In Conversation with the STC India President – 2017

In this article, the STC India President for 2017, Nibu Thomas, shares his insights and roadmap for this year with Anuj Kapoor, Communication Manager for 2017. You will understand his views on TechComm and STC India. And in the process, you may also tickle your funny bone.

How does it feel to take over from Mak Pandit as the new president of STC-India?

There are very few people in our industry who would give you a different answer – other than saying it’s overwhelming. I’m not sure what size shoes he wears, but it feels really roomy :D. I’m guessing that’s the answer that anyone who attempts to wear anything after him will say! But it’s not just Mak. There are several stalwarts who have been in this position before. I hope we can do something that leaves some impact. That said, I’m pretty confident that we will, because of the team that we have been able to put together!

Tell us in brief about yourself.

In briefs, I’m probably superman too, just like the rest of the team :). It’s really awkward speaking about myself. Because it’s really not about me. But since the question came up, I’ll tell you something that most people don’t know about me. It’s been at least two decades since I’ve let any barber touch my hair. I cut my own hair. Oh you know that? So here’s something else that you definitely don’t know. It’s again got to do with briefs and usability. Did you know that they are more comfortable when worn inside out? It’s got something to do with the way the seams are stitched. So now you have the complete picture. Superman with inside out briefs :).

How is Technical communication shaping up today considering that there is a paradigm shift in the human mindset? Is it the same as it was earlier or has it changed?

Most things are changing. But at the same time, the fundamentals remain the same. The user will never shift out of the center of everything we do. The channels and means that we use to reach out to the user are certainly changing. The user doesn’t need to know everything possible to achieve a goal. The focus is on giving the user just enough information, nothing more, nothing less.

What do you think is the future of technical communication industry in India?

I’m an optimist. Which is why I believe that India has a bright future in the knowledge industry. So information development can’t be an exception. Let me qualify that. I’m not even going to start with all the stars that India has produced. Let’s go much further into history. We know that there will always be written content. At least that’s what I believe. Have you ever stopped to think about how most Indian scripts were developed? Most Indian scripts put English to shame. You know why? Unlike English, each letter produces a single sound. You can pronounce any word in most languages in the same consistent way. When I read something in an Indian language, I don’t say it any differently than someone else who’s studied the language. We were thinking clear, consistent and repeatable when the scripts were first introduced! Do you have to look any further for problem solving ability and clarity of thought? So as long as we have people with the ability to observe, analyze, draw insights and adapt, the light at the end of the tunnel is not that of an oncoming train!

Do you think social/digital media can play an important factor in shaping the success of technical communication?

Of course! Every channel of communication must be embraced and exploited – with all limbs and senses. Users may not always come to where you have content. Often, you have to go to their watering holes. Besides, it’s an excellent medium to solve problems. There is never a dearth of issues to solve. But we have some distance to cover – on resolve.

Tell us what role does STC-India play in shaping the future of technical communication in India?

Traditionally, STC has been a facilitator and an enabler. We want to continue doing that. We also want to enable organizations to hire well and ensure that there is a competent talent pool to choose from. So that together, everyone achieves more. All this while providing you with opportunities to grind your axe. Well, it is ‘cutting edge’ technology you write about, isn’t it?

There’s also a perception that writers from India aren’t as good as those in the West. I’ve thought about this statement. We have a large English speaking population. But not everyone who says ‘Know English, Can write’ can become good writers. Sure, we also have some folks whose strength isn’t writing. Or any form of communication. Someone’s hiring error after a few years is now an ‘experienced’ technical communicator’. In fact, some do get into the system and travel quite far. Up. And the rest of the world generalizes them as an example of poor quality writing – in India. Our community is only as strong as its weakest link. Which is why we want to work on the weak links. Of course, only with the willing.

What are the goals and aspirations for STC-India in the year 2017? Is there any roadmap for this year?

This will be a two pronged approach. One is to do what is defined by STC. The other is to listen to what our members are asking for and help them with it.

We’ve averaged around 100 members year over year. I want to double that number this year. And specifically, target student members. We want to introduce STC in other cities.

I’m toying with an idea called Minimum Viable Writer. From either perspective. We also want to be inclusive with the ‘no writer left behind’ initiative.

At the other end of the spectrum, we need to cater to writers who are ready to become (as Seth Godin says) – remarkable.

Audacious – yes. Hairy, not so much 😉

Any word of advice you want to give to the volunteers of STC-India?

Not advice. Maybe a few suggestions. Listen to your heart. But never ignore your mind. Thank you for coming forward and volunteering. I promise – that single step will do you good. Make use of the opportunity to hone your organizational and leadership skills. Encourage those with ideas to share them without feeling intimidated or out of place. The council will do everything in its power to support you.

Do you want to share any other comments for technical communicators?

The grass can be greener on THIS side of the fence. All you have to do is take better care of the grass. And of course, don’t inhale any.

What’s your biggest challenge in this role?

I’ve recognized several. At the top of the list is to draw our members out of their shells. And get them to open up. I’d want to hear what they have to say. The other problem also exists. To reduce noise so that when something is said, we are able to hear what’s being said, and take action. Quickly.

The second one is to be able to differentiate value to members. To be more inclusive, we’ve opened up several benefits to non-members. This has left members seeing less value. Anyone who’s been in the council will also tell you this.

Finally, I see this as an opportunity to find out if you can really influence people, using zero authority. Especially when you have to swim against the flow.

About the Author

Anuj is an Instructional Designer who is passionate about writing and designing curriculum or learning experience. He’s currently working with IBM as a Sr Instructional Designer and has over 15 years of work experience. He loves to try doing things on his own before writing about it. His interests lies in reading, blogging, and networking over social media. Anuj aims to become a thought leader and a coach in Instructional Design and learning, and is willing to mentor those who would like to get into this profession.