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STC TC Communicator
Published by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication
November 2015, Volume 1, Issue 3

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STC TC Interview

Janelle Blewett: Solving the Math Problem

by Julie Holmquist

When Janelle Blewett started college, she saw herself as a future engineer following in the steps of her father and grandfather. She didn’t know she would graduate with an English degree and find her niche as a technical writer.

Despite her interest in engineering, college math was a struggle. Wondering what to do with several semesters of calculus and chemistry already under her belt, Janelle followed up on a suggestion to pursue technical writing. Writing turned out to be Janelle’s strength, and she used her remaining semesters to graduate with an English degree at Northwestern College (now University of Northwestern – St. Paul).

Twelve years and three positions later, Blewett has written her way back into the engineering field as Technical Writer II / Content Architect at Banner Engineering. She writes instruction manuals, quick start guides, and data sheets for sensors, indicator lights, and machine safety equipment on the list of 30,000-plus products manufactured by Banner.

Janelle took her first professional step in this direction by becoming a technical writer in the computer hardware industry at Rimage Corporation. Several years later, she jumped into the engineering realm at Loram Maintenance of Way, where she studied and wrote documentation about railroad track maintenance equipment—hard hat and steel-toed shoes required. She moved to Banner in 2012 and was promoted to Technical Writer II in early 2015.

Over the years, Janelle has made it a point to increase her technical writing skills by attending STC TC meetings and watching webinars on BrightTALK.com (she especially recommends webinars by Scott Abel, “The Content Wrangler”).

Janelle credits these resources for helping her get her current position. They gave her confidence to converse about DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) and (CMSs) Content Management Systems, two important organizational tools she now uses.

Janelle has also gained wisdom simply from years of experience on the job. For example:

  1. To help her stay organized while switching from project to project by the hour, Janelle scans any paper files she receives so she can store them in one place on her computer.
  2. In order to gather sometimes elusive subject matter for writing, she uses multiple strategies for working with SMEs. Her tips include the following:
  • Find a secondary expert to interview
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a prototype
    of the product
  • Investigate how the SMEs at your company communicate best
  • Schedule an appointment
  • Make friends with the SMEs
  • Be politely persistent

By repeatedly finding ways to adapt and improve her strengths, Janelle has gone from being a discouraged pre-engineering student to becoming a valuable communicator in the field of her original interest. Her ability has been confirmed by earning four STC awards for technical procedures and guides she produced with her teams at Rimage and Loram.

For Janelle, technical writing seems to have solved that math problem.



Website Migration Report
The Website Migration committee met on 11/4 to move forward with plans for migrating our chapter website to WordPress.

During the meeting, the committee discussed content categories that will have initial priority.The migrated site will be hosted by STC. After the new site is ready to go live, the current site will be taken offline and the migrated site will take its place.

The next meeting in several weeks will review draft designs for the new pages. If you have suggestions for the committee, e-mail Barbara at babs7344@hotmail.com.



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Join our newly search-friendly LinkedIn group! Due to the difficulty in finding our group in the past, we've changed our group to make it more accessible for searching.

Here's how to become a member of the group:

  1. Sign in to LinkedIn.
  2. Left of the top search bar, select Groups.
  3. In the search bar, enter Technical Writing or our group name: Society for Technical Communication, Twin Cities.
  4. Request to join.
  5. Your request will be approved!

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             Dodie Davis

November's STC TC Meeting

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Meal and networking 5:30 - 6:30 PM
Speaker's Presentation 6:30 - 7:30 PM

at Joule Microbusiness Network

To learn more about Joule: http://joulemn.com/.
For directions: http://joulemn.com/joule-directions/


Register: https://bookwhen.com/stctc

The Power of Story in Business with Speaker, Storyteller Dodie Davis

Have you had a great idea or success story to share but when you list the “bullet points” or facts to the listener, you see his eyes glazing over and his mind clearly thinking of other things? I can teach you how to wrap those “bullet points” or facts in a story that will immediately engage your listener and captivate his interest.

Storytelling is a gift we all have. I don’t have to teach you to be a storyteller but I can help you develop a skill in storytelling that will give you an edge in your work. I will give you some simple steps for creating what I like to call an “unforgettable” story, meaning the story will stay in the mind of the listener as well as the facts wrapped in the story.

Dodie will talk about:
  • the importance of your first and last sentence
  • paring down your ideas or facts to the one central truth you want to impact the listener
  • the use of a memory hook
  • putting an emphasis on description vs. unimportant details
  • tools for an effective presentation for any audience, including:
    • Use of imagination
    • facial expressions
    • voice inflection
    • the pause
Dodie is a speaker, professional storyteller, and published author. Her passion is telling stories to audiences of all ages in a way that makes them "unforgettable". Dodie has been teaching “The Power of Story” workshops for 15 years in corporations, schools, colleges, and churches. She recently completed four workshops at Medtronic Corporation.

Dodie's Blog: dodiedavis.me

More information: http://stctc.org



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STC TC during the Holidays

Save the Date!

Our Networking and Holiday Meeting
is on
December 8th 2015
Get in a networking mode and socialize with fellow technical communicators at our December Networking/Holiday Meeting. Bring your business cards, and consider sharing your professional accomplishments, challenges, and other topics. Watch for details in your Inbox!

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Pictures from October's STC TC Meeting

What to Do after PDFs: a case study of
Cray Inc. moving from static PDF content
to dynamic web content
leveraging CCMS and DITA


with Peggy Sanchez

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Barbara Beresford introducing Peggy Sanchez. Photo by Julie Holmquist

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Peggy livened things up with her bright and cheerful personality!

Photo by Julie Holmquist

Out and About

User Assistance Tools Survey is Still Live
The annual User Assistance Tools Survey is now in progress.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ua_tools_survey
The survey is designed to give you information about what software technical communicators and others in the user assistance community are using and to provide feedback on the relative popularity and satisfaction of these tools. Please consider contributing your experiences. Results of this and past surveys are publicly available on the WritersUA site: http://www.welinske.com/.


ConveyUX – February 9-11, 2016 – Seattle
If you are interested in bridging technical communication with the field of user experience, ConveyUX is a great opportunity. This annual Seattle event features 3 days, 30 speakers, and over 40 great sessions about usability testing, interaction design, and content strategy. http://conveyux.com/
Copyright © 2015 by STC TC. All rights reserved.