An Interview with Ben Woelk

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Ben Woelk, Information Security Office Program Manager at the Rochester Institute of Technology, will lead a webinar for STC RMC’s April 2017 program. For information and to register for the webinar, please visit our registration site

How long have you been in technical communication?
20+ years

How did you get your start?
I was working on my doctorate in Early Modern European history. My spouse, Marilyn Woelk, started an instructional design/technical communications consulting practice. I started helping her with projects. My first assignment on my own was documenting ISO9001 at what would become Ortho-Clinial Diagnostics. My next assignment was doing documentation for Xerox’ strategy and architecture group. I transitioned from there into managing end user communications for their IT infrastructure group. I did not complete my doctorate–I’m ABD.

What are the top three skills a communicator should have?
Adaptability. Inquisitiveness. Thoroughness.

What is your favorite thing about being a technical communicator?
I love learning subject matter and determining how to best communicate it. My work since 2014 has all been around cybersecurity, primiarily end user awareness and training. At this point in my career, I’m seen as a cyber security professional (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), but I’ve always applied my techcomm skillset and mindset to my security work.

What tools do you use?
MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, SnagIt, Camtasia, various online tools as needed

How do you stay current with issues related to technical communication?
I’m very active in STC. Honestly, the issues haven’t changed that much. The opportunities and vehicles to deliver content have continued to evolve.

What advice would you give to people who want to begin a career as a technical communicator?
Go for it! It’s an exciting field that will open doors for you. Communication and people skills will serve you well. Network and find a mentor.

If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be?
Hmm. Maybe a history professor, but I’m slowly transitioning into leadership development, coaching, and mentoring with my clientele being primarily introverts and people hoping to become leaders. I am totally into empowering introverts and developing leaders, especially in STC.

Favorite industry book? 
Most of my reading these days is around innovation and creativity or introversion, including Scott Berkun’s new book, The Dance of the Possible, for which I was able to serve as a beta reader. I’m very interested in applying Keirsey Temperament Analysis to leadership development. I’m also really interested in the work Nancy Duarte has done around story and I’m slowly reading through Illuminate. On a more techcomm level, I like Katz, Designing Information.

Favorite fun tool or gadget?
Maybe a gardening trowel. How’s that for non-technical? I like growing perennials. However, I really like my smartphone and my iPad mini. Not exactly a gadget, but I love Slack.

Favorite non-technical book?
Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking has been seminal in my interest in empowering introverts. One of my favorite reads in the last year (thanks to your chapter president, Carrie Sheaffer) has been Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Favorite word?
Interesting (or maybe brilliant).

Website you visit every day?
There are many. They include hobby-related (blwnscale.com) and college-related (gatorsports.com) websites. I use Feedly quite a bit to aggregate articles of interest.

Favorite travel location?
Southern France

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Looking forward to actually being in Denver the first week of May!

Ben Woelk, Information Security Office Program Manager at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is an Associate Fellow of STC, a former director, and current chair of the STC Scholarship Committee. He’s also served in leadership positions at STC Rochester and in the Higher Education Information Security Council. Ben is a frequent presenter at conferences and has recently published articles on Introverted Leadership and Security Awareness. Ben is guest editor of the February 2017 Intercom issue devoted to personality and technical communication and is developing a mentoring and coaching practice for introverted leaders. In partnership with Hannah Morgan, Ben keynoted the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Technical Communication Conference, presenting “Bulletproofing Your Career Online.”

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