Event Review: Building Your Professional Identity in Technical Communication Workshop at GMU

This is the first post by guest blogger Greta Boller, a talented technical communicator who is new to the DC-Baltimore area. Many thanks to Boller for creating and sharing this review. Read more on her blog, The Lone Technical Writer.


The George Mason University Student Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (GMU STC), the newest chapter of STC, held its inaugural event Tuesday night for GMU students and alumni, local professionals, and members of STC. The event was sponsored by GMU STC, with support from the Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) Program at GMU and the STC Washington DC-Baltimore Chapter (WDCB).

The Building Your Professional Identity in Technical Communication workshop promised the "opportunity to learn more about careers in technical communication, gain valuable feedback on resumes or your writing portfolio, and connect you to area students and professionals in technical communication." It also featured three breakout sessions: resumes, portfolios, and social media/online presence.

Welcoming Remarks

Though this was their first event, it hardly showed. Attendees were welcomed with a sign-in sheet, nametags, and a raffle ticket (the prize: a free STC webinar of their choosing). Presentations, room divisions, and snacks were all in perfect order. The attendance balanced local professionals with graduate and undergraduate students, eager to get the evening started.

Heidi Lawrence, Assistant Professor of English at GMU, kicked the night off by welcoming the room full of technical communicators. She was poised, yet visibly excited, giving many thanks to the people who made the evening possible. She quickly outlined the evening: introductions, breakout sessions, review, and then networking.

Chris Lyons, STC CEO, and Liz Pohland, STC Director of Communications and Intercom Editor, spoke next. They encouraged the group to get involved with STC by attending meetings, visiting headquarters, and writing articles. They emphasized that Intercom and the STC blog welcome student submissions (a note jotted down by many attendees). While their attendance was a highlight of the event, they excused themselves before many had a chance to make a personal connection. For those who missed their chance, Lyons and Pohland appear in the STC staff directory, and headquarters is not far away.

Breakout Sessions

Before the breakout sessions, Heidi allowed each presenter to introduce themselves. Ugur Akinci, Melissa Kulm, and Viqui Dill stood up to announce the resume, portfolio, and social media sessions respectively. As the room broke into sessions, I selected social media and online presence.

Dill stated from the very beginning: this is not how to hide on the internet. Quite the opposite actually, Dill wanted her audience to make their presence known using social media. She started with an ice breaker, asking each person to tell their “superpower” and “kryptonite” to the group. Essentially asking: what makes you awesome and what can hold you back?

She went on to explain that social media gives the opportunity for you to show your best self by accenting your superpowers. How? Dill pointed to Career Sherpa, Hannah Morgan, for specific advice, but said it all starts with creating a home on the web. A blog, Dill said, is a great way to gather social media contacts as well as share your writing and presentations. Accent it with a LinkedIn profile and SlideShare account to show the world what you can do.

What about your kryptonite? Lock it down and flush it out with your superpowers was Dill’s advice. You can clean house by altering privacy settings and deleting harmful results, but Dill encouraged her audience to focus on what to show rather than what not to. She explained that negative results can be “flushed out” of your top results by positive, well-maintained social media profiles. Ultimately, this will bring positives to your online presence rather than just removing the negatives. Concerned about your online results? Dill pointed to Google Alerts and EdgeRank to stay ahead of the curve.


At this point, the breakout sessions concluded and the group reconvened. Each presenter took a moment to recap their presentation for the group, encouraging those who attended other sessions to reach out with any questions. After some brief, concluding statements, the raffle was held (I won!) and personal networking commenced. Attendees spoke up about local job opportunities and STC members made themselves available to those interested in joining the chapter. As I made my leave, the room still buzzed with excitement as people discussed future events, graduate programs, and the excitement of technical communication.

Bravo GMU STC for a successful first event. I know many walked away excited about what this chapter has in store. I look forward to your next gathering.

About the Author

Greta Boller is a technical writer and blogger in Washington, D.C. As a technical writer, she not only authors documentation for technicians and management, but develops processes to create and restructure technical writing programs. As a blogger, she is The Lone Technical Writer, dedicated to collecting lessons learned in technical writing.

Ideas and Notes from STC WDCB Summer Vision Day 2014

Photo fo a seat at the beach with a chair, sunglasses, coconut drink with an umbrella

The recording for Summer Vision Day 2014 in in our list of podcasts in the sidebar.

Download the Summer Vision Day 2014 PowerPoint Slides (3.2 Mb .pptx).

During the meeting, we asked members to post ideas and needs for future events. Please use our WDCB website as a forum for sharing ideas.

  • What kinds of events would you like to see in the coming months?
  • What kinds of topics should we cover?
  • For what kinds of speakers should we look?

We asked to hear from you, the membership, and we mean it. What’s on your mind? What do you need?

Please share your thoughts here.

TSA Blogger to Present Social Media Seminar at WDC Chapter Awards Celebration

Register by 15 February at http://stcwdcseminarandcelebration.eventbrite.com to be entered in a raffle for a FREE registration to the WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance on March 21-24. That’s a $995 value!

On Saturday, 13 March, the WDC Chapter will hold a social media seminar featuring Curtis “Bob” Burns, manager of the Transportation Security Administration’s blog. The TSA blog at blog.tsa.gov/ was one of the first successful social networking efforts by a government agency and has been cited as an example of Government 2.0. Launched in 2008, the blog received over 2,000 comments within the first 3 days, and continues to receive high traffic.

In his presentation titled “Engaging Your Target Audience Using Social Media,” Bob will discuss how the TSA uses social media to engage the public, how you can use social media to support your organization’s mission and decision-making, and best practices for implementing a social media strategy.

The seminar will be followed by the chapter’s annual competition awards and includes a plated lunch.

Save the Date – 13 March 2010 – for Competitions Awards Celebration & Seminar – UPDATE

Save the date for the STC WDC Technical Communication Competition Awards Celebration and Seminar about "Engaging Your Target Audience Using Social Media". (Seminar Leader: "Blogger Bob" Burns, http://blog.tsa.gov/.
Location: Washington Marriott at Metro Center, Washington, DC.
Map and directions to the event.

Information About the Awards Celebration


STC members – $45.00*
Non-members – $65.00
Competition judges, entrants, volunteers, or full-time students – $30.00

*If you are a new STC member, please e-mail stcwdc_eventsmanager@yahoo.com for a one-time $5 discount code.

Registration: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/stc-wdc-social-media-seminar-and-awards-celebration-tickets-498989491

Early Registration Bonus!

Register by February 15 to be automatically entered in a drawing for a free registration to the WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance on March 21-24. That’s a $995 value!


Included in your registration is a plated lunch with salad, entree, and dessert. We will be serving:

Executive Field Greens with mushrooms, roma tomatoes, asparagus, and balsamic vinaigrette
Choice of Entree
Grilled Chicken Breast served with caramelized chardonnay sauce, jasmine rice pilaf, baby carrots, and asparagus
Ziti served with white sweet potato puree and chanterelle mushrooms, marjoram, crisp micro sage on sweet corn saffron sauce
Double Chocolate Fudge Cake with raspberry sauce
Bread and Beverages
Assorted breads, butter, margarine, iced tea, assorted soft drinks, sparkling mineral water, Starbucks coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and selection of Tazo teas

If you have specific requests, please e-mail competitions@stcwdc.org by March 9.


11:30 a.m. – Check-in and competition entry display
12:00-12:45 p.m. – Plated lunch
12:45-1:00 p.m. – Introduction and welcome
1:00-1:45 p.m. – Seminar: "Engaging Your Target Audience Using Social Media"
Seminar Leader: Curtis "Blogger Bob" Burns, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs
1:50-2:05 p.m. – Best of Show and Best Student Entry presentations
2:10-2:30 p.m. – Competition awards celebration

Download the flyer.

Information About the Seminar

What You Will Learn

  • How the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses social media to improve communication and debunk myths
  • Best practices for implementation of a social media strategy
  • How social media can support an organization’s mission and assist in decision-making

Graphic of TSA logoThe TSA blog at blog.tsa.gov/ was launched in 2008 with the intent of demystifying airport security processes and debunking myths by providing simple, non-bureaucratic explanations of why TSA does what it does to keep the traveling public safe. Curtis "Bob" Burns, best known as "Blogger Bob," is the manager and the primary voice of the blog, and he is supported by other TSA employees who also contribute with posts and responses to comments. Since its inception, the blog has provided a forum for open and transparent discussion between TSA and the public on a wide range of topics including the "why" behind security procedures, information on new policies, and myth busting of media and blog stories. Since its launch, the blog has received over 1 million hits.

photo of Blogger Bob Burns

Curtis "Blogger Blob" Burns started with the TSA in September 2002. He worked at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) for 5 years and is currently located at TSA headquarters in Washington, DC. Bob started as a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) and has since been promoted to a Management Analyst with the Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs.

During his 6 years with TSA, he’s worked as an Operations Watch Officer, Instructor, Training Coordinator, Behavior Detection Officer, and served as the Vice Chairman on TSA’s first National Advisory Council – a group representing TSA’s frontline workforce in discussions with TSA leadership on security and workplace issues. Bob lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, two daughters, and a 100-pound German shepherd named Clarence.

Before joining the TSA, Bob was a singer / songwriter and traveled around the world with his band. Songwriting is now one of his hobbies along with record collecting, ugly ties, and photography. His favorite type of music is psychedelic garage rock music from the 1960s.