7, 2014: Networking lunch, 11:30–1:00, at Palm Palace, Carpenter Rd., Ann Arbor area. RSVP by noon on Thursday, 3/6 to membership@stc-sm.org.
  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014: Networking happy hour, 4–6 p.m., at Doc’s Sports Retreat on Victor Parkway in Livonia (off I-275 and 7 Mile). RSVP by noon on Tuesday 3/18 to membership@stc-sm.org.
  • Thursday, April 17, 2014: Networking lunch, 11:30 -1:00, at Niki’s, 735 Beaubien (Greektown) in Downtown Detroit. RSVP by Wednesday, April 16 to membership@stc-sm.org.
  • TBD: Another networking event for Detroit’s northern suburbs…stay tuned for date and place.

Free STC Webinar: Using STC Resources to Find Employment

  • Presenter: Dr. Jackie Damrau
  • When: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
  • Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m., EST

To register, send an email to cindy@paofamily.com


STC members will learn how to use STC website resources to help them in finding their ideal job. We start off by covering the Ten Tips to Your Ideal Dream Job with the associated STC website resources used to supplement each tip. We then conclude by quickly walking through Four Career Search Tips for What Not To Do, and the 80/20 Rule During Interviews.

About Dr. Damrau

Dr. Jackie Damrau is a Sr. Business Systems Analyst at CBRE. In her current role, Jackie models business processes and other department workgroup processes using BPMN modeling notation for determining workflow automation of existing paper-based processes or improving existing business processes. Jackie has more than 25 years of technical communication experience. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), member of the STC North Texas Lone Star chapter and the Instructional Design and Learning SIG, and the Book Review Editor for Technical Communication. Jackie’s past international positions have been as a SIG manager for the Instructional Design and Learning SIG; assistant SIG manager for the Management SIG; elected member of the Nominations Committee; and general manager of the STC International Summit Awards (2010-2012). Jackie enjoys reading literature, sociology, linguistics, and philosophy. Find her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jackiedamrau) or on Twitter (@damrauja).

—Mary Jo David, STC-SM Membership Manager

Member Spotlight: Susan Fisher

What is your educational background? Why did you decide to pursue technical communication as a career?

Susan Fisher

I earned Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design in the 1970s. Soon afterward, however, when the “school of reality” hit home, I took a job as a documentation specialist with a computer services company. I found I was good at researching technical topics and explaining them to others. When the company’s documentation group added a training function, I jumped into that. I’ve been an instructional designer ever since — although I still consider myself a technical communicator above all. In fact, last year I earned the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) designation from STC.

How long have you been a member of  STC? In what STC positions have you served?
I’ve been a member of STC and the Southeastern Michigan chapter since 1982. Having gotten into the tech comm field more or less by accident, I had little idea of its professional development opportunities — until a co-worker told me about STC. I joined and discovered a whole new world of concepts, information, and people doing exciting thinking and work in the field. For most of the past 30 years I’ve been only a consumer of STC services. I was finally persuaded to give something back in 2012, when I agreed to be nominated as secretary of STC-SM. I’m currently serving my second term.

Where are you currently employed? What are your job activities? What do you find most interesting or satisfying about your job?
I’m employed at Innovative Learning Group in Royal Oak. Continue reading “Member Spotlight: Susan Fisher”

Recap of January 14 Program—Beyond the Heat Map: The Future of Eye-Tracking

Jon West

We were treated to a very interesting presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Jon West, Director of Marketing and Opportunities for LC Technologies, Inc., located in Fairfax Virginia, was our speaker and demonstrator. He began the evening by setting up his eye-tracking device and software so that before the talk the attendees could experience first hand how this technology works.

In his presentation, Jon covered the history of eye-tracking as it applies to human-computer interaction. The technology was developed as far back as 1898 and some of Jon’s slides showed mechanisms that appeared almost like medieval torture devices! Jon discussed the evolution of this technology through the years and told us about the implications that it has for today. Among the applications that currently benefit from this technology are: marketing research, usability, and medical. Jon also predicted that this technology would be used in the future with robots, cell phones and other devices.

After the talk, Jon again demonstrated the eye-tracker device to the attendees who were interested in having their eye movements calibrated and then analyzed to show how they were interacting with what they saw on the monitor.

We thank Jon West for a very informative and fun presentation and we also thank Cengage Learning® in Farmington Hills for allowing us to use their facilities and for arranging for the food and drinks.

Book Review: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People

Book cover of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Book cover of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Author: Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D. Published: New Riders Berkeley, CA. April 2011. 256 pages.
[Source: This book was received as a prize at the World Usability Day 2013 meeting in Detroit.]

Adapted from reviews on Amazon.com with comments added by Sharon McDonnell

This appealing, short book brings together little nuggets of psychology, which the author makes immediately relevant to design decisions. The strength of this book is that the author cites more recent research about principles that you either thought you knew and were wrong, or that you thought you knew and were indeed right. Continue reading “Book Review: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People”

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. Continue reading “Beating the Winter Blahs – and Other Insights from the January 9th Networking Lunch”