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Who are we? What should STC be?

by Mike Hughes

Editor’s Note: Mike Hughes is running for 2nd VP for STC. This is his article that describes his vision for STC and our profession.


I am Mike Hughes, and I am running for Second VP for the Society for Technical Communication. In this article I tell you a little about me and my vision for our profession.

Who am I?

I am a Society Fellow currently on the editorial advisory board for Technical Communication and the Ken Rainey Excellence in Research award committee. I chaired the subcommittee on Research at the STC Academic-Industry Leaders Summit in 2007, and I was organizer and leader for the Sharing Corporate Knowledge Institute at the Summit Conference in 2007. I am also currently filling an interim director position on the board. In my day job, I am a user assistance architect for IBM. I have a master’s degree in Technical Communication and a PhD in Instructional Technology, and I am a Certified Performance Technologist through the International Society for Performance Improvement.

Who are we?

Technical communication is a diversified profession, one that supports multiple career paths and roles. Whether we call ourselves technical writers, information developers, instructional designers, content managers, or whatever, we improve the user technology experience by providing information that eases and enhances that experience.

When our profession was initially emerging, we stated our value in terms of the correctness and completeness of our documents and the clarity of the language in those documents. Then, as we matured, we started defining our value in terms of how we benefited our end users. And now we are taking our value proposition to yet a higher level: how we support the missions and objectives of the organizations that employ us. This means that our value can’t stop at the quality of the communications we produce; it must extend to the effectiveness of the actions they enable, and beyond that, to how the improved effectiveness of our users benefits our sponsors. The list is long, but these are just a few:

  • Increased customer adoption (because new products and services are easier to install and use)
  • Reduced support costs (because product owners can maintain their own products better)
  • Lower medical costs (due to better patient compliance with medicines and procedures)
  • Improved product quality and reduced production costs (because workers can comply with best practices that are easily understood)
  • Increased customer loyalty (because the web sites and other communication channels we create build communities of common value and interests)

What should STC be?

If those are some of the things we are about, what should the role of STC be?

  • Provide professional development programs in the core body of knowledge that defines us as a profession
  • Show leadership and provide education in the emerging tools and technologies that direct our future as a profession
  • Serve as our advocate within government and industry to articulate our contributions and needs as a profession

We have invested a lot of our society energy and resources over the last several years in improving the structure and governance of STC. I think we can quit reinventing ourselves now and put our new structure to work. We need to shift our focus outward again and ensure that as members we are getting full value for our dues. My main focus as an officer will be the following:
  • Maintain a balanced budget that funds the programs that add the most value for members
  • Ensure that our publications and conferences provide the content that helps members do their jobs
  • Create a collaboration where members, vendors, employers, and academic communities help technical communicators keep up with the ever-changing demands for tools and technology knowledge
  • Support a certification program through STC that helps our sponsors trust and understand our value and that creates sustainable careers for technical communicators.

Please visit my website at http://www.mindspring.com/~mikehughes/index.htm(external link) to get more information on my background or read some of my published papers. Go to my blog at http://user-assistance.blogspot.com(external link) and click the STC label to read more about my positions and thoughts on specific topics related to my candidacy.


Page last modified on Monday, November 17, 2008 07:41:13am EST
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