Back to school! My interview with Jack Molisani

by Janice Summers

No matter how long it has been since I finished college, every September reminds me that summer time is over and it’s back to school time! Thoughts of trips to the beach are replaced with learning plans. But what do you do when you have already finished formal schooling? Continued learning is still important and may even be more important as we hone our specialized skills.

As a professional, conferences can be an excellent time to sharpen your skills, expand your knowledge, and build your peer mentor group. Sure there are lots of web-based seminars and sessions to learn and hone your knowledge, but there is nothing quite like a good conference. One of those happens to be right around the corner: LavaCon happening in Portland Oregon in October.

We have been attending LavaCon over the last 5 years and it has been wonderful watching it grow. Each year is better than the last and this year looks to be on track to be “Off the chain!” (to quote MelB). With 112 sessions across 5 learning tracks to choose from and some of the most interesting presenters assembled in one event, it’s a perfect place to learn and be inspired.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jack Molisani, the Executive Director of LavaCon, and here is what he had to say.


Janice: What inspired you to start this event?

Jack: After I produced the STC Region 7/8 Pan-Pacific conference in Hawaii, everyone kept saying “I can’t wait ‘til the next one!” There was no “next one” on the horizon and I didn’t want to throw away two years of hard-won meeting planning experience, so I decide to start my own conference.

Janice: But didn’t you ask yourself “Why one more conference?”

Jack: Yes! If I was going to direct an event, it had to have value and meaning. Sure there was a need to have an event that was located in fun places, but location is not a strong enough reason. There had to be more. I noticed that there never seemed to be enough sessions for those with a little grey in our temples—for us manager-types. I wanted to help fill that void for those tasked with developing and executing strategic plans for content development.

Janice: What makes LavaCon a truly unique experience?

Jack: It’s one thing to hear someone say you should have a content strategy to effectively manage content, it’s quite another to speak with peers who have actually done it. LavaCon present real studies by real people who lived it. They can talk from experience about the challenges and how they overcame them. The presentations are “case study”-oriented and the presenters not only talk the talk but they also walk the walk! It really is an amazing confluence of truly intelligent people.

Janice: It’s nice to see the conference growing each year.

Jack: Yes, we have 30% growth year-over-year. While the conference has gotten big enough to bring the top-notch speakers, it’s not so big that attendees don’t have access to them. It’s the peer-to-peer accessibility that makes going to real conferences (vs. webinars) so valuable.

Janice: So what do you see for the future of LavaCon?

Jack: We will continue the annual conference as we have been doing, but I am also working on supplemental learning opportunities. I am currently working on the development of some graduate workshops that will be hosted in Hawaii. These will be designed for an exclusive intimate group. It is the chance for Managers and Directors to get away from the office and de-stress so that they can develop a clear strategic vision.

Janice: I always like to ask people to share a little about themselves, something off the beaten path. What can you tell me Jack?

Jack: I was on the TV show The Dating Game when I was in the Air Force in the mid 80’s. Ask me what happened when you see me at LavaCon!


There is still time to sign up! Early bird discounts end September 21st so hurry! Use code S3i for $50 off your registration!

It is sure to be an experience like no other. Jack really does focus from the 1000-foot view all the way to the fine details like the food! I was thrilled to hear that he went as far as making sure that the food served has NO GMO. Now that is attention to detail!!

TC Camp Benefits for Managers

TC Camp is a vendor-neutral bay area event aimed at content designers, creators, publishers and the people who support them. There are morning workshops that cover specific tools like Adobe’s Technical Communications Suite, MadCap’s full publishing environment, or Aptara’s epub tools. There are also workshops aimed at specific documentation issues — content strategy, improving content through analytics methods, and improving content retrieval using library science concepts.

In the afternoon, there are open discussion sessions that are driven by the attendees. Anyone can suggest a topic for discussion: Is your team discussing XML? Are they looking at improving SME review cycles? Is localization on the horizon? Attendees can discuss topics that are staring us all in the face with other people who have conquered these issues.

We all have different levels of expertise as we face different issues and situations. At TC Camp we each extend our expertise to we can all learn from each other.

TC Camp is high-value, low-cost option for a training opportunity that provides access to industry experts like Scott Able, Sharon Burton, and Scott Prentice. It’s happening on a Saturday, so you’re not paying twice–first, you’re not paying for an employee who isn’t at work on a work-day, and you’re not paying the high cost of a typical conference.

What are the details?

When: Saturday, 26 January 2013
Where: Silicon Valley Cloud Center, 3200 Coronado Drive, Santa Clara, CA, 95054

All the content is guaranteed to be relevant to the attendees because, remember, they drive the discussion.

I hope to see your teams there. TC Camp will help your team grow in confidence because they’re learning from peers while contributing their expertise. They’ll be able to respond to your team’s growing needs and meet challenging new goals in the future.