Our Meet the Officers series was a hit last year, so we’ve brought it back again this year. It’s your opportunity to learn more about your officers and get any tips they might have for navigating through STC.
Name: Danielle M. Villegas
Position: Vice-President, STC-PMC
When and how did you get involved in STC?
I originally heard about the STC through the director of the MSPTC program at NJIT where I was attending grad school. She was an active member at the time who was heavily involved with the BOK, and was trying to get her students involved. She also had us use a lot of articles in various publications that were authored by STC members for research and class assignments.
About a year before I graduated, I signed up as with a student membership. I figured that I could use this as a potential networking tool to meet other tech comm professionals, as I didn’t know any in my area. The first event I went to was an STC-PMC holiday party in 2011 which happened to be in my area. I remember being painfully shy, but everyone was friendly, and encouraged me to continue to get involved. Slowly, I started to come to a meeting or two, attend some webinars, and went to my first CONDUIT conference (before we named it CONDUIT—that was my idea!), and the rest is history. I also got involved by attending the STC Summit and writing blog posts for the STC Notebook and STC Intercom. So, in a few short years, I’ve dived in deep!
What are the duties of your current position with STC-PMC?
The VP main duties center on creating the programming for STC-PMC program year. This means not only ensuring that we have some sort of event lined up, but also making all the arrangements for it. I thought being a former Cub Scout leader would help with this, but it’s a lot harder to nail down venues, speakers, and dates for meetings than it is to set up Cub Scout field trips! I’m concentrating on having a good mix of social events along with informative events where tech comm professionals—both STC-PMC members and potential members—can learn, enjoy, and have an opportunity to network with each other.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to get more involved in STC-PMC?
First, come to meetings, get to know everyone. If you know that you have a particular talent or skill that might be useful, offer it! You can always start small. My experience with TechCommGeekMom (my tech comm blog) translated into requests to write STC articles, and later became the basis for doing the social media marketing for the STC Regional Competition, and then for the STC-PMC later. I also helped with social media publicity for CONDUIT for a while as well. Every little bit helps, even just being an extra set of hands at an event!
Are you involved in any other groups or communities within STC?
As mentioned above, most people know me for my tech comm blog, TechCommGeekMom. But I’ve also written for STC Intercom, STC Notebook (I had a by-line in there for a little while), as well as some other tech comm blogs.
How has your STC membership benefited you?
I think there are two main points that have shown that STC membership has benefited me. The first is the education. Through the conferences and meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about “the real world” of tech comm outside of the classroom situation I had in grad school. I learn about what others are experiencing, what topics are trending, and gain an opportunity to learn from the best in the field. It’s the kind of learning that you can easily bring back to a job—or in my case, something I learned at a conference helped me GET a job, because I could speak the lingo and talk about current trends more competently. The learning component also serves as a way of validating my skills. It not uncommon for me, especially as a contractor who often is looking for the next gig, to start having doubts about my skills and abilities. Going to an STC event reminds me that I DO have the competency and skills to find that next project and do well with it—it’s validation for me.
The second benefit is definitely the people—the members themselves. I haven’t met a member of the STC who isn’t friendly, knowledgeable, or supportive of each other. I’ve often said that where I live, there aren’t many people who would consider themselves technical communicators, but when I’m with the STC, I feel like I’m with “my clan”—my people. They understand why tech comm is exciting because it excites them too, and that’s why they are in this membership as well. We all are interested in learning and growing as professionals, and the support I’ve gotten since I started has been incredible. I know I can always reach out to anyone either in my local membership, or to any STC member at-large whom I’ve met through the Summit or elsewhere, and they are always willing to help out. I try to do the same for other members as well. It’s a great environment to be in, and it’s all due to the people who are involved.
What is your educational background?
I have a BA in History from the University of Mary Washington, an MSPTC (Masters of Science, Professional and Technical Communications) from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and a mini-MBA in digital marketing from Rutgers University.
How did you get started in TechComm?
I had always had some aspect of tech comm in much of my professional career, but I didn’t know it was called technical communications. In 2009, I was about to be laid off from a job (due to the recession) that I liked, and decided that I needed to take advantage of NJ’s re-employment training program, because this job was the first one I had after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, and I knew that I needed to catch up somehow in the IT/tech world. I started to figure out the terminology for things I was doing at this job—instructional design techniques and technical editing, mostly—and looked for courses or programs that would help advance those skills. I found NJIT’s tech comm program, and was able to get the State of New Jersey to pay for the first three courses of a graduate certificate in technical communications essentials. By the time I was a few courses in, I was hooked, and was able to transfer my certificate into the Master’s program. I graduated with my MSPTC in 2012. As part of my graduate studies, I had to start a blog, and that was the genesis of TechCommGeekMom, which still is active today. My blog opened a lot of doors for me in the tech comm world, as I was invited to do social media coverage for conferences and write about tech comm products. I’ve tried to take advantage of almost every opportunity given to me as a result of my blog and my involvement with the STC ever since then.
What does your current professional position entail?
At this writing (early September 2016), I’ve just finished a contract as a technical copywriter for a global insurance company, working on their global self-service portal. In the past, I’ve also mostly worked as a content strategist and web publisher, which is what I enjoy the most, so I am pursuing those kinds of positions.
I also have a freelance, part-time position as well. One of my favorite contracts ended after two and a half years as they didn’t have enough work to keep me full-time. A couple months later, they asked, “Are you free? We just have a few hours’ worth that needs to be done regularly, and could use your help as a power user of our system.” Since it was a few hours during my free time, I said yes, and have been doing that for almost a year. So, it keeps me connected to a company I like, and doing something that I enjoy doing and do well for them.
What advice would you give to a college student interested in a career in TechComm?
That’s a tough question, as I went back to school to learn about tech comm as someone who’s middle-aged, as a means of starting a second (or perhaps third or fourth) career….
I guess my best advice is to never stop learning. Just because of have the diploma in your hand, it doesn’t mean you know everything. A good portion of what I learned was through talking to other tech comm professionals in the real world, and getting real world experience, even if it was a part-time, low paying job until I could find a full-time gig. Go to conference, talks, webinars—anything. Be involved in social media—start with #techcomm on Twitter or use other hashtags to see what people are talking about NOW. (My favorites are #elearning, #mlearning, #contentstrategy, and #socialmedia, and #digitalmarketing. Oh, and don’t forget #stc!). Join social media groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, and see what people are talking about. Social media is probably one of the greatest ways to be part of a global conversation. Sometimes you can participate, and sometimes you can sit back and listen or read, absorbing all the knowledge coming through your screen. Just don’t ever stop and think that you have mastered something, because with the technological world going at breakneck speed, you have to do your best to keep up to be viable in this field.
And finally, what do you enjoy for fun?
Fun? I’m a mom who usually has two jobs, so I don’t have much time for fun! LOL But seriously, when I do have time—which is rare, I like to knit. There is a tech comm “knitting cabal” as someone in the STC called it, and we all have connected on this shared hobby. It actually was an ice-breaker for me to meet some of the movers and shakers in the industry because I had that in common with them. I also like to do genealogical research on my family. Coolest thing I’ve found in my family tree so far is that I’m first cousins nine or ten times removed from Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.
I like to travel when I can, and I’m guilty of being a total geek who likes Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Trek, DC and Marvel superhero stuff, and the like. I’m also a big history buff especially about England and the Royals, so there’s that.
And then there’s that blog, TechCommGeekMom, which I write too. And I spend entirely too much time on social media, keeping up with friends, family, and professional colleagues who have become my friends over the years. I also occassionally do 5K and 10K races, mostly walking, and am trying to teach myself how to racewalk.