Path to Fellow is a recurring feature here on STC’s Notebook to highlight the rich contributions of our honored members. We want to tell your story! If you’re a Fellow or Associate Fellow and would like to participate in this feature, please email Kevin Cuddihy.
I might venture to say that my path to Associate Fellow began when I was about 15. My mom packed up the car and we drove west three hours to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G) for a technical writing information session. On the ride home, I explained to her that I wanted to create brochures and pamphlets that doctors could use to educate patients about health issues. I felt drawn to the challenge of communicating information that some people perceived as complicated.
A few years later, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in English literature at UNC-Chapel Hill, I became obsessed with learning about and using emerging technology. (This was in 1992-1996, the beginning of the boom of the technology era!) UNC-Chapel Hill only offered a minor in technical writing, not a major, so after undergrad, I enrolled in North Carolina State University’s master of science program in technical communication.
During grad school, I briefly dabbled in the telecom industry. I coordinated and developed an internal, Web-based tool for a sales and marketing department. As the youngest team member by 10 years, I brought in fresh ideas and concepts backed by academic studies. However, I knew telecom was not my calling. During these grad school years, I joined STC as a student member. I became active in the STC Competitions in order to network and figure out what my career options were and what industry was most appealing to me.
My involvement in STC grew, and in 2001 I became responsible for all of the chapter’s monthly meetings—from getting the topics and speakers together to arranging a place to hold the meeting. By then, I had transitioned from the telecom company to a technical book publishing company. I worked simultaneously with six project editors to publish books. I helped establish an editing process with contractors, which included drop-off and pick-up deadlines (this was back when edits were all done on paper). I also helped the team establish consistency by updating its style guide. I loved the technology we wrote about in our books. So, I took on a second job at a human factors and ergonomics consulting firm who specialized in cutting-edge technology. I helped grow the role of technical communicator at this company from one of only a writer to one that helped design user interfaces, conducted usability testing, and ran focus groups. I managed three technical writers on 35 documentation and usability testing consulting projects for consumer electronics products.
At this point in my life, I was fully submerged in technical communication and STC. In 2002, I was elected the president of the Carolina Chapter (where I served for two terms). I was constantly and consistently engaged in the activities of our chapter, both from an administrative and leadership perspective. Both years that I was president, the chapter won Chapter of Excellence Awards at the Society level! In 2007, I became active in the international STC Technical Editing SIG, serving as co-manager for two years. The exposure and challenges of working with an international volunteer organization was priceless!
Currently, I am employed at SAS Institute Inc., where I develop software user help and manage various software documentation activities that involve interacting with internal and external clientele. I also communicate the value of documentation specialists throughout the organization.
In February 2011, when I received news that I would be given the honor of Associate Fellow, my manager rewarded me by funding my trip to the 2011 STC Summit, where I received the award in person at the honors banquet. I have since taken a lead role on my team to help inspire others on my team to become more active in STC and keep abreast of all activities and opportunities.
As for my current STC involvement, I have recently relinquished my roles as chapter newsletter editor, one I held for five years, and TE SIG treasurer, in order to spend more time with my children, who are now two and three. Although spending time with them has taken the place of leadership positions within STC for now, I still attend monthly meetings at both the chapter and Society level. Once the boys are a little more self-sufficient, I will throw myself back into the ring for a few more leadership challenges within STC!