Path to Fellow: Jackie Damrau, Class of 2008

by Kevin Cuddihy on 24 November 2010

Path to Fellow is a new feature here on STC’s Notebook to highlight the rich contributions of our honored members. For more information on this feature and on the honor of being named a Fellow or Associate Fellow, click here. Watch for more stories about our Fellows and Associate Fellows in the coming weeks and months as well. If you’re a Fellow or Associate Fellow and haven’t been contacted to participate, please email Kevin Cuddihy.

Jackie Damrau

Once upon a time, high school was where I focused on taking business/secretarial courses. Following graduation, I enrolled in a legal secretary program at a local Honolulu, Hawaii business school. During my 12 months there, I was elected Student Council Secretary and joined Alpha Omega sorority.

Palm trees, coconuts, warm weather … soon were traded for a small town in Texas. Legal secretary careers were not abundant, so I worked as a secretary and a keypunch operator/secretary. The next career stage took me to New Mexico, where the next thirteen years saw my career move from being a legal secretary to many different technical communication positions (technical typist/editor, editorial assistant, and administrative assistant).

My University of New Mexico (UNM) employment is where I began using LaTeX, a computer text-processing package. A professor that I worked with encouraged me to learn this software. After much resistance, I sat down and taught myself how to use LaTeX (well before any manuals existed for it). Then, no one at UNM had a clue about what it was or how influential the software would become for the technical professions. Within three months of learning LaTeX, I entered and won the First Annual Donald E. Knuth TeX Scholarship award. This award was an all-expense paid trip to the annual 1986 TeX conference held at Tufts University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I spent the next eight years as a TeX User’s Group (TUG) member and served as the Associate LaTeX Editor for TUGboat, the 1987 Scholarship committee chair, and one year on the Board of Directors; and presented two workshops and one paper at two annual conferences.

I returned to Texas to work at the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory (SSCL) to work as their TeXpert in the Publications Department. I quickly began mentoring other publication specialists on the use of LaTeX, and taught several beginning and intermediate LaTeX classes. I transferred into the SSCL Computer Operations group writing computer-related guides and authoring the bi-monthly SSCL Computing Newsletter.

For the next seventeen years my technical communication career has seen me working in many industries. I’ve worked in electrical and environmental engineering, telecommunications, software distributor, semiconductor process manufacturing, information technology services, and now in wireless telecommunications.

Within STC, I avidly support and help those with whom I come in contact:

  • Locally: I’ve dedicated myself to serving in all levels of leadership (officer level), managed volunteers and competitions (and judged competitions), and I am on my sixth year as managing newsletter editor for the Lone Star Community.
  • Virtually: I’ve been on the core leadership teams and served as managing newsletter editor for the Instructional Design & Learning SIG and the Management SIG. I left the Management SIG when I returned to individual contributor status with my employers. I’ve remained a dedication member of the Instructional Design & Learning SIG and have served as its manager, managing newsletter editor, and now as Web program manager.
  • Internationally: I’ve served three years as a team lead judge and six years as a judge in the International Technical Publications competition, co-managed the Funding Model Pilot Project, managed the Leadership Community Resource’s (LCR) Training Planning and Development team, and went on to chair the LCR for two years. I was elected to be a member of the Nominating Committee and chaired that committee for one year. I’ve also served on the International Competitions Task Force as a manager over the Competition Manager’s Handbook and am now the general manager of the STC International Summit Awards (formerly the International Competitions).

Achieving my Doctorate was just as personal and rewarding as receiving the honor of Fellow in STC. My passion for volunteering within STC has benefited me so much over the past 17 years. My journey started by asking my local chapter, “What do you need me to do? Where can I help?” After a couple of years, I asked Elizabeth Bailey during an STC conference, “How can I get involved at the international level?” She introduced me to Judith Herr (now an STC Director), who was the manager of the Management SIG. Judith told me that they needed a newsletter editor, so I took the role. Thus, my volunteering at the international level began and continues today.

Thanks to STC for helping me to continue building my career, enhancing my skills, and providing me with a network of technical communication professionals that I can call upon anytime to learn more.

Dr. Jackie Damrau is an STC Fellow and past chapter president who works at T-Mobile USA. She has more than 26 years of combined experience in technical writing and instructional design. Besides supporting STC activities through LSC, one national SIG, and the serving as General Manager of the STC International Summit Awards, Jackie enjoys going to the movies and reading classic literature, Irish/Scottish/English historical romance novels, or time-travel romance novels.

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