Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s Program Meeting—Component Content Management Systems

Last week I had to the chance to attend the Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s program meeting on component content management systems (CCMS). Yes, it was a long, 3 ½ hour drive to Akron (I guess that’s why God invented XM Radio), but I am a member of the NEO chapter and hadn’t seen other chapter members or been to a meeting in quite a while. Besides, I was really interested in the topic since I currently have a client who has asked me to develop a content management system (CMS) for his small I/O device manufacturing company. So I figured this would be a great opportunity to learn more about what I was getting into (ignorance may be bliss, but it also usually ends up costing you customers).

The program speaker was Ms. Suzanne Mescan, Vice President of Marketing for Vasont Systems and a contributing author for the book Virtual Collaborative Writing in the Workplace: Computer-Mediated Communication Technologies and Processes. Ms. Mescan has worked in many aspects of the information management and publishing industry, including content management, editorial, art and design, project management, and pre-press production. So I figured that if anybody could help me with CMS, she could. Plus, the information announcing the program began with the words, “If you’re a technical writer who has no reason to go beyond MS Word, get ready to explore strange, new technologies…” – hey, this sounded just like me! Now I was hooked! Continue reading “Northeast Ohio/STC Chapter’s Program Meeting—Component Content Management Systems”

Networking Lunch in the D

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, four of us met in the D for lunch at Niki’s in Greektown to chat about STC/SM, technical communication, working downtown, and some of the knotty problems we encounter in our daily work.

Kathleen Howell and I both work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and took time at lunch to become acquainted, as we were meeting each other for the first time. Sheri Kash is a long-time Compuware employee, and we had the opportunity to catch up after meeting there years ago. BCBSM and Compuware are both within walking distance of Niki’s, and what better way to enjoy a lovely spring day than to spend it with fellow writers. Mary Jo David travelled from Plymouth, and we were very happy that she joined us in Detroit.

Sheri mentioned that she will be attending the STC Summit in Phoenix next month and is very excited about that; she is also looking forward to the “Grant Writing 101” program coming up on Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Kathleen is relatively new to the tech comm field but has extensive experience in IT and Web design and development. She filled us in on her latest experiences creating Wikis and InfoPath forms.

The conversation was lively and entertaining, and everyone was happy to get out and share with each other. Our next “casual networking event” is a happy hour to be held at Champps in Troy on April 29, 2014. Check the Upcoming Events calendar for all the details on this happy hour event and the “Grant Writing 101” program, as well as other events that may be of interest to you.

April 29 After-Work Networking Opportunity

One of the most important benefits we derive from our local chapter membership is the opportunity to network with fellow technical communicators in our area. To help provide these opportunities, the STC/SM leadership team has promoted a program of local networking lunches, breakfasts, and after-work happy hours in various locations throughout southeast Michigan since last autumn. The reaction from the membership has been very positive, and I’m happy to announce that another such event is now planned for late April in one of the northern Detroit suburbs.

On Tuesday, April 29, I will be hosting a casual after-work/happy hour STC/SM networking event at Champps Americana Restaurant and Bar, 301 W. Big Beaver Road (also known as Quarton Road, 16 Mile, or Metro Parkway in these parts), Troy, 48084 (248-526-0333). I plan to arrive a little before 5:00 PM, and we have a table reserved until 6:30 PM under my name and “STC.” I’ll also have a small sign with our STC/SM logo on the table to help you find me. If you can join us for any part of that time, we’d love to have you.

We’ll use the time to get to know one another, talk about our role as technical communicators, and discuss STC-SM membership and ideas for increasing its value to technical communicators. Each attendee is responsible for purchasing his/her lunch or beverages, but the conversation is FREE!

This will be a “casual” networking event, so any and all STC/SM members, not-yet-STC/SM members, attendees at past STC/SM events and their colleagues are all welcome. However, I’d appreciate you letting me know if you think you can make it so I can be sure to have enough seating.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Tom Glennan, SCT/SM President
Cell phone: (248) 515-2318

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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


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 ( 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”