President’s Message

Mitch Willis, President STC Alberta Chapter

spring by Teresa

“Spring Leaves” by Teresa Boardman


It’s been a challenging spring for technical communicators here in Alberta. The collapse in the price of oil has left many unemployed. During these trying times, your STC membership is more important than ever and provides you with the following benefits:

  • Access to a ready-made network of peers
  • Exclusive access to the JobLink database
  • Volunteer Opportunities that will raise your personal profile
  • Continuing Education opportunities

We need to pull together as a group and look for ways to help each other. Keep your eyes and ears open for any leads or opportunities that may be a perfect match for a currently unemployed member. If you’re contacted by a recruiter, but currently employed, direct them to our STC Alberta group on LinkedIn where they can post the job opening.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Looking back, so far we have:

  • Successfully leveraged our social media channels to stage well attended events like the AGM, Coffee nights, and the Wine and Cheese night
  • Shut down the email discussion list
  • Shifted discussions to our LinkedIn group, which is now 288 members
  • Booked one of our members to speak to students during Career Day at William Aberhart school
  • Launched plans to update the Salary guide
  • Introduced an audit of our website in preparation for a summertime refresh

Looking forward, we will:

  • Unveil our new mobile-friendly website
  • Host the New Heights program on October 22nd and 23rd.This year we’re fortunate to have STC Fellow Geoff Hart speaking to us about “Designing Documents That People Really Want to Use and Read.” Registration opened April 1st. Check out the New Heights section on our website for more information

Remember, you can stay informed by checking us out on Twitter @STCAlberta, on LinkedIn at STC Alberta or online at

Edmonton Director Opportunity

STC Alberta

Are you interested in being the Edmonton Director? We’re looking for someone that can keep an open line of communication with the Calgary administrative council regarding the needs of Edmonton members. To encourage networking, you would plan two to four events during the year, including:

  • Social event (such as a coffee or a pub night)
  • The Edmonton AGM (held at the same time as the Calgary AGM)
  • An educational program (optional)

The position can also be tailored to your volunteering goals. For example, Deanne’s interest in MadCap Flare led to the MadCap Roadshow making a detour to visit us for a day long presentation. That presentation not only served a purpose for Deanne, but it was a sold out event that other members were interested in too. This created a ripple effect whereby MadCap generously gave STC Alberta a copy of Flare as a door prize for New Heights.

There are endless possibilities, and all you need to do is be willing to help organize events for your local colleagues. Don’t want to take on the Director role, but DO want to help the new Director get going? You can do that too. We’re also looking for volunteers to support the new Director. Contact the president at  and we can add your name to the list of possible future volunteers for the Edmonton area.

Looking for an Intern?

Lynn Dittmer, Work Experience Coordinator, Mount Royal University

Are you looking to infuse your summer projects with passion, creativity and fresh eyes?

Eager and qualified Mount Royal University Bachelor of Communication – Information Design students want to contribute to your business and require 450-hour paid work terms from May through August.
Students are well-prepared to use their skills in writing, visual design, information architecture, content management, and user experience to produce strategic business communication material that is easy to understand and engaging. They can contribute in the following areas:

• Developing instructional design, technical manuals, fact sheets and style guides
• Writing, editing, and developing layout for reports, newsletters, and online communication
• Content management, information architecture, and user experience testing and improvement
• Creating brochures, posters, presentations, and online communication strategy for websites

Please share this message with others.

Contact Lynn Dittmer at or 403-440-6965 or click this link for more information about the Information Design program and student skills sets.

Just Say Yes

Kris McBride, STC Member

I haven’t been a technical communicator for long enough to offer sage advice distilled from years and years of professional experience, but in my short career I have learned at least one thing worth passing on: to say yes. Say yes to new projects, new challenges, and things you’re not sure you can do – just say yes.

In my first technical writing job, I said yes to projects because I was so new and out of my depth that each assignment felt as impossible as the next. I couldn’t refuse them all, so I said yes to everything. Maybe I said yes because I was eager to please in my new role. Or, maybe it was more of a carry-over from my past career as an actor, where directors trained us to say yes to everything our acting partners sent our way on stage.

Whatever the reason behind it, saying yes is great for my career. It gives me variety in my work – variety that shows in a portfolio that grows each season with new kinds of deliverables: install guides, flowcharts, spec sheets, quick tips, and more.

I develop new skills because I say yes. I’ve learned to use Microsoft Visio. I’ve learned to make Camtasia movies. I’ll be taking an Illustrator course later this month because I said yes to a deeper involvement with connection diagrams.

Saying yes to different kinds of projects helps me to know my strengths and weaknesses as a technical communicator. I am good at making movies, but if I’m not really conscious of tone in my writing, my words start to sound like they’re coming from a robot. Since I know, I can work on it.

Saying yes to new things, I learn the kind of work I like and don’t really like. I thought I would love working on projects with a bit of an advertising lean, but it turns out I’d much rather teach you how to use a product than try to sell you on its benefits.

Saying yes has taught me that—surprise!—I can do certain things I said I would try to do, and I’m good at them. This translates into a tremendous boost to my confidence as a professional, confidence that makes me a better writer.

On the flip side, there can be some negative consequences if you just say yes. I’ve been overworked because I said yes to too many projects at once, and overwhelmed because I said yes to assignments that were truly out of my depth. But I got through it all and came out stronger. The positive that has come from saying yes has far, far outweighed any temporary bouts of stress.

So as you spring up, I encourage you to try my “just say yes” philosophy – even if it’s just some of the time. You might gain a new skill, get out of a rut, learn more about your likes and dislikes, or find you are good at something you never tried before. You might take this way of working even further, as I have, and actively seek out new projects outside of your comfort zone.

You might even write an article for SuperScript, because somebody said that you should.

Realizing a Calling

Ozair Khan, STC Member

For 12 years, I had worked as a GIS (Geographic Information System) professional in the national oil company of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. My roles had involved cartography, data management, software development, solving oil & gas analytical problems using GIS, etc., but what had tied all these responsibilities together was my ability to do research and writing. I had used this ability to write white papers about an Enterprise GIS system for the whole company and how it would automate and solve many problems. That initiative, which I started in 2004, has resulted in the company being one of the best implementers of GIS in the region. I built up a reputation to undertake technical studies of new challenges the company was making, document them and suggest solutions. The ability to write well was vital for my success.

The seeds of research writing were sown in graduate school. In the early 90s, at Rutgers University, NJ, US under the supervision of Dr. Herbert Freeman, I had learnt to do systematic research and present it in thesis form. Those abilities helped me throughout my career – first as a software developer, then as a university faculty, and subsequently as a GIS professional. The fact that career-wise I had many diverse interests did not bother me although I was advised to develop a narrower focus. Curiosity and the excitement that comes with learning never lets me do that. Technical writing is the common thread that has weaved my career together.

Six months ago, I underwent a complete transformation and decided to quit my cushy government job in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to come to Canada. In Calgary, I explored areas to develop into and worked for a company as a GIS Specialist – trying my hand in GIS programming, researching new products, and writing proposals and blog posts. It was during that role that I became certain that research and writing was my real calling. Today, I provide such services independently to clients internationally.  To get in touch with me contact me on LinkedIn (htps:// or by email (

2015 Salary Survey

Brian O’Malley, Associate Fellow STC Member

It’s been a few years since STC Alberta completed a salary survey, and in this challenging work environment, I am sure our members are eager to learn how we’re faring in the market. Watch for survey invitations in May.

As always, we’ll split the sample population into employees and contractors, but this time I want to add additional questions to help us compare the two categories fairly. Employees can sometimes be wowed by the hourly rates contractors command, but were you aware that typical benefits packages are worth around 35% to 40% on top of base compensation, for things like paid vacation, health, pension benefits, paid sick leave, and so on. This means contractors must charge a premium of 35% to 40%  just to stay even with employees. So, in this Salary Survey I hope to poke at stick at these total compensation values to see if we can draw some meaningful comparisons.

To ensure we understand who we’re talking about in the analysis, the survey will be restricted to Alberta STC members and those whose jobs are principally within the realm of technical communication, which is very broad to begin with.

You can help to ensure we get the best representative results by completing the survey when invited. The larger the sample, the stronger and more confident our conclusions will be. Plan to participate and contribute, and please know that your personal information will be protected.

2015 New Heights

Jeanne Gonnason, Senior STC Membernewheights
Our 2015 New Heights workshop will be held on Friday, October 23rd at Innovate Calgary (3553 – 31 Street NW). Geoff Hart, from Montreal, will present an instructional design topic for the Friday workshop, and a Thursday evening presentation on Efficiency 101 (October 22). Early-bird registration is now open! Members can register now for $275, and save $50.

Geoff is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication ( He has written many articles for Intercom. Since 1987, he’s worked as a technical writer and scientific editor for IBM, the Canadian Forest Service, and the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada. Geoff specializes in authors who have English as a second language. He also does French translation. Geoff’s training is in plant ecology and plant physiology. Check his website at

Workshop Title: “Designing Documents that People really Read and Use”

Words. Pictures. Which ones should we use? How do we use them? How can we combine them? It’s all so confusing! What’s a technical communicator to do? Well for one thing, come learn about this subject from Geoff Hart.

Words are great things, and we’d all have to find honest work without them. Pictures are lovely to look at, though not always easy to create. Also, it is not simple to get people to look at the parts we want them to look at.

Upcoming Programs

STC Alberta

Join us for an STC – Alberta program on how to build quality portfolios!

Your portfolio is a marketing tool that can land you that next contract or employment opportunity. It shows prospective employers the scope and depth of your talents. Learn the tips, tricks, and traps for making a professional portfolio from one of the best in the industry, Patrick Brooks. We’ll also share common “portfolio bloopers” that can make a recruiter cringe, and some of the tips that will make them see your full potential. Join STC Alberta for this program to get the edge on the competition.

Date: Thursday, April 23, 2015

Time: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. (doors at 6:30pm)

Location: Innovate Calgary (large boardroom) at 3553 – 31st Street NW (Alistair Ross Technology Centre sign at the parking lot entrance)

Cost: STC members $15, non-members $30, non-member students $15


Click here to register

A Year of Growth: STC 2014 Year in Review

STC Intercomm

The Society for Technical Communication is pleased to publish its 2014 Year in Review, highlighting accomplishments, major initiatives, and updates to programming that advance the mission of the STC.

The report reviews accomplishments in the past year and the actions taken by the board, staff, and volunteers to strengthen the Society, both in terms of the value and satisfaction it provides members and its sustainability as a business. The report is intended to give members insight and information about the association they have so generously supported. Included in the report are details on ongoing programming (membership, education, conference, online presence, and publications), highlights on new programs (professional certification), new benefits, and a financial update.

STC appreciates the contributions and support of its members that have made us the premier organization for professionals in the field of technical communication for the past 61 years!

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