Talking Usability: The Power of a Portfolio

by David Dick on 25 November 2015

I learned early in my career to always bring a few copies of my résumé and writing samples to a job interview. On a few occasions, interviewers did not have a copy of my résumé and I had no proof about the work I had done. In one instance, I pulled the documents out of my attaché case like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat-and recited the magic word, “Abracadabra!” The interviewer was not impressed and I did not get the job. What could I have done differently to better present myself to a prospective employer? I researched articles about how to best prepare for an interview and learned that I should have a portfolio.

A portfolio is a compilation of materials that exemplifies skills, qualifications, education, training, and experiences. The typical portfolio at least one copy of a résumé, copies of certifications, diplomas from colleges and universities, official transcripts of courses, letters of commendation or thanks, certificates of awards and honors, company newsletter articles that address a personal achievement, employment history, and writing samples of (published) articles. Keep your résumé up-to-date with every significant achievement and your portfolio up-to-date with an artifact of that achievement.

The contents of the portfolio should always fit the position. If you are a trainer then you want to include videos of your training sessions (save the recording to a USB drive and give it to prospective employers during the interview). If you design websites then you want to show diagrams of the website’s navigation, layout, and design. If you write proposals then you want to include excerpts of proposals you have written (remove proprietary and confidential information). These are a few ideas to get you thinking about your skills and how to showcase them.

How you design and structure the portfolio demonstrates your knowledge of Information Architecture. For example, use a table of contents to identify the topics, tabs to separate topics, color for diagrams and graphs, and a richly designed binding to bundle the documents. The more professional the portfolio appears, the more likely the interviewer will make positive assumptions about the quality of your work. Do not hesitate to ask interviewers for suggestions on how to improve the portfolio.

An interviewer will meet with several people in the quest to find the right candidate for the job, so it’s important to leave an indelible memory. The portfolio is your best tool to make a lasting impression.●

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How to Run an STC Community Report

by Viqui Dill on 18 November 2015

Want to know who is in your community? Want email contact information? Want geographic information? Want membership information? Find answers in your STC Community Report.

Designated STC Chapter and SIG leaders can run a membership report by logging in to MySTC on the STC website. Running reports is easy when you know how.

See the how-to pdf on the For Volunteer Leaders page of the CAC website for step by step instructions.


Please share your knowledge and experience with your colleagues in the field…submit a proposal for Spectrum 2016, STC Rochester’s 57th Annual Conference! The proposal deadline is December 9, 2015.

Spectrum 2016, STC Rochester’s 57th annual conference, is scheduled to kick off on Sunday, April 17, 2016 with Leadership Day and a reception for attendees. Monday, April 18 brings unique presentations, demonstrations of exciting new technologies and services, progression sessions, and lightning talks. On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, we will be offering morning and afternoon workshops, with an optional lunch in between.

This year’s theme is Mastering Tech Comm: Harness the Power of Story.

Told effectively, there is great power in a story that resonates with people and compels them to action. As an experienced technical communicator, you are aware of this power and harness it every day to benefit your customers, employer, and yourself. Spectrum 2016 is a perfect opportunity for you to hone and share your stories. We want to hear how you use story to influence change in your company, to show the value you bring, and to get things done – and how you think all of us can use story at work and in our careers.

We’d like this year’s conference to offer solutions, best practices, and new ways to use story at work and in our careers. Tell us how you crafted a story around your company’s products or services to sell them to others, focused on your audience’s stories to meet their documentation or training needs, or weaved your experiences into a cohesive narrative to present yourself to a potential client.

We want to hear your stories! It’s up to you which stories you tell, or how you tell them, but here are some ideas for your proposal:

  • Offer your best practices for creating use cases when using Agile methodology.
  • Discuss how you use personas to better meet your audience’s needs.
  • Share a case study where you used story to sell your company’s products or services.
  • Teach others how to tell a great story about themselves to potential employers or clients.
  • Offer a workshop on crafting a business case for your team.
  • Show how to use storytelling in presentations or how to tell your story to a new audience.
  • Teach professionals how to transform a story into a business case or proposal.
  • Give a lightning talk about a story that went comically wrong.


More information on Spectrum 2016 conference and the Call for Proposals can be seen on the Spectrum website:


STC’s Rochester Chapter is seeking entries for its 54th Annual Publications Competition. Entries must be submitted by 24 October for consideration. For the entry form, click here. 

Any work done in the calendar year preceding 1 September that you feel is an excellent example of technical communication in any of the following categories:

Informational Materials: Annual Reports, Technical Reports, Articles, Books, and Periodicals

Instructional Materials: Tutorials and Training Materials

Promotional Materials: Brochures, Catalogs, Flyers, and Websites

User Support Materials: Help, Job Aids, Quick Reference Guides, Reference Materials, and User Guides

Your entries:
• must contain enough technical, scientific, or medical knowledge to be considered technical communication
• must either be either made, or substantially revised for a client, employer, or an independent technical publication in the calendar year preceding September 1, 2015
• must not contain classified or proprietary information
• must be suitable for public display

• Winners will be announced at the annual STC Rochester Chapter Spectrum Conference on April 18, 2016.
• One framed certificate will be presented for each winning entry listing the names of all contributors. For additional framed certificates at $20.00 each contact this year’s manager
• There are three levels of distinction in every category: Merit, Excellence, and Distinguished Technical Communication. A Best of Show honor will be awarded to the best overall entry from all four categories.
• Winners of the Distinguished Technical Communication award may have their entries submitted to the Society for Technical Communication Summit Competition should they choose, at no additional cost.
How to submit: Email your completed entry form and your entry or a link to your entry to Ship hardcopy and media entries to Ann L. Wiley, 157 East Genesee Street, Auburn, NY 13021.

Payment Instructions: To pay by check, please send a check for the entry fee to Katie Bush, 51 Frey St., Rochester, NY 14612. Make the check payable to “STC Rochester.” Indicate “2015 Competition Entry” in the memo. To pay by credit card, PayPal, or wire transfer contact and instructions will be provided for your preferred method. The fees are:
$75.00 member of STC Rochester Chapter
$85.00 member of another chapter of STC
$100.00 nonmembers
$40.00 students
If any contributor on a group entry is an STC member, that entry qualifies for the applicable member rate.


STC Benefits: Affinity Program

by STC Staff on 13 October 2015

By Stacey O’Donnell | Director of Member and Corporate Engagement

One membership program that doesn’t receive a ton of visibility, but is a definite value for members, is STC’s Affinity Program. This program offers special rates or services to STC members at a discounted price. In some cases, but not all, STC receives a small royalty from these corporate partners each time a member purchases one of their products. This money supports STC programs and helps to keep membership dues from increasing.

A long-time member, Mellissa Ruryk, wrote to me earlier this year and requested more Affinity Program benefits for Canadian members. She didn’t feel there were enough, so Cheryl Miller (STC’s membership services manager) and I looked into beefing up the program. It takes time to locate the right contact at each company, find out if they work with associations, agree to the terms of the discount, and get a contract signed. Finally, we have a couple I would like to share.


UPS Logo 2014 - Standard (RGB)

STC Members Save Big with the UPS® Savings Program
Through the UPS® Savings Program, STC members can save up to 34%* on UPS shipping services, plus 50%* off select services for up to four weeks after you enroll!* To enroll and start saving, visit or call 1-800-MEMBERS (1-800-636-2377), Monday-Friday, 8:00 A.M.–6:00 P.M. EST (GMT-4).

The UPS® Members Benefit Program in Canada
STC Members in Canada can take advantage of the UPS Members Benefit Program and receive 30% off small package shipments, 25% off imports, at least 70% off freight shipments over 150 lb., and more. To enroll for free and start saving today, visit or call 1-800-MEMBERS (1-800-636-2377), Monday-Friday, 8:00 A.M.–6:00 P.M. EST (GMT-4).


Hertz Logo

Take advantage of special discounts available through STC’s Hertz Member Savings Program. STC members can now save up to 20% discount on all travel. So whether you are traveling on business for us or going on vacation with your family, you can get a discount, exclusive to us! Call +1 (800) 654-2210 or visit the Hertz website. Discounts are available to STC U.S. and Canadian members. STC’s Hertz code CDP#1965650 is the key. For more information, visit:

All STC members are important to us and we attempt to prove that by adding benefits and services that everyone can enjoy. Please check back often as we intend to bring more value to you in 2016. If you feel there is an Affinity partner you would like to see added to our program, please email me at with your suggestions.

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The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is seeking nominees for the 2016 Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Award recognizes educators who have made an outstanding contribution to teaching in technical communication. To be eligible for the Award, nominees must
— Be a current member of the Society for Technical Communication (STC)

— Have belonged to the Society for Technical Communication (STC) for at least ten years

— Have been involved in post-secondary education for at least fifteen years

— Have made teaching technical communication the primary focus of their career

Anyone may nominate a candidate for the Jay R. Gould Award, and nominations for the Award are due by 5:00pm US Eastern Time on 1 Nov. 2015.

All nominations should be sent to Kirk St.Amant via email at

All eligible nominees will be contacted shortly after 1 Nov. 2015 to inform them of their nomination and to request materials for review.

More information on the Jay R. Gould Award can be found online at

Questions about the Award, the nomination process, or the final selection process for Award recipients should be sent to Kirk St.Amant at


If you wish to be considered for Associate Fellow status with STC, or if you wish to nominate an Associate Fellow, time is running out! Applications are due 1 October.

To apply or nominate an Associate Fellow, click here. For guidelines on applying or nominating, click here.

To apply or nominate a Fellow, click here. For guidelines on applying or nominating, click here.

What is an STC Associate Fellow?

An STC Associate Fellow is a Senior Member who has been formally recognized by the Society for having attained distinction in the field of technical communication.

STC members who have been active in the field of technical communication for at least 15 years and have been Senior Members for at least five years, as of the recommendation submission deadline, are eligible to be considered for advancement to the rank of Associate Fellow. In addition, Associate Fellow candidates must have accomplished one or more of the following:

  • Been responsible for important work in the field of technical communication.
  • Done notable original work that has contributed to the advancement of technical communication.
  • Made significant contributions to the Society and helped to tell STC’s powerful story.

Associate Fellows are among the stars of our profession. They usually have held multiple leadership positions, published papers, or written articles or books; they’ve given dozens of presentations and mentored those who are new to our field.

Senior Members can self-nominate for the rank of Associate Fellow or they can be nominated by another STC member. Any voting STC member can submit a completed Nomination for Associate Fellow form to the Associate Fellows Committee. The committee reviews the completed forms and recommends to the STC Board of Directors the candidates it believes have met all requirements. The Board considers each recommended candidate and votes whether to select him or her as an Associate Fellow.

Due Date for nominations: 1 October 2015

What is an STC Fellow?

The rank of Fellow is the highest honor an STC member can receive and may only be awarded to Associate Fellows who have continued to excel in the field of technical communication. STC Fellows contribute to the profession and the Society at the highest level, as indicated by their publications, presentations, awards, mentoring, leadership, and community service.

See also the “What is an STC Fellow?” page for more details


Due date for nominations: 1 October 2015



The deadline for submitting session proposals for the 2016 Summit has been extended to Monday, 5 October. Have you submitted your proposal yet? If not, this is your last chance to be an official part of the 2016 program! The 2016 Summit will be held 15-18 May in Anaheim, California, USA, and we’re inviting you to contribute your ideas, studies, experience, and expertise.

The Summit fosters industry-leading technical communication by stimulating information exchange, cultivating research, and serving as the primary source of education for professional technical communicators. All session proposals should represent the latest business trends, communication techniques, technologies, approaches, and solutions.

Learn more about the submission process using these important links:

If you have any questions, contact the 2016 Summit Conference Committee directly at
Proposals are due by 11:59 PM EDT (GMT-4) on Monday, 5 October 2015. All proposals must be submitted through the online submission system outlined on the Call for Proposals webpage.

The work you are doing is an important element in the education process, and we invite you to share it with Summit attendees. Good luck and we’ll see you in Anaheim!


From the Editor

by STC Staff on 22 September 2015

From the Editor


The theme for Intercom this month is Change Happens: Are We Ready? Four feature authors address this topic with articles that focus on change. Bonnie Demback provides best  practices for transitioning to an Agile workplace based on her research of technical writers working in an Agile development environment. For 20 years, she was a technical writer  following the Waterfall systems development lifecycle. To help adapt to Agile, a very divergent methodology, she researched the process and found SMEs who have successfully  written documentation using Agile.

Victoria Deen McCrady writes about Millennials in the workforce, what distinguishes them from other generations, and how experienced technical writers must anticipate the  needs of these new novice users. She asks, what do you do to make new Millennial users “sticky” when they often assume a veneer of technological sophistication that can make it more difficult for them to adapt to new interfaces? Her article includes perspectives from an EBSCO user research analyst and the owner of a technical support company, characteristics of Millennials’ website interaction, and some take-away advice.

In “Preparing New Writers for Change,” Aimee Whiteside shares her biggest mistakes as a technical writer to help new writers cope with transitions and organizational changes. Drawing from research, she outlines six critical skills for new writers to weather change (data gathering/problem solving, detail orientation, organization, project management, teamwork, and written and oral communication proficiency) as well as six essential core competencies (collaboration, flexibility, innovation, patience, personal mastery, and systems orientation).

As a woman, I found Emily January Petersen’s article particularly interesting. From interviews she conducted with female practitioners in professional and technical communication, she has uncovered innovative suggestions for building and boosting personal networks. For many women, and especially those working as lone writers, this article will offer some best practices for changing your networking techniques.

In addition, to these four features, there are three columns in this issue. Thomas Barker’s column The Academic Conversation focuses on technical writers as change communicators. Fer O’Neil and Joy Cooney, guest columnists for Derek Ross’s Ethics column, use two case studies to highlight the problems of deadline-driven decisions. And Brian Still’s column Trends in Usability suggests how to construct a better user experience via site visits and user shadowing.

I hope all Intercom readers will join me in giving a warm welcome to STC’s newest staff member, James Cameron, Communications Manager and Assistant Editor. If you have any ideas for Society Pages or My Job/Off Hours articles, please contact James at We are very pleased to have him onboard!


2016 Gold Value Package Member Rate Reduced

by STC Staff on 22 September 2015

By Stacey O’Donnell, Director of Member and Corporate Engagement

“Hear ye! Hear ye!” Okay, I’m not the town crier, but I do want to announce that we have reduced the price of the 2016 Gold Value Package membership from $425 to only $395. Many moons ago, I remember when the Gold price was $395 and hearing a lot of rumbling when it increased. Rumble no more! Renew or join STC today and receive the same gold benefits at the reduced price.

Here’s a sample of what you get in a Gold Value Package Membership:

  • One free chapter membership
  • Free membership in all SIGs
  • Five live or recorded webinars at no cost
  • 20% off all online courses
  • Annual conference Early Bird pricing any time of year
  • Free print subscription to Intercommagazine (through December 2016)
  • eSubscriptions toIntercom magazine, Technical Communication journal, STC’s Notebook blog, and TechComm Today eNewsletter
  • Over 140 free, on-demand seminars
  • Free annual Salary Databasesubscription
  • Mentor Board access
  • Job Bank access, discounted job posting rates, early access to new job openings
  • Webinar discounts
  • Personalized STC Education Report Card
  • TC Body of Knowledge (TCBOK) access
  • Corporate Discounts on products and services from Dominion Dental Services, Inc., OfficeMax, Liberty Mutual, and more

There is no promo code needed for the new Gold dues rate, so renew or join today. If you are considering joining as a new member, sign up now and get 15 months for the price of 12.

For more information or questions, please contact our membership department at +1 (703) 522-4114 or email You can also contact me directly at