Here's an article I posted on the Carolina Communique earlier in the fall:
When I became president of our chapter this summer, I was searching for a job. Now I am a statistical writer at SAS, documenting risk management products and solutions. I’m reinventing myself. I’m learning a new set of tools, technologies, and products. I’m getting to know and respect a new group of colleagues. I’m having fun as I build a professional routine entirely different from the one I followed for the last nineteen years.
The theme for my chapter presidency is reinvention. Our chapter needs to reinvent itself to face the challenges of attracting new members and keeping existing members active. Our profession needs to reinvent itself as it faces accelerating technological change and globalization.
Our chapter is changing. With the goal of not being left behind, we are taking advantage of some of the tools available that can extend our networks. We used Facebook to publicize recent events such as our Trends & Technology LSIG talks about social networking and our membership luau, sending invitations to those events through its embedded tools. It’s a little more advanced than sending a blanket e-mail announcement to a list server, and it’s a far cry from mailing printed invitations, which is what we did in previous years. Our group page on Facebook has attracted the attention of individuals as far away as Ireland and as close by as NC State University. We are glad when that attention draws someone new to attend one of our events, and opens new lines of communication and ideas—we hope that it inspires new membership.
Another tool we recently deployed for the chapter is LinkedIn. There’s now an STC Carolina LinkedIn group that chapter members with profiles can join. Add it to your LinkedIn profile.
If you don’t know about LinkedIn, check it out. It’s a way to set up a professional, Internet-based network. Think of LinkedIn as a Web-based Rolodex on steroids. You may have seen an article about it in the local paper’s business section one Sunday this summer. After you set up your profile on LinkedIn and allow others to view it, search engines can find information about you. LinkedIn provides you with a way to ask business or technical questions and get them quickly answered by knowledgeable professionals. You can get back in touch with old friends and colleagues. For example, I reconnected with a man I worked for 20 years ago, and he is now part of my network.
Make sure you are not violating any company policies if you use LinkedIn at work. Many employers, including SAS, do not allow you to access networks like these through corporate systems.
The business of technical writing is changing. The September/October 2007 issue of Intercom focuses on what Web 2.0 means to technical communicators. Web 2.0 refers to changes in technology that allow the Web to serve as a dynamic platform for collaboration and development. Think wikis, blogs, and social networking. Web 2.0 is a bridge to new skills for technical communicators to develop. That’s good, because the old skills aren’t going to serve us well in the years to come. I’m working on an article for a future issue of Intercom about the continued commoditization of “low-end” technical writing. The trend to outsource more mechanical technical communication tasks to workers with lower billing rates, often living several time zones away, is unstoppable. That shouldn’t make you panic, but it should make you think.
STC Carolina is planning an event in November to explore how to find your place in such a global technical communication market. Note the emphasis—it’s not that your job is going away. Your job is changing, and you need to guide the change.
Reinvention cannot stop. In the 21st century, technology has accelerated changes to our workplace so much that we cannot rest with the skill set and knowledge we have today. We must be willing to reach out and network. We must be eager to learn new things, to be alert to trends, and to be vigilant against obsolescence.
Reinvention must continue.