Monthly Archives: September 2017

President’s Message – 2017-Q3

We may have been taking a break from dinner meetings, but we were still busy this summer! We participated in a NorCal President’s meeting, launched the 2017 Touchstone competition, and our website is now hosted on the STC server!

The July 2017 NorCal President’s meeting was the brainchild of Berkeley Chapter President Nicki Davis. Remembering the spirit of cooperation from years ago, when we were all part of STC’s  “Region 8,” Nicki suggested the NorCal chapter leaders get together periodically to discuss issues that affect all chapters. At the July meeting, we discussed the future of the Touchstone competition, how to attract more people to meetings, and ideas for more shared events, such as the recent tour of the Bay Model.

Speaking of Touchstone, I’m very happy to be part of the 2017 Touchstone competition team. The competition recognizes outstanding work in the field of technical communication, and the proceeds fund the STC Kenneth Gordon Scholarship. (The scholarship provides financial aid to technical communication students in Northern California.)

Many Touchstone participants say the best part of the competition is the peer feedback. I’m thankful that Richard Mateosian and Patrick Lufkin are graciously chairing the competition again, and I urge you to enter the competition or volunteer to be a judge.

Many thanks to Jane Olivera for coordinating a seamless transfer of our website hosting to the STC server. This was the final step in modernizing our website, and it feels good to be done. Now we can concentrate on content!

Summary of July 2017 NorCal Presidents Meeting

Nicki Davis suggested this Presidents’ meeting because she believes all the Northern California chapters can benefit from reigniting the regional cooperation that has been largely missing since Region 8 was disbanded over 10 years ago*.

We are also facing a decision regarding the Touchstone competition because Richard Mateosian and Patrick Lufkin would like to retire. They agreed to chair the competition again, with help.

The following is a summary of the major topics discussed at the meeting.


The 2018-2019 plan is to update the website, publicize it, and see how many entries we get. Richard and Patrick will still be involved. We need more volunteers/judges. See information on the Touchstone website.

Gordon Scholarship

Patrick can continue to do the Gordon Scholarship. It’s not too much work. He’s got an InDesign template for certificates for winners. We might give 3 awards this time. ($3,000). Currently have around $10,000 in the bank?

Increasing membership

Berkeley is down to 25 members. Silicon Valley has 94. EBSTC has 36.

Nicki asked: Do students know we exist?

We need to get out the word that STC is an excellent way to network and find a job. We also need to educate students about the benefits of networking and how it works.

Ideas included:

  • Panel discussion at the Berkeley Job Fair in September
  • Holding Workshops
  • Holding a regional conference geared toward younger members (or piggybacking on an existing conference, like Richard and Patrick did) to reach a new audience
  • Writing articles about how being an STC member has benefitted your job search
  • Contacting local colleges and extension programs… (And offering to talk to their classes?)
  • Publishing a pamphlet with testimonials of how STC networking has provided jobs, and pass this out after speaking engagements
  • College Job Fair participation? (Not mentioned at the meeting, but perhaps we could participate in college job fairs? –Gale)
  • More regional activities outside of monthly meetings (e.g., Bay Model Excursion, tour John Muir’s house, go to the Tech Museum, etc.)

*What was Region 8? Before the early 2000’s, STC was organized into regions. Regions had director-sponsors who helped with chapter coordination, including helping chapters that were having trouble. These director-sponsors were on the STC board of directors. Regions had annual regional conferences in addition to the STC annual convention.

Region 8 was all the California chapters plus Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.

When the economy crashed in 2000, STC had to reorganize. Because they reorganized in New York, they had to get rid of the director-sponsors. (According to NY laws, directors must represent the WHOLE membership.) Regional cooperation suffered. The economy crashed. Membership crashed. (In the 1990’s STC had 2,500 members in NorCal. Silicon Valley had 1800 members, with 300 people at their monthly meetings.)



Touchstone 2017 Deadline is Oct 7

This year’s Touchstone technical communication competition is upon us. The deadline for entries is Saturday, October 7, 2017, 2 p.m. See entry forms and detailed entry instructions.

If you have work you’re especially proud of, enter it so your fellow communicators can admire and recognize it.

If you have work that you’re not quite happy with, enter it to receive the advice and counsel of our experienced judges.

If you would like to volunteer to be a judge, read the call for judges.

This competition is sponsored by the Northern California chapters of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). The proceeds from Touchstone support the Kenneth Gordon Scholarship and other local STC activities.

How STC helped me get a job at Facebook

I’m on my fourth career. I started as an aerospace engineer, taught myself Visual Basic and became a programmer/analyst, got a master’s in education and briefly flirted with becoming a math teacher, and then decided to check out this thing called “technical writing.”

One of the first things I did was look for a way to meet people. I found the Society for Technical Communication and a chapter that met 15 minutes from my home. I started attending meetings, learning more about the profession I wanted to enter. I made contacts and friends.

At one of the early meetings I attended, I met a recruiter and a blogger. I mustered my courage to speak to both of them after the meeting and received some advice and a few contacts that would, ultimately, lead to my dream job at Facebook. Though not for about 18 months.

The advice was to find an open source project and start contributing. This was really key for me, since I had no professional technical writing experience. My work on an Apache open source project lead to my becoming a “committer”, which gave my resume some much-needed gravitas. Not only that, but I produced several items for my portfolio that I could link to from my website.

The contacts were less immediately helpful, as often happens with networking. There was a brief flurry of possibility, but then my contact changed jobs and that was that. Until I received an email over a year later that quickly lead to an interview, and a job offer.

Here are some of the benefits I received, in addition to making the contacts that lead to my current position at Facebook. EBSTC

  • Steered me toward as a means of improving my technical skills
  • Introduced me to TC Camp, which is just an awesome technical writing experience
  • Provided presentations on technical writing topics at the monthly dinner meetings
  • Provided exposure to other tech writer’s websites, which helped me decide what I wanted to have on my professional website
  • Provided friends and encouragement

It is not an exaggeration to say that, without the STC—specifically the East Bay Chapter—I would not have the job and career I now enjoy.

Technical Literacy Award 2017

The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District has revealed their plan to enrich the annual district-wide science fair (Science Odyssey) for grades 1 to 12 to include a separate award for notebook quality starting in 2018. This reflects the integration of literacy and science activities that the East Bay STC chapter has supported for many years. A future newsletter article will discuss how this notebook award rolls out as details become available.