Editor’s Note: The Society for Technical Communications 2018 elections open on February 26, 2018 and run through March 9. Today we share an interview with Pam Estes Brewer, PhD, one of two candidates for Vice President.
Who are you? What’s your background? What do you do for a living?
I am a technical communicator, university professor, and management consultant. I started my career in tech comm at Cincom Systems and then LexisNexis. I eventually earned my Ph.D. at Texas Tech University and moved into teaching tech comm. I currently teach in the School of Engineering at Mercer University and direct the online Master of Science in Technical Communication Management. I also direct the UX lab and its projects with the Department of Homeland Security.
When did you join the STC? Why?
I joined STC in 1984 when I started my first job in technical communication. At that time, my department at Cincom Systems valued STC, and our cutting edge documentation won an award of excellence in the STC international competition.
Views on the Profession
Where do you see the profession of technical communications heading in the next five years?
The profession of technical communication is breaking into more specialized paths in the U.S. but is still viewed as a more integrated whole abroad. I anticipate that will continue. It is my hope that STC will help shape the value proposition for the field as a whole, and that is certainly one of my goals.
The profession will, as always, affect and be affected by emerging technologies and techniques. Current technologies and techniques that are likely to continue to figure largely in tech comm include topic-based authoring, developer/communicator collaboration tools, improved digital rhetoric, agile methods, gamification, and technical communication in India.
New technologies that are likely to start to impact tech comm include deep reinforcement learning, brain-computer interfaces, virtual assistants, machine learning, and cognitive expert advisors.
What would you do as VP and later as President to support or change this course?
I hope to support professionalization of the field as a whole and to build more effective collaborations (as detailed below) so that STC can increase its value proposition for members and build membership.
More specifically, I will
- support continued work on the TC Body of Knowledge and STC certification as these are excellent initiatives
- increase collaborations between practitioners and educators/researchers in order to supply better value metrics for the field
- support globalizing our organization to benefit all members
- facilitate better communication between STC staff, board, and membership
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 critical.
What do you see as the right roles for national board and the local and regional organizations?
The national board should provide vision and strategy for the future of STC—based on the needs articulated by the local and regional communities. Many of the “documented challenges” noted in the question have (ironically) a root cause in poor communication between staff, board, and membership. Staff and board need to listen to our expert members.
Where should the organization and its board focus its financial resources in the next year?
First, I think we need to do a reality check and be sure we have clear vision for our future and a clear understanding of our constituents. Then, I believe we are likely to focus our financial resources on
- day-to-day operations including transitions that help us to serve as a hub for education, professionalization, and networking for the tech comm field
- collaborative research, particularly on metrics that measure the value of skilled tech comm to organizations
- global connections
- improved intra-organizational communication
How does your role as an elected leader differ from that of the full-time paid staff?
As an elected leader, I will be charged with supporting the work of staff so that they can be successful on behalf of the membership and ensuring that the work of the staff does, indeed, benefit membership.
Members and Chapters
How should STC address the changing needs of organizations for technical content and the potential skills gap of STC members?
This is, perhaps, the most complex of the questions you are asking. It is complex because STC offers itself as an umbrella organization that represents the field at large, and tech comm is a huge, widely varying field.
STC currently tries to address these changing needs for technical content via SIG and chapter activities, Intercom, Technical Communication, webinars, the TC Body of Knowledge, international and regional conferences, and more. Are these media working? I think they are to a point. But we need to increase the offerings in cutting edge content. Many technical communicators move toward smaller, more focused organizations for cutting edge, advanced content.
Although membership in STC surges from time to time, the general trend is downward. What would you do to reverse that trend?
We have stabilized in recent years, but we need to aggressively address the value proposition of STC membership for its members. I strongly believe that increasing collaborative research, particularly on metrics that measure the value of skilled tech comm to organizations; increasing global connections; and improving intra-organizational communication, will result in a steady rise in value and number of members.
Should the STC keep supporting the local chapters? If Yes, Why & How? If no, Why?
Yes. The chapters should articulate their own value propositions as well as their needs. Then the board and staff should provide the resources to help them do what they do best.
The Office of Vice President and President Elect
What can you reasonably expect to accomplish as VP and President?
I have focused on a relatively narrow agenda of goals and objectives centered around professionalization, collaboration, and globalization. I am running for STC rather than against a competitor, and, if I’m elected, I am realistically committed to
- developing research metrics on tech comm value
- supporting initiatives that advance the professional legitimacy of tech comm
- building collaborations between industry and academy
- building collaborations internationally
- building better communication between STC staff, board, and membership
What will you do in the first 100 days?
In my first 100 days as VP, I will support the President and gaining a deeper, working knowledge of the staff and board. By the time I begin my term as President, I will have made headway in each of the five goals I identified in the previous question. By the time I finish my term as President, I will have made substantial headway on each of the five goals and have put in place sustainable objectives to take them forward past my own presidency.
What will be your legacy after you’re done as VP and President?
I sincerely hope that my legacy will be one of contributing to the power and legitimacy of the field of tech comm and building valuable collaborations.
The Big Last Question … Why are you the right person to be the next VP for STC?
- an experienced facilitator
- adept at working with diverse groups
- an advocate of a global perspective
- a Ph.D. and experienced researcher
With my experience and skills, I can serve STC in ways that are most needed right now, such as supporting excellent work on professionalization, developing value metrics, developing collaborations that add value for members, and extending STC reach internationally.