The Value of STC

Editor’s note: The following guest post is from the Executive Director of the Society for Technical Communications, Kathryn Burton, CAE.

As the Executive Director of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), thank you for the opportunity to provide a counterpoint response to Robert Desprez’s post (Do you find the STC valuable?) on 19 June 2011. Along with many businesses and nonprofit organizations, STC weathered a very difficult storm during the financial crisis of recent years, but the dedicated staff, board members, and volunteer leadership of STC have worked hard every day to provide value to members while pursuing our stated mission of advancing the theory and practice of technical communication.

STC has changed significantly in the years since Mr. Desprez was a member. Since then STC has launched major new initiatives and programs. Here are just a few:

  • A completely redesigned website on an open-source CMS platform
  • The launch of MySTC, a professional online network for technical communicators
  • The first work-based certification program in the field of technical communication that follows ANSI standards
  • A full slate of online learning programs, including live Web seminars and certificate classes
  • Successfully worked to ensure that “Technical Writer” is now a distinct job category in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, which includes data to support a median salary of $61,620—roughly $9,000 a year more than the more generic “Writers and Authors” and $11,000 a year more than “Editors”
  • An overhaul of our internal financial reporting system and external budgetary processes for STC communities
  • A newly staffed office with a team of accomplished association management and technical communication professionals

In addition to the things we’ve been doing to build a stronger organization and professional standing for technical communicators, I’d also like to address specific points mentioned in Mr. Desprez’s posting:

  • STC’s former salary survey with U.S. and Canadian information was unable to gather sufficient data to achieve statistical accuracy. We had no choice but to discontinue the publication of these surveys and avoid the propagation of invalid or misleading information. We now rely on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to provide salary data for our annual survey. Unfortunately, though the Canadian government collects comparable statistics, they do not release this information for public consumption. We are continuing to work with our Canadian communities to find a solution.
  • Our job bank continues to be an item of interest for members looking for new opportunities in the field of technical communication. It’s true that there are fewer jobs in the job bank than there used to be, but that’s no surprise. Preliminary BLS salary data indicates that technical communication jobs decreased more steeply over the last year than the national average. It’s a difficult time to find work, and that’s why it’s more important than ever that we continue to promote the value of trained technical communicators as an indispensible part of the workplace.
  • We feel that the assertion that STC is no longer the definitive voice on technical communication is highly subjective. Google “technical communication” and you’ll find that only Wikipedia’s entry on the field outranks STC in organic search results. We remain the largest technical communication organization in the world, with over 6,000 members across the globe and over a hundred chapters and special interest groups. We produce highly respected publications in the field and provide more educational offerings on technical communication topics than any other organization outside of academia. We understand and respect that there are an increasing number of important and valuable voices in the technical communication industry who have been empowered and amplified by Web 2.0 technologies, many of whom are STC members, which only proves that the field of technical communication is prospering. And in response to the changes taking place in the publishing industry, we’ve run the April and May issues of Intercom as free to the public as we explore and analyze the possibilities of an open publication model.
  • While we certainly aim to be the premier resource for technical communicators who are new to the field, we have plenty to offer to industry veterans. We offer education on advanced topics, provide face-to-face networking and instructional opportunities through our local communities and annual conference, have developed a unique and highly interactive professional network dedicated specifically to technical communicators, offer recognition and awards to leaders in the field, and are continuing to define the value of technical communicators in every organization through the development of our certification program. In addition, we provide experienced technical communicators with the opportunity to teach, lead, and serve the profession as speakers, community officers, and board members. It’s up to all of us to continue to enhance visibility and chart the course for this growing, vital industry.

As an established organization, STC is adapting to the same paradigm shift in information sharing and technological infrastructure that is confronting us all. We understand that business as usual is not a successful model for organizational growth.

We appreciate the contributions of all STC members, past and present. Later this summer, we’ll be offering a special opportunity for STC alumni who are no longer members to come back and give us another try. We hope that Mr. Desprez will be among them.

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