Vancouver-Area Tech Comm Café: Nov. 13 recap; next meeting Jan. 16, 2019

Vancouver-Area Tech Comm Café:  Nov. 13 recap; next meeting Jan. 16, 2019

The November 13 Tech Comm Café met at the Cactus Club Café on Kingsway in Burnaby. The change from our usual downtown coffee shop brought in new people from across the Lower Mainland so we had lots to talk about over dinner.

As usual, we started with job-hunting and networking tips. Many people use LinkedIn as a marketing tool. One person had a professional portrait photo taken and uses it for both LinkedIn and Skype, for consistent “branding” of her business. Others recommended networking with related professional groups such as Editors Canada and Vancouver Business Network.

The next STC Technical Communication Summit is coming up, May 5 to 8, 2019, in Denver. Several members had attended summits in the past and found them very useful. Presentations give a broader view of what’s going on in the technical communication field, and are available online for attendees after the summit so you can continue to refer to them. While it can be difficult to get your employer to subsidize your attendance, if you study the advance program and select sessions related to your current work you can more easily justify the expense. You can also adapt a template letter to convince your boss.

We also discussed working as a contractor. One long-term member advised that you hire a lawyer to review your standard contract to be sure you’re protected. You can also find sample contracting templates online. Another piece of advice is to ask for a sample of the documents you’ll be working with so you can assess how long the job will take before you quote a rate.

While it doesn’t happen often, contractors can have problems with clients not paying. To prevent this, invoice within a couple of weeks if you have a new client. Someone also warned us to watch out for potential clients who ask several different writers to produce custom samples and then merge the samples to compile a finished document for free. The STC’s Consulting and Independent Contracting SIG (special interest group) can be a good resource for technical communicators interested in contracting.

Other topics ranged from working in Winnipeg to Boston terriers, Greyhound bus services, and women in the mining industry. It was an eclectic group and an interesting evening.

We’re taking a break in December but we hope to see you at the next meeting on January 16, 2019.


The Tech Comm Café provides networking opportunities, job leads, answers to work-related dilemmas, and a burst of professional energy to keep you motivated. We discuss technical writing tools and techniques, career planning, portfolios, and anything else related to working as a technical communicator.

We welcome anyone who’s interested in technical communication — contractor, in-house, student, long-time tech writer, STC member, non-member, career-changer, or recruiter. We hope to see you at the next meeting!

Next Meetings

  • Vancouver Tech Comm Café: January 16, 2019; location TBD.
  • Victoria Tech Comm Café: Date and location TBD.
  • Subscribe to receive email announcements of future meetings.


  1. Introductions. Take 60 seconds to introduce yourself, your background, current activities. A good chance to try out that new elevator speech.
  2. Announcements and job leads. If you know of an interesting event or a job opening, or you’re looking for work, share it with the group.
  3. Brainstorming Q&A. Ask about a work-related problem and discuss potential solutions.
  4. Speed networking. Spend a few minutes with a new contact, exchange business cards, and discuss your professional backgrounds and goals.