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 didn’t know there was such a thing as a technical writer when I first became one in 1983. Having graduated from the University of Chicago in English the year before, I was working on campus as the registrar for continuing education when another graduate contacted me about a “technical editor” job in downtown Chicago. I jumped at the chance to increase my salary, but was quickly bored editing the resumes of structural engineers for inclusion in technical proposals.
A year and a half later I took a chance by quitting my job in Chicago and moving to Atlanta to live with my sister’s family and seek employment in the burgeoning software industry. I quickly found a job through the Society for Technical Communication without initially becoming a member. I joined Burroughs Corporation, which later became Unisys, received Information Mapping training the very first month, and embarked on a technical writing career in the software industry. I stayed with Unisys for ten years, including a yearlong stint in Hong Kong working on the HSBC project, and they paid for my first STC dues in 1985. That’s when I started to get involved with the Atlanta chapter, which I’ve always felt was one of the most supportive chapters in STC.
In 1995 I left Unisys to become a contractor, at first working through agencies and then going independent as I gained confidence and clients. At that point I thought it prudent to get more involved in STC, so I accepted an appointment as the Consulting SIG manager, and subsequently was elected First Vice President and President, and later served as Immediate Past President and Acting Past President. I remained a contractor for seven years, sometimes employing other technical writers as the profession neared 100% employment, and I now look back on those years as the Golden Age of Technical Writing.
When the dot-com bubble burst and the contracting market dried up, I took a full-time position at MAPICS (now Infor), a software company that developed ERP software for the manufacturing industry, but ultimately left for another full-time position with ADP, where I’ve been for six years. ADP has been the best working experience of my career, and the company recently approved my request to join the “homeshored” workforce, which means that I now work exclusively out of my house.
I’ve continued to volunteer for STC over the years, with my most recent involvement as a multi-year judge of the Summit Awards competition. I’ve always thought of my service to STC as being in my “enlightened self-interest,” that by helping others in my profession I’m also helping myself. From providing me with networking opportunities to helping me build a business to keeping me employed for over 28 years, STC has given me much more than I could possibly give it, and my Path to Fellow has been smooth because of the generosity of other STC members.