I started my career in TC 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 work in the UX lab and its projects with the Department of Homeland Security. I have served STC for over 25 years because I believe in its service to the field of TC at large, and I want to serve as VP because I believe I can contribute to some significant gains for membership. I am ready to serve in this role!
One of the most pressing issues facing technical communicators today is one that has historically challenged us. We need to identify as one highly valued, diverse profession, complete with effective value metrics that give our members the numbers they need to negotiate their power and legitimacy.
STC is an expensive umbrella organization competing with less expensive, specialist organizations that are powered by social media. STC needs to evaluate its mission in the new field and adjust its model and value propositions. Related to this issue, STC has grown detached from university programs, from global colleagues, and from some of its own subfields. We must reestablish these connections to thrive. In my STC blog post and in an upcoming article for the Twin Cities chapter, I have outlined concrete ideas for improving these connections that include re-establishing grants to support practitioner/educator research projects and establishing sibling relationships between STC chapters in the U.S. and communities abroad.
Let me name my top three!
I participate in a number of professional organizations besides STC, so I bring a perspective from both inside and outside STC. For example, I am a member of the IEEE Professional Communication Society, and I am an Associate Editor for the journal Transactions on Professional Communication. I am a member of the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication and have served on their board in the past. And, I currently serve on the program committee for the Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit.
STC is different in that, by name and charter, it seeks to represent a larger and more diverse field of practice than other organizations. Thus, as STC plans strategies for the future, it is important to keep this purpose and constituency front and center.
There is a lot to unpack in this question!
First, I want to respond to the “not a lot of members read the journal” because the journal has a great deal of impact in the field though members may not know this. The impact factor of the journal has been increasing steadily. It was 1.333 in 2015 and 2.1 in 2016. Numbers for 2017 are not yet in. Some research by my colleagues Rebekka Andersen and Joann Hackos indicates that TC is the most heavily read journal by TC professionals, but TC journals, in general, are falling short of meeting the needs of readers outside of academia.
While STC does have two excellent publications, I would not say that a strength of STC is research. We have a lot of skill among our educators and practitioners that is not being tapped. Encouraging practitioners and educators to work together should be a priority so that we can produce more research that benefits the field.
Some people don’t realize that the Ph.D. is a research degree. People who earn it are credentialed in how to create new knowledge based in rigorous research. Put those skills together with the workplace access of our members, and we can have a transformative effect. By co-authoring more publications together, educators and practitioners can produce research of greater value and relevance and improve its overall accessibility.
One road block to collaboration is that educators are largely estranged from STC. (Please know, we do have a number educators who champion STC.) How can we foster collaboration? Make sure that we have a strong value proposition for educators as well as practitioners. Those value propositions are different for each group but can be very synergistic.
For example, we can offer grants (mentioned previously) for specific topics of research. Reviving the research grants program would add value for educators and practitioners and would eliminate some significant barriers to research such as access, funding, and time.
We should also field partnership conferences with other organizations like the Partnership Preconference that the Academic SIG fielded for four years in collaboration with the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication.
Bringing the two sides of the coin together can be done and is worth doing!
Recently, with my department at Mercer University, I have helped negotiate a significant curriculum update. It has been approved by the School of Engineering. I also helped negotiate a name change for our department. It didn’t gain approval. Yet.
Large universities operate very much like any large organization, and implementing significant change is a complex and often time-consuming undertaking. We have to bring together multiple stakeholders and convince them of the value of the change even as we try to anticipate impact for other programs and administration.
We did our research and put together our proposal. We sought to vet the changes informally with our colleagues in the School of Engineering as well as with university administration before bringing the formal proposal forward. As indicated above, the changes to curriculum passed successfully at the school level. However, the name change, did not, despite active vetting. We don’t want to make the name change by a very narrow margin because we place high value on the spirit of collaboration in engineering, which thrives despite our widely varying initiatives. It is part of our value proposition.
Thus, our next step is to consider variations on the name that will accomplish our purposes and result in support from the majority of our colleagues. We seek compromise toward positive development.
With my experience and skills, I can serve STC in ways that are most needed right now by supporting excellent work that is being done, developing value metrics, developing collaborations that add value for members, extending our reach internationally, and improving our communication. I don’t know if this makes me unique, but it does make me very capable of serving STC in the role of vice president and then president.
The overall drivers for trends in TC are strategy and technology. Each of the following trends is important to the field but not necessarily in this order. Follow
And if you want to take a look at emerging computing technologies that are likely to impact our field in the future, take a look at deep reinforcement learning, brain-computer interfaces, virtual assistants, machine learning, and cognitive expert advisors!
I marched in the January 2017 Women’s March in Washington DC. I traveled in a caravan of buses from the state of Georgia to join thousands and thousands of buses from most U.S. states. And I wore my pink hat.
For more information on Pam Estes Brewer, go to
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in , API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.