Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alison Reynolds Talks to STC Atlanta--
Last night's STC Atlanta chapter meeting was a stimulating event. For one, it was good to be back on the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University seeing old associates in the TCOM department. Alison's presentation on the findings her committee will present at the STC Academic-Industry Leaders Summit on Friday in Houston was insightful and sparked lots of comments about what role academia should play in preparing graduates of their technical communication programs. The turn-out was large and the participation among the group was that of positive engagement and respectful differences. All in all, just what a professional association should provide. Job well done, Alison.

Some of the issues explored included:
  • The belief by some that the learning of tools should be an essential part of becoming educated in a profession vs. the belief that academia should not engage in "training" activities.
  • The fact that industry talks the talk of being interested in strategic communication, critical thinking, and business skills when discussing what they want to hire, but they advertise for "tools, more tools, and domain knowledge." The problem is exacerbated when HR screeners use tools as the go/no go criteria for screening applicants.
  • When academic programs offer courses aimed at the strategic skills industry says it wants, students do not support those offerings by enrolling in them.

One of the goals of the summit will be to see how a cooperative effort from academics, industry, and STC itself can resolve some of these problems.

I am also going to the summit and I will be chairing another subcommittee that looks at how academia, industry, and STC can integrate their respective interests, expertise, and resources in the area of research. Not as sexy as Alison's topic but one that has elicited responses every much as passionate.

Also attending the summit from the Atlanta chapter are Carol Barnum and Scott DeLoach (who is chairing the committee looking at STC support for academe and students). Given that the list of attendees is about 30 (by invitation only) it says a lot about the strength of our chapter that Atlanta is providing 10% of the participants (and 40% of the chairpersons). I bring this up to encourage Atlanta technical communicators to start participating more in local chapter events. And as long as I'm bragging on local talent, I was also proud to see the positive engagement and insightful discussion that my co-workers from IBM Internet Security Systems, Mark Wallis and Miranda Bennett, made during the meeting. I've hit that point in my life and career that I have tried so hard to get to: I'm surrounded by smart people and we are working on important problems.

Now, if only the Tasty China restaurant next to Southern Poly would get a beer and wine license, life would be perfect.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Latest Column in UXMatters--
My regular column came out yesterday in UXMatters that combines several topics I have blogged about lately. It shows the benefit I derived from comments I got through this blog (not to mention Pabini's editorial hand). If you haven't read this online magazine on user experience issues, give it a look.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Atlanta STC Chapter Meeting: 9/25/2007---
The guest speaker this month is Alison Reynolds from Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in New Zealand. Alison is on her way to the STC Academic-Industry leaders Summit in Houston on Friday where she will chair the committee on Job Skills and Needs. This committee is addressing the following issues:
  • What do hiring managers really want: short term skills such as tools expertise or long-term assets such as business knowledge and leadership skills, or both?
  • What do practitioners wish academics knew? What basic and more advanced competencies would they like to see in graduates of TC programs? Who might teach/train to these competencies?

I encourage technical communicators in the Atlanta area to attend Alison's presentation at the Atlanta meeting (being held at Southern Polytechnic State University) and enjoy the opportunity to provide your own perspective and input. For times and directions go to