STC Elections 2014: Interview with VP Candidate Paul Mueller

new-stc-logoBiographical Questions

1. Who are you? What’s your background? What do you do for a living?

I joined the technical communication field in the late ‘80s and I have served in many different roles, from individual contributor to director of a worldwide team. Currently, I own and manage UserAid, which provides content strategy, design, and development services. I am honored to be named an STC Fellow this year and I’m looking forward to celebrating with everyone at the STC Summit.

2. When did you join the STC? Why?

I became an active member of STC in the early ‘90s. I joined a large consulting company and several generous mentors introduced me to STC. I learned a lot about our craft from numerous mentors, an incredible editor, and by attending many educational events offered by STC. By sharing our ideas and discussing alternative approaches, we can learn from each other and move our industry forward.

Candidate for Office Questions

Paul-MuellerViews on the Profession

1. Where do you see the profession of technical communications heading in the next five years?

Content is everywhere and companies are recognizing the value of quality content more each day. Different groups across many company departments are now developing and delivering content. The technical communication field needs to bring these diverse groups together. Content strategy is critical in defining the direction, and technical communication defines how to develop and deliver the required quality content. Technical communication is also evolving to include additional areas of focus, such as user experience and business management. I believe this integration and evolution will expand over the next five years.

2. What would you do as VP and later as President to support or change this course?

STC should be the organization known for helping everyone design, develop, and deliver quality content. Companies dedicate money for tools and resources to help their employees work more effectively. For example, many companies pay for valuable reference libraries and code samples to help computer programmers develop better code. STC provides these valuable resources, including many types of educational offerings for technical communicators, and we can do more.

As a member of the Board, I would like STC to partner with companies to develop educational programs those companies need. For example, we could build ramp-up classes based on company requirements. These classes would also be of great interest to our members since they would center around employable skills, such as structured authoring, content strategy, and other industry demands. By providing these classes, we can demonstrate the value STC offers, and increase investment in STC and its members by companies who need quality technical content.

Operations of the STC

The STC has had well documented challenges and some wins over the last number of years. As one of the elected leaders of the organization your views on the organization’s operations are very important. The next questions will cover this area.

1. What do you see as the right roles for national board and the local and regional organizations?

The international Board of Directors should use their industry knowledge, and experience within various STC communities, to work with our Executive Director to define the vision and direction for the organization, much like a Board of Directors does for a company. The Executive Director and STC staff members then work together to define how to execute that vision. Together, the international Board of Directors and the Executive Director manage the overall financial health of the organization, and strategic partnerships with other organizations.

The STC communities (chapters and SIGs) provide important events and services that connect STC members and the technical communication field in ways the international organization cannot. For example, local program meetings, conferences, and networking events enable technical communicators to discuss and share many ideas, including how to find a job in the local community. We need the overall vision for the organization to support community events and services in a cost effective way that helps STC communities provide value to their members.

2. Where should the organization and its board focus its financial resources in the next year?

I would like to see STC develop or acquire educational programs targeted at making our members more valuable in the industry. Establishing partnerships with companies is important so that we develop the programs they feel are valuable. For example, if a company would like technical communicators to have some knowledge of web scripting (php, python, JavaScript, …), we should develop a program or partner with an educational provider in that area. Then, we can also help connect attendees with companies looking for those skills.

This approach will also help us identify and connect with content developers in different groups across these companies. These groups of content providers may not have traditionally thought of STC as their professional home, but we should be, and we can be.

3. How does your role as an elected leader differ from that of the full-time paid staff?

Both our elected leaders and the STC staff are dedicated to the success of the organization, but each has a different role in achieving that success. Our elected leaders are volunteers who use their industry knowledge and experience to help define the goals and direction for our organization. The Executive Director and the STC staff determine the best way to accomplish those defined goals. In some cases, the STC staff, Board members, and other STC volunteers work together to achieve a goal. This working relationship is very important. I have worked with the STC staff on many projects over the years, such as the STC Summit, and I believe we work well together.

Members and Chapters

1. Although membership in STC surges from time to time, the general trend is downward. What would you do to reverse that trend?

The trend has been downward, but I believe we have hit the bottom, and we are now starting to see growth in some areas. By focusing on delivering educational programs that companies demand, we can demonstrate the value STC offers both to those companies and to our members. This increase in value will help us increase our membership. For companies who do not pay for memberships in organizations, we can also sell education packages that are similar to resource libraries purchased for developer groups. This approach will get technical communicators the resources they need and help STC improve its financial stability. It can also develop additional revenue streams, which can help reduce our dependence on membership fees.

2. Should the STC keep supporting the local chapters? If Yes, Why & How? If no, Why?

Absolutely. The partnership between our communities (chapters and SIGs) and the whole organization is important. Together, we deliver a comprehensive collection of services to our members. Communities offer events that support discussion, debate, and sharing of ideas between our members. Face-to-face events and online discussion groups help our members establish relationships with each other and strengthen their networks. There are also local programs, such as employment workshops and networking lunches, that provide important benefits to our members. These community events are often the face of STC to members who participate in them. Our Board of Directors should define a vision for the organization that supports community events and services in a cost effective way. We are seeing a lot of growth and innovation in this area as communities are sharing ideas and holding joint events to reduce expenses while delivering more value to their members.

The Office of Vice President and President Elect

1. What can you reasonably expect to accomplish as VP and President?

I can bring a diverse group of people together, identify areas of agreement, work through conflicts, and help build consensus to move forward. My goal is to work with the Board, Executive Director, and STC staff to make STC be the organization known for helping everyone design, develop, and deliver quality content. As we work toward this goal, I will help identify new ways to achieve financial stability and to establish strong partnerships with companies and related organizations.

2. What will you do in the first 100 days?

During the first 100 days, I will work with the Board to understand our current goals, evaluate our performance, and adjust our goals where needed. This time period is important for the financial stability of the organization as we review our Summit and membership numbers. I will also continue talking with community leaders and exchanging ideas with Board members to identify ways we can better serve our members.

3. What will be your legacy after you’re done as VP and President?

I hope that STC is the professional home for technical content providers across all company departments. More companies will recognize the value that STC offers, and STC can deliver more high-quality education and services to its members.

 

The Big Last Question …

Why are you the right person to be the next VP for STC?

I have served in many leadership roles throughout my career, from managing a team distributed around the world to owning my own consulting company. I have also served in many STC leadership positions at the local and international level, including a term on the Board, many STC Summit roles, and the chair of several task forces. My personal drive for success leads me to be demanding both of myself and of those around me.

Technical communication continues to be a fast-paced, growing field. As new generations enter the field and existing generations find new ways to meet changing demands, we need the Society to grow and develop with these changing needs. My STC experience will help me understand the way we have done things in the past as we identify new ways to support our communities and our members for the future. I believe I can help provide the leadership we need to strengthen the Society and focus on delivering services in a cost-effective manner. For more information, please see my election web site at www.stc-paulmueller.com.

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