We return again with Path to Fellow, a recurring feature here on STC’s Notebook to highlight the rich contributions of our honored members. If you’re a Fellow or Associate Fellow and haven’t been contacted to participate in this feature, please email Kevin Cuddihy.
I didn’t set out to become a technical communicator, but time after time, whatever my job, I found myself communicating.
I attended high school in a rural community near New York City. My main interest was math. In 1959 I came in second in the state in the Pi Mu Epsilon high school math contest, giving me bragging rights over kids from the famous academic high schools of Bronx and Brooklyn. I scored 800s on my math SATs. Yet I was good at other subjects too. I was salutatorian of my graduating class.
In college (RPI) and graduate school (UC Berkeley) I studied math. I obtained my PhD in 1969. By that time, however, I had been working for three years as a full-time computer programmer. That turned into a 15-year career as a systems developer and development manager. During that time I published papers about computer science topics, and as a technical leader, I spent a lot of my time explaining how things work.
My career took a new direction in 1980 when I wrote Programming the Z8000, followed a year later by Inside BASIC Games, both published by Sybex. The first of these books led me into ten years as a technical and strategic marketing manager in the semiconductor industry. Between generating technical specs, application notes, competitive analyses, and sample code and traveling around the country making presentations at conferences and trade shows, I had become a full-time technical communicator.
In 1984 I also joined the editorial board of IEEE Micro, and in 1987 I began writing a review column, which I continue to write nearly 25 years later. Many of my columns appear at http://xrmcontent.blogspot.com.
Starting in the early 1990s, I declared myself a freelance technical writer. I did a variety of projects before settling into my current specialty, documentation for an audience of programmers. In 1999 I began a seven-year stint as an employee of Documentum. After that I went back to freelance work.
I joined STC in 1992, and quickly became a chapter president and a competition manager. I have been involved in chapter and competetion management ever since. This quickly involved me in Northern California regional STC activities, because we have so many chapters in close proximity. I belong to four chapters and regularly attend their meetings.
I am in frequent contact with the leaders of two other nearby chapters as well. It is easy for me to participate so effectively in regional activities because STC Associate Fellow Patrick Lufkin has been a mainstay of Northern California STC for many years. I hope he will write his own story in this series.
I became involved at the Society level largely because of STC Fellow Judy Herr, who is excellent at reaching out to friends and colleagues and encouraging them to take on new responsibilities. She persuaded me to become treasurer of the Management SIG when she was that SIG’s leader, and then to become a member of the SIG Advisory Council when she was the SIG Advocate.
Many others at the Society level have encouraged and supported me, but I want to give special thanks to STC Executive Director Kathryn Burton, who is a breath of fresh air. She encouraged me to join committees led by W. C. Wiese, Cindy Currie, and Hillary Hart, all aimed at improving communication between STC headquarters and the membership. This led me to my current position as a member of the Community Affairs Committee (CAC).
All this STC activity, in addition to earning a living, is far from a solo enterprise. I live in Berkeley, California, with my wife, Christina, and daughter, Esther Joi. Without their love, support, and a lot of sacrifice, none of this would have been possible. I’m glad they were present at the 2011 Summit in Sacramento, when STC honored me with the rank of Fellow.