by Lawrence D. “Larry” Kunz, Candidate for Second Vice-President
Are you getting value for your investment in STC? Many members, as they renew their memberships for 2008, are asking what value they receive in return for the dues they pay.
I’m pretty well sold on the value of STC. Just last year I got a new job after spotting the opening on my chapter’s employment page. During the interview process, I benefited from the experience I’ve gained through STC and the contacts I’ve made in STC.
But that’s just one person’s experience. STC must offer real value, consistently and across the board, to members and prospective members. STC will need to offer even more value to remain competitive in the next few years.
(Yes, I said “STC” and “remain competitive” in the same sentence. STC is a business, and it confronts significant issues and stiff competition in today’s marketplace. It’s nice to think that STC is more than just a business and that it’ll always be here. But the reality is that, to remain viable in the short term, STC must do better at proving its value.)
Taking a longer view, however, STC has an opportunity to provide value in ways that go far beyond what’s possible today. STC is uniquely positioned to take the lead in defining the profession of technical communication. When we do that, we’ll provide significant and enduring value for our members, for practitioners who haven’t yet become members, for the people who employ us, and even for society in general.
Defining the Profession
Ever since I joined STC 25 years ago, we’ve been saying that technical communication is a profession. But we’re an immature profession, and as a result our work often isn’t taken seriously by the people who employ us and the people who buy our products.
To grow into a mature profession, we need at least two things:
An agreed-on code of ethics. STC has its own ethical code, but it doesn’t represent the consensus of the entire profession, and it’s not enforceable.
A unique body of knowledge, and the expectation that each practitioner has mastered that body of knowledge.
The technical communication profession is desperate for leadership—desperate for a set of ethical values, an agreed-on body of knowledge, and perhaps a credentialing system.
Today, all of the pieces are in place for us to develop technical communication into a mature profession. We have the will, we have the know-how, and we have an organization—STC—with the stature, the broad reach, and the resources to lead the way. STC can assemble the building blocks for our profession, it can forge consensus, and it can gain buy-in among the significant stakeholders in the worldwide community of technical communicators.
What Is STC Doing?
As a member of the STC board of directors, I’m leading the effort to formulate a strategic plan, or roadmap that positions STC as the leader in defining the profession—especially by establishing a body of knowledge and promoting ethical standards. (We’ve already begun working on the body of knowledge.)
You might have heard the phrase “telling our powerful story.” The strategic plan focuses on raising the profile of all technical communicators—and emphasizing the value we provide to our employers and to the world in general— by marketing our people and the work we do.
The strategic plan also emphasizes establishing and expanding partnerships. By teaming with other organizations, STC will strengthen its leadership role in the profession and position itself to provide even more value to its members.
STC doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be modernized. The board of directors, along with the executive director and her staff, understand this. We know that STC must keep providing value over the short term while setting the stage for long-term value by defining the profession. We’re implementing plans to keep the business of STC strong by retaining and attracting members and by constantly reviewing its suite of programs and services to ensure that they still make sense.
I believe that we can find a way to develop technical communication as a profession and continue delivering real value to our members—all without losing the social and interpersonal aspects that have made STC so special to so many people over our history.
What It Means to You
Defining the profession will benefit every technical communicator because it will make us more valuable to the people who sign our paychecks. Instead of simply saying “I need some manuals and online helps” (which reduces technical communication to a commodity, not a profession), our employers will realize that they need professional people who contribute value to the organization by increasing customer satisfaction and making products easier to use—thus easier to sell.
We’ll prove our value on a much wider stage as well. By providing information that makes technology work for the people who use it, we contribute real value to society as a whole.
I’m running for second vice-president because nobody is better acquainted with the issues that STC will have to confront as it leads the profession to where we want it to go. I can foster a climate of creativity and cooperation in which we’ll plot a course for the Society and the profession. STC needs leaders who can build consensus and explain decisions to the membership at large. I hope you’ll entrust me with your vote.
The next few years will be exciting. Along with my membership dues, I’ve chosen to invest my time and energy in being a part of this effort. I hope you’ll agree that STC’s future, and the value it’ll bring to you, is worth investing in as well.
About the Author
Lawrence D. “Larry” Kunz, a candidate for STC second vice-president, is a member of the Society’s board of directors and immediate past president of the Carolina chapter. He is employed as a Senior Technical Writer at Systems Documentation, Inc., in Durham, NC, where he manages a large software documentation project.
To learn more about Larry, check out http://lk81924.googlepages.com/home.