At the recent LavaCon, conference executive director Jack Molisani offered to put $100 toward anyone who joined STC or renewed their membership during the conference. We spoke with Jack after the conference to thank him and learn more.
Your annual conference LavaCon just ended. For those who aren’t familiar with it, what’s LavaCon? And how did it go?
First, some history: I was at Leadership Day at the 1998 Annual Summit and someone observed that it’s a shame that none of the members in the Pacific Rim chapters were able attend their (at the time) regional conferences, because the regional events were always held on the mainland United States. Someone casually offered, “We should have a combined Region 7/Region 8 conference and hold it smack in the middle in Hawaii.” I immediately raised my hand and said, “I’ll run that one!”
Two years later, the STC Year 2000 Region 7/8 Pan-Pacific conference took place in Honolulu. It was an amazing event.
At the end everyone was saying “I can’t wait until the next one!” However, there were no plans to have another such event and then the Society retired the regions, so I decided to start my own commercial conference in Hawaii.
There were already plenty of tool conference and I didn’t want to compete with STC’s annual conference. So I decided to focus my event on technical communication management (how to choose technology platforms, how to manage projects, manage teams, etc.). Over the years I’ve responded to market changes by adding tracks on social media, content strategy, etc. But our core focus has always been tech comm management and strategy.
After 2008 it was harder and harder for people to get approval to go to a conference in Hawaii, so I brought the conference to more accessible U.S. cities. This year we were in Portland and had such a great time we’re going back in 2014!
This year LavaCon attendees got an added benefit—if they joined or renewed their STC membership while in Portland, you paid $100 of it for them! What made you decide to offer this to attendees?
I feel a certain pride of ownership (so to speak) in being a member of STC. This is my professional organization—not in the sense of owning stock in a company, but in the sense that STC is a collective of really, really cool and professional people. I have gained so much over the years from being a member and networking with my peers, it was time for me to give back. Helping people who might not otherwise be able to sign up seemed the way to do that.
You mentioned you have gained a lot from being a member. How?
I’ve been a technical communicator and an STC member since 1993, which means I’ve survived two recessions and a dot com crash. But because I was active in STC I was always able to find work by networking. Then there was the sheer challenge of keeping up with the publishing technology changes over the past 20 years. It was at STC meetings and annual summits where I learned what was coming and how to leverage those changes.
What else do you do outside of LavaCon? I hear you have a new book out.
When I’m not producing LavaCon I run ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency that specializes in recruiting technical communicators and project managers. After seeing so many candidates make common (and avoidable) mistakes when looking for work, I decided it was time to write a book on how people can advance their careers. Be The Captain of Your Career will be published in March by Precision Wordage Press, but people can preorder copies via Amazon starting the last week in January.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Technical communication has always covered a broad range of careers and fields of study, now more than ever. We are the solvers of content-related business problems. Perhaps the “Society of Content-Related Business Problems Solvers” is a tad too wordy, but that’s who we are. STC is the professional organization for such people.
I’m happy and proud to be part of it.