By: Payton Ritchey
Candidate for MA in English Literature at Villanova, 2016
This April, I had the pleasure of attending the Society for Technical Communication’s final Philadelphia Metro Chapter meeting of the season. Since it was the last meeting of the year, of course there was food, drinks, and lots of laughs. I was introduced to several members of the Society, all of whom were warm, friendly, and welcoming – not to mention gracious in answering all of my tech-related questions! I could not have imagined a warmer welcome or more interesting group of people, and was pleasantly surprised by how helpful and informative everyone was.
Being that it was the last meeting for some time, awards were also given out at the end of the meeting. These awards were Distinguished Chapter Service Awards, presented to members Steve Adler and Timothy Esposito for their years of service to the STC-PMC.
Watching the awards being given was quite a treat; everyone was delighted to see Tim and Steve, who have been affiliated with STC-PMC for some time, get the recognition they deserved.
Lucky young lady that I am, I got the opportunity to interview both Steve and Tim following the meeting. I had the pleasure of asking them about their thoughts on the status of technical communication, how the see the field advancing, and what advice they have for people (like me) who are just starting out and showing interest in the field.
Tell me about your work background. How did you get into technical communications?
Steve: I have a degree in technical writing and editing. I’ve been working in this field since I graduated.
What got you interested in technical communications?
Steve: The school I went to, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh… I was in the school of humanities there, and they had a common core curriculum that you had to finish before you could declare an actual major. I eventually discovered that they had a major in technical communications, which I liked because I enjoyed learning and liked to learn about technology. So I entered that program.
How did you first become involved in STC?
Steve: I started way back when… I used to go to meetings every once in a while, back in the prehistoric days of the 1980s. It didn’t really stick. I used to belong to the chapter, but wasn’t an active member for a lot of years. In the mid ‘90s, I became active and started going to meetings and participating. I’ve been an active member and on the board for the past nine years or so, and I’ve done various things for the chapter since then.
What do your normal chapter activities involve?
Steve: This past year I’ve been winding down my activity level, because I’m the immediate past president. I served for two years as VP organizing chapter meetings, and then became the president. Then I did that for two years, and that involved pretty much being in charge of the whole chapter, presiding over monthly meetings and working with different chapter officers and volunteers to put on events for the members during the year. This year I didn’t do that much. I worked as an electronic entries manager for the competition we had this year. I was in charge of collecting all the entries and making sure they got filed correctly. We worked with NYC-Metro chapter to organize that competition. The administration council and everyone have been so great, that I honestly haven’t really had to do that much as the immediate past president. They kind of took the ball and went rolling with it.
What is most rewarding about volunteering for STC?
Steve: Getting to know people better and making contacts in the field. Making friends, getting to know people on a more personal level. Knowing that I have a place where people are doing similar things to me and getting to know what they’re doing. It’s a great place to broaden my professional network.
Has being involved in STC changed the way you perceive technical communications in any way?
Steve: It’s increased my awareness of how broad the field really is. I do something a little different than other people in the chapter… I work in the IT department at Temple. Other people work in software companies, we have one that works for the EPA… it builds my appreciation and awareness of the different directions you can go with technical communication. It’s interesting to see what people are doing to advance their careers. Helps me to see what I can do to advance myself and help me move forward.
What are your thoughts on the growth and importance of technical communications?
Steve: Its important because there’s always going to be a need to have people explain how to use technology, because there are always going to be new technologies coming about and you’re always going to need someone to detail how to use them. It’s always going to be a vitally important field. And the growth… I’m optimistic that there will be growth. It will change a lot, but I think there is always going to be a need for another or us in some way.
Do you have any advice for others looking to get involved?
Steve: I would encourage people to get involved with STC to begin with because that will help them get to know others in the field, make connections, get their names out, and learn about the field through the monthly meetings. Learning about what people are doing is vitally important. You can get burned out or pigeonholed if you don’t see what other people are doing. I think it’s good for your psyche to stay current and see what others are doing. I dipped my feet in very shallow water, volunteered for a few small tasks, and each year volunteered to do something else. I learned new skills, and it was a good way to get my name out and improve my arsenal of skills. It was good to show people what I could do. If I ever need, for example, a recommendation or reference, I could go to some people in STC that I worked with. It was good for professional development: I worked with event planning, publicity, social media… that’s helped me a lot, because I use social media to some degree at my job. The work I did for STC helped me with that in doing publicity for the chapter and I acquired a lot of different skills in a fun kind of way. Being a part of the chapter has helped me develop skills and try new things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
*This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Interview. Part 2 will feature Timothy Esposito.