Featured Article: 2021 Leadership Program: The STC Superheroes Journey (May 19, 2021)

Mellissa Ruryk

I went to the virtual Leadership event on May 19, 2021, and had an informative, fun time.  "Leadership Day" is usually held in person at the Summit, so it was great to see more people (than just those registered for the Summit) attend. Ann Marie Queeney ran the show and announced the Community Achievement Award winners, the Pacesetter winners , and Distinguished Service award winners. Our IDL SIG won a bronze CAA award and Lori Meyers received a Distinguished SIG Service award for all her valuable volunteer input.

There were 4 breakout sessions in the last half hour of the event, and I chose to attend the one on Student Outreach, run by John Clement. His information centered on student chapters at universities, which was not the info I was looking for or expected. However, he made some good points:

  • In order to increase attendance at your community education events, ask what your members want to learn about (rather than relying on thinking you know what they want).
  • Ask your members what topic in technical communication they can share on, help them learn presentation skills
  • Provide as many networking opportunities as possible, perhaps centering on career readiness, résumé writing, interview tips and techniques, etc.

Even though I'm a senior TW and have held many positions in the IDL and 2 geographic chapters, I still like to attend Leadership day because I can always learn more about how to volunteer more effectively.

Viqui Dill

Congratulations to the STC CAC team for organizing a great Leadership themed event, 2021 Leadership Program: The STC Superheroes Journey recognizing the superhero in all of us. Anne Marie Queenie and her team put together an informative and engaging session. We were encouraged to use the chat to interact with friends, old and new. Then there were the presentations celebrating accomplishments through the year. With so much going on, I barely had time to text with my STC pals as the show went on LOL. Seriously, the CAC caped champions showed us how it's done!

Anita Matechuk

The CAC virtual leadership program was a great way to learn about STC. As a new member, exploring how to create a successful SIG and chapter has really helped me understand how STC can support me in my journey into a career in technical communication.

I started just taking the free webinars but soon registered to become an STC superhero. Seeing all the awards and the process involved in winning them showed me the possibilities for an active STC member. It was great listening to all the experienced STC members discussing what they probably considered common insights in this new and exciting world.

Jamye Sagan

For the second year in a row, the CAC hosted its leadership program virtually. In only two hours, we got to hear from STC leadership, recognize community award winners, and learn about clever initiatives from Pacesetter Award-winning communities. Our program ended with a choice of breakout sessions; I co-hosted the CAA one. It’s always a treat to chat with my STC friends and meet new ones.

Featured Article: Student Networking and Peer Learning in Post-Secondary Education—In-person and Virtual

by Anita Matechuk

As I come to the end of my second post-secondary experience, I am reflecting on the differences between my two learning journeys. I first obtained a degree in engineering in an in-person environment. Then I took my technical communication certificate virtually.

My in-person schooling experience

Okay, here I am really going to date myself, but I took my engineering degree before students had laptops. We had computers, but they were big and bulky, and you didn’t take them to class with you. Instead, university consisted of in-person lectures where you sat with your friends and madly tried to write notes while listening to the professor and responding to questions if asked. Multitasking at its finest!

You were lucky if the professor used the blackboard because their hand got just as tired as yours did. The professor was smart enough to use an overhead projector in some classes to show their prepared notes. With this style, you needed to split up the sections to record with your friends so you could swap notes and get them all.

Sitting next to other students in class, social activities, and communal activity locations allowed for unstructured networking opportunities and study groups. For example, the 20-person card games in the student lounge led to homework parties and all-nighters in the computer lab together.

The peer learning that occurred in these groups was essential in my schooling. While learning independently, not understanding an assignment or part of a subject can make you feel alone and unintelligent. It helped to discuss the material with other students. When all else failed, marching down to the professor’s office hours with 10 other students having the same question definitely removed the stigma of “it’s just me.”

My virtual schooling experience

I took virtual classes to complete my technical communication certificate. Gone were the hours of note-taking with other students, and they were replaced with hours of reading and watching videos by myself. Being able to adapt the learning to my schedule and learning style was a huge advantage for me.

I easily reviewed the sections I struggled with, and I didn’t have to wait for others to review the sections they struggled with. Another major asset was the learning options provided by the university. Instead of learning everything in a 60-minute lecture, I could choose to read, look at pictures, or watch videos to explain a section at a time.

While I appreciated the flexibility in this style of learning, it had some drawbacks. For example, selecting a random student to start an email conversation with wasn’t easy. In addition, while I may have talked to myself during virtual classes, no one was there to listen. Still, I found student networking opportunities in other ways.

Building a virtual peer learning network

Both in-person and virtual learning requires students to build their peer learning network, but you have to work a little harder with virtual learning. Before you can build your peer learning network, you need to meet some other students. While this is easier for in-person learning, it isn’t impossible with virtual learning.

Some options for virtually meeting students include:

  • Contact individuals in your class directly. Most virtual schools provide the ability to contact other students for the function of working on group projects. While this is probably the most effective way to build your network, it can feel highly vulnerable and takes practice to become comfortable starting a virtual relationship.
  • Use an established social networking platform. While your school might not provide a social networking platform, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) has a Slack workspace. This workspace is a great place to introduce yourself, find social activities, and network with other students. You don’t want to spam the entire platform with constant posts, but you need to let people know you are there. Private messaging other students who comment on your posts or make their own posts is a great way to establish a network.
  • Attend virtual social activities and interact during the activities. You aren’t going to meet anyone if you don’t give yourself the option to talk to anyone. If you meet someone, exchange your contact information. Not everyone is the perfect fit, and nothing may come from it, but you won’t know unless you try.
  • Volunteer for STC, a Special Interest Group (SIG), or a chapter. The more you participate in activities, the better chance you have of meeting students or other like-minded individuals and professionals. Volunteering also gives you something to talk about when you start your network and can remove some of the awkwardness of meeting new people.

Some options for communicating with your peer learning network:

  • Create a group chat. Pick the social media platform that you are all comfortable using and start chatting. Ask questions about assignments, celebrate achievements, and support each other in your learning. Remember, it can take some time for your network to get comfortable, so don’t be discouraged if you need to help the conversation get started for a while.
  • Plan a small virtual meetup. While this doesn’t provide constant interaction like a group chat, it can be really nice to see another face and just talk. Keeping it small allows for natural conversations without the difficulties of a large group meeting.

A peer learning network can enhance your post-secondary learning, and no one says it has to end when your schooling is complete. You can take your network with you on your career journey and grow your network as you develop as a professional. Networking is an important skill to have as a professional, and if you start as a student, you have a head start!

New Member: Megan Albert

Megan Albert has been volunteering with the SIG since the new year. She is a student at Simon Fraser University (SFU) currently, and completed a B.A. at the University of Alberta in Anthropology and Classics. She notes “I spent time volunteering for various programs there as a student, which led to me working for the University of Alberta Students' Union for 3 years. I spent about 7 years on the North Campus, and it's a much-loved area for me.”

Now we in the IDL are lucky enough to have Megan volunteering for us. She’s been busy packing and moving the past couple of months and hasn’t settled into an “official” role but has been a tireless supporter and organizer of the First Fridays at Five, which is an informal Zoom meeting held monthly (sign up here) for students, people who like students, and people who want to be a student or have been a student. In other words, you are welcome!

Asked to describe her job to a child, Megan replied “I write things that tell people how to do hard stuff.”   Megan says she was advised by teachers and professors that she should be a writer, as it's always been one of her natural abilities. Creative writing or an academic career didn’t interest her and while researching writing careers in corporate areas, Megan encountered technical writing. She immediately decided that it was the perfect fit.

Megan is nearly finished her certificate in technical communication from SFU. “As I await my final practicum course in September, I'm looking for freelance work and developing my portfolio. It feels great to start translating what I've learned to real-world applications,” she said. “Keep me in mind if you're looking for an entry-level contractor!” I guess if all else fails, Megan could seek out her alternate dream job: an interior designer. “I love DIY around the house as a hobby, and doing it professionally would be an amazing creative career.”

Megan kindly took some time out of her busy student/entrepreneurial life to answer some quirky questions for our newsletter:

What's your most memorable facepalm moment?

- I slipped on some ice at a Red Bull Crashed Ice event, and I accidentally elbowed a lady in the face who was helping me up. The crowd around me oooo'd and gasped and it was very cringe-worthy.

What is your motto or personal mantra?

- I make a point to encourage myself to fight past the fear of failure.

What is your secret guilty pleasure? (it won't be a secret after the newsletter is published.)

- I love watching The Bachelor/ette, it's good garbage.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

- My sweet cat Patches purring in my face.

Speaking of Patches...

Birthplace? Currently residing in?

- I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I still currently reside here.

What is your most common writing error? What is your worst pet peeve with other peoples' writing? 

- Sometimes commas get away from me, and I end up with too many or too little! A personal pet peeve in writing is using overly formal or niche language to sound more sophisticated. Your message is only as valuable as it is accessible to your audience.

Do you have a pet/pets? 

- My partner and I have two rescues. We have Patches, an incredibly sweet and chunky kitty (see picture above). Not much fazes her! We adopted Pika not even a week ago. She's an adorable, 7-pound, long-haired chihuahua with a bit of a sassy attitude! They're getting along great already!

New Member: Jannetta Lamourt

Let’s get to know Jannetta!

Jannetta Lamourt is a new volunteer for the IDL SIG who is also a student at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). A published poet, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing.

Jannetta has taken on the role of Social Media lead for the SIG and now oversees and coordinates our public-facing communication on Twitter, Slack, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Although she would rather be the Head Chocolate Taster at See’s Candy factory, she really enjoys her life in technical communications. In her words, “My writing began later in life. I was around thirty when I discovered computers and the cornucopia of information called the world wide web. From there – I volunteered with a women’s org online newsletter and developed articles as needed at first, then morphed into a bylined author, and from there upon a fellow reading some of my themed articles, was asked to author a six-week adult teaching course and [found that] the world of words was my oyster!” 

Jannetta works on technical writing and editing projects, writes website content and does  social media consulting, guides, and other documentation. Her company name is Quantivpro (www.quantivpro.com) and maintains her own website at www.jannettalamort.com.  Being self-employed, Jannetta is always looking for more work, usually on a freelance or contract basis. But, she says, if the right full-time remote position opened up… she’d be game!

Jannetta kindly took some time out of her busy student/entrepreneurial life to answer some quirky questions for our newsletter:

How would you describe your day job to a child?

I work on the computer creating stories and pictures 

What’s your most memorable facepalm moment?

Discovering—after multiple self-edits and using others to edit, and after printing a thousand or so pieces—that the title had lost its contraction of “you are.” That event reigns supreme as my ultimate FP moment. 

What is your motto or personal mantra?

Where there is will… there is a way. 

What is your secret guilty pleasure? 

A monthly subscription for Deathwish Coffee, my favorite (but not so secrete anymore)

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Did I mention coffee? Along with a list to do a mile long, I am generally a bright-eyed and fluffy-tailed morning person!

Birthplace? 

Lufkin, Texas

Currently, residing in?

Bernalillo, New Mexico  (Outside Albuquerque by 18 miles, and I consider it a half-horse town because it is too small to own a whole horse.)

Associations 

  • IDL STC
  • STC
  • New-England STC
  • SIG Women TechComm
  • SG Solo Technical Design
  • Civitan (Great Southwest Civitan District) 
  • Harpswell Foundation
  • Jasper and Angelina Counties in Texas, Genealogy Organizations
  • Quantivpro
  • Sandoval County Master Gardeners
  • Southern New Hampshire University

What is your most common writing error? 

Commas – their ever-changing positioning debate

What is your worst pet peeve with other peoples’ writing? 

  • Spelling and basic errors any word processor or email software pick up – red underlines have meaning! Take a moment and tidy up.
  • Wordiness, as in: I could maybe think about doing something about that issue, OR we would like to find a time to tell you perhaps what we think could be the issue… maybe. 

Do you have a pet/pets?

  • 16-year-old Chihuahua – Roky 
  • 18-year-old Aquatic Turtle- Myrtle
  • One rooster and four hens
  • I recently said a long goodbye to my beautiful 14-year-old Labrador Chief. 

Children? 

My son Conway is 26 and my daughter Nicole is 24.

Parents? 

I was adopted at age three, and my adoptive parents are now deceased.

I learned about my birth parents at age ten and met them later. I also found out I am the eldest of five children in my birth family; my father is deceased, but my mother is alive at 74. 

And here is Jannetta’s scrapbook page, which she designed herself:

IDL SIG announces its 2021 SIG award recipients!

by Lori Meyer and Maralee Sautter

The IDL SIG is proud to announce our 2021 SIG awards! These awards provide us with an additional opportunity to recognize the volunteers who work so hard to make our SIG the excellent community that it is. 

Volunteer Achievement, which recognizes the services of a SIG volunteer over time.  We have two recipients this year because it was an extraordinarily active year.

The first Volunteer Achievement award goes to Viqui Dill, a long-time SIG member who has served in many volunteer capacities, including co-manager, programs manager, and technical tools goddess. Viqui’s award citation reads:

For the joyful energy you bring to everything you do, including recruiting great speakers for our webinars, sharing our accomplishments through many outlets, and strengthening our community with your good heart and technical superpowers.

The second Volunteer Achievement award goes to Mellissa Ruryk, another long-time SIG member who has also served in volunteer activities, including co-manager, student outreach, and all things in between. Mellissa’s award citation reads:

For your vision to strengthen and expand our student outreach program and increase volunteer participation by offering short-term jobs (toe-dips), and for organizing a fun and engaging virtual scavenger hunt at our community's Summit 2021 social networking event.

New Volunteer, which recognizes a SIG member who has demonstrated exemplary service as a first-time volunteer. The New Volunteer award goes to Anita Matechuk, who has become our student volunteer extraordinaire in less than a year. Anita’s citation reads:

For stepping up to leadership without a moment's hesitation, serving as SIG secretary, providing valuable insights into using tools such as Facebook, Slack, and Zoom, and inspiring and recruiting new volunteers to be part of our community.

Congratulations to Viqui, Mellissa, and Anita, and we look forward to naming next year's award recipients!

We are proud of all our STC and SIG awards. Click here to view.