by Manuela Domingos
STC Houston is proud to feature the first of many upcoming “Member Spotlight” articles. The Member Spotlight program connects an area student with a Senior Member of STC Houston. The student interviews and writes a feature article on the STC member. We hope this helps students in the area meet valuable contacts active in the field of technical communication. In addition, it is a way for STC Houston to honor a member who has done much for our organization and the field.
Before starting her own business in 1997, Evalyn Shea knew it was time to take the necessary steps towards a different direction in her career life. Friends were encouraging Shea to start her own business. Meanwhile, “The owner of the business I was working for had told me that he wanted to groom me to take over the business so that he could retire in three years. We were about half way through— prior to his retirement— when one of his children decided to come work in his father’s business. It was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to have a position,” Shea recounted.
Nevertheless, this timing coincided with a new opportunity. After being informed about a new project from a friend, Shea met with the plant manager for a new-build processing plant. The next day, she resigned from her job, later met with an attorney to draw up papers to start her business, and then put in a proposal for the project, ultimately winning the bid.
In February 1997, Shea Writing and Training Solutions was established. Starting with Shea as the sole founder, the business now holds over forty employees. While on the job, Shea has learned many things about the business. “Some of the technical, especially the geopolitical, economic, and commercial—how it all ties together—is fascinating to me,” she stated. In vivid detail, she recounted about one of the first projects of the company: writing operating procedures and on the job training manuals for a cryogenic gas plant. Shea got the opportunity to become a scribe and over the years developed a joy and fascination in the job. One thing that particularly surprised her: “Other engineers thought that I was an engineer because of the way I was absorbing the information,” she laughed.
Along with running her own business, Shea is also a member of the Society of Technical Communication and encourages membership amongst her employees. She described the various opportunities involved in the professional organization, such as speakers who present topics on relevant aspects of the field, regular chapter meetings, and monthly networking groups with opportunities to network in the community of freelance writers in Houston. When asked about her personal experience with STC, she replied: “For the last several years I have been a competition judge. I would definitely encourage everybody to be a competition judge at some point. It’s always interesting to get together and discuss what people found.”
One organization that particularly stands out to Shea is her involvement with the Society for Professional Women and Petroleum in the past. For Shea, this organization led to great opportunities to meet other women, ask questions, learn, and build a network.
As for anyone considering a career in technical writing, Shea emphasizes the importance of understanding how to present information and not being afraid to learn the technology. “Explore, it’s a very rewarding career. Find out what interests you. There are many different ways you can go with technical writing. Determine what is fascinating to you, and then look into launching your career in that direction.”
For Shea, these 24 years of hard work and dedication have been worth the ride.
Fun Facts about Evalyn Shea
Favorite City: Houston
Favorite Restaurant: Escalante’sYears in Technical Comm: 24Favorite Animal: dog or catFavorite Food: Fettuccine AlfredoFavorite Hobby: SewingInteresting Fact: “People get surprised when they find out that I’ve been bungee jumping!”Complete This Sentence: “Best thing I love about my job is… getting to work with interesting people.”
Manuela Domingos is part of the Student/Mentor program of STC Houston and attends Houston Baptist University.