President’s message: Rolling down the river … Destination: NCRA

 

 

In my March President’s column, I spoke about change and its inevitability, and how arising out of that change, there is opportunity and growth.

I received an email from a former colleague indicating “… there’s a lot going on, so I’m sure you’ve been crazy busy!” And while I say that crazy busy is an understatement — insanely busy may sum it up better — it has been an honor to be at the forefront of the growth over this year within NCRA and our profession, and to see the reward that hard work, determination, and dedication brings forth.

At this time, we welcome our new Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Michael (Mike) Nelson to the NCRA family. You probably read a bit about his background in the news release, and his first column as CEO/Executive Director is in this issue of the JCR. He is a talented executive with a strong background in association management, financial stewardship, and strategic thinking. We are lucky to have him to take the reins at NCRA, and I know I speak for the entire Board when I share that we are excited about what the future holds under his leadership.

To the Search Committee members, my wonderful Board of Directors, to our esteemed legal counsel, and our unbelievable Interim CEO/ED, Wendel Stewart, and the rest of the NCRA staff:  Thank you for a job well done and for the tremendous effort you put forth to make Mike’s arrival a reality. I know NCRA, our membership, and our profession are in good hands, and we should be proud!

Along with welcoming Mike onboard as our new executive leader, I want to announce another celebration underway. In early 2014, the Board approved placing our NCRA Vienna, Va., headquarters building on the market for sale. The time was right. Experts advised that with the expansion of public transportation in that area, it would be wise to consider selling the investment that we made in the headquarters building in the early 1990s. Indeed, it was. With five solid offers, negotiations continued well into the fourth quarter of 2014, and the sale was finalized late in the year.

With the sale behind us, we evaluated the future needs of NCRA and began searching for a headquarters that would speak to our forward-looking, contemporary association and its staff. We wanted something impressive, a headquarters location that would make a statement. Let me tell you what, the process has been insanely busy, but the end result, without a doubt, is going to be stunning.

The new NCRA headquarters will be located in a contemporary area of Reston, Va., just down the road a bit from our Vienna location and not too far from Dulles International Airport. The architects have dreamed up an office that captures the essence of stenographic court reporting, and our long, proud history will be on display for all those who visit.

Speaking of visiting, it is my privilege to extend to each of you an invitation to the “grand opening” at our new location and building, 12030 Sunrise Valley in Reston, Va.  With construction already underway and a late-summer move-in date expected, the NCRA Board of Directors and our dedicated staff and leadership will host a grand opening in conjunction with our November 2015 Board Meeting, which is scheduled for the second weekend in November. The exact date and time will be conveyed in the near future, but please save the date now and plan to attend.

In addition to being a showpiece for the profession in general, our new NCRA headquarters will allow us to conduct a wide range of meetings and events in our own space. It will be a headquarters we can all be proud of and we’re looking forward to conducting the business of committees, the Board of Directors, and other strategic alliances in a place we plan to call home for many years.

Excitement. Energy. Focus. Those are just three words that sum up my feelings about Mike joining our family, about the move to a new location, and about where our association and profession stand today. Has it been insanely busy? Yes. Would I change it for the world? Heck, no. I know for certain that we are moving down the road by uniting together and embracing the opportunities as they come our way. Actually, we have done better than that. We are creating the opportunities, and we are the driving force behind our futures, the future of NCRA, and the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions.

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s president. 

NCRA President responds to editorial calling closed captioning “often fiction”

NCRA President Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, responded to an editorial that appeared June 20 on Ohio.com, and written by Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer, which is critical of the quality of captioning provided by local television stations in the area. In her response, Nageotte notes the process involved in captioning, including the technology used and NCRA’s work with the FCC addressing issues surrounding quality captioning.

Read President Nageotte’s response.

Read the article.

Turning the tide to support the reporters of the future

As your president, I receive hundreds of emails every week and many of them are positive and optimistic. But not long ago, I received an email that left me staring at my ceiling well into the night. The email highlighted the story of a recent court reporting graduate who works at a small firm with four or five other reporters. While the new reporter is grateful for the amount of work coming her way, she notes that it’s not without cost to her psyche – the scheduling administrator doesn’t really understand the profession, and the owner is dog-tired and is making a beeline toward retirement. At the holiday party, colleagues questioned the new reporter’s choice in entering the profession, indicating that digital recording is going to replace steno reporters. Not to be deterred, the new reporter is working to pass the last leg of her RPR and she’s starting to look for an officialship. She’s still in love with the profession, but she asks, “Where should I turn to look for employment with people who aren’t so negative about the profession?”

In many of the seminars that I have given around the country, I have said that we are our own worst enemies. Whether it be the nitpicking, the negativity, the apathy, we are the root of so many of our own problems. Plenty of Facebook comments, emails, and cocktail party conversations can still make me cringe, but I, like that new reporter, will not be deterred. I know we can be better. More supportive of each other. More positive in public. And while we cannot go back and change the thinking of those who are set in their ways, I have noticed in the last couple of years a positive swing in the overall morale of the profession. I think the naysayers are slowly being overshadowed by those who love our profession and see all the good it brings to the environments in which we work and to those to whom we provide service.

Did you know that NCRA has garnered more positive press and publicity for the profession in the last six months than it has in the previous six decades combined? Did you know that hundreds of leads are flowing into NCRA-certified court reporting programs, where previously a few dozen trickled in? Did you know that young teenagers are not only aware of court reporting as a profession, but are starting to think of it as cool?

As you probably know, NCRA commissioned an independent firm of analysts in 2013 to study the five-year outlook for our profession. The results that came back were somewhat scary, but also incredibly positive from a messaging standpoint. We have jobs. A lot of them. We’re not a dying profession. Stenographic court reporting isn’t going away. And we’re going to need new professionals – as many as 5,500 more than what current projections are saying will enter the marketplace – in five short years. Oh, wait, make that four.

NCRA is promoting the profession, targeting school counselors, parents, and most importantly, potential students. The messages are working. They are interested. And the perception is shifting.

Equally important to getting students to come into the career is supporting them once they begin their professional journey as working reporters. We cannot let the past rain on the future’s parade. As I said, there’s a lot to be positive about at NCRA and in the court reporting and captioning profession. I know we have had our fair share of challenges throughout the years, but now is not the time to allow our new reporters – the future of our profession – to be discouraged. Their future is bright, and it’s our job to promulgate that message among those who will carry the torch long after we’re gone. And more importantly, it’s our job to mold our future and teach them the longstanding history that we know so well.

As an established reporter, what are you doing to encourage a positive outlook among students and new reporters? Are they hopeful about the direction of the profession? Do they have a support network to carry them forward? We should hold our professionalism standards very high. It’s time to stop complaining about clients on public pages on Facebook. It’s time to put on a brave face for the students and new reporters and acknowledge the greatness there is from within. Perhaps the power of our positivity will, indeed, overshadow the negativity that still exists in the profession.

I can feel the tide turning. Can you?

[Excerpts of this column have been taken from President Nageotte’s address at the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference held in February.]

 

From NCRA’s President: Change is …

By Sarah E. Nageotte 

We are all familiar with popular quotes concerning change: “Change is the law of life,” “There is nothing permanent except change,” and “Change is inevitable.”

I will be the first to admit, change is scary; the unknown can be even scarier. At the same time, change means progress and hope, and it opens doors to new and exciting possibilities. We’ve all experienced change at varying levels in our personal lives and during our professional careers. Change is constant.

Never did I envision I would be writing my March President’s column while in the midst of a search for NCRA’s next CEO and Executive Director. When Jim Cudahy informed me that he had accepted the position as the President and CEO of the National Investor Relations Institute and would be leaving NCRA at the end of February, I initially had a moment of panic and unease. Change? Why does there need to be change? Why can nothing stay the same?

That moment turned into the realization that, yes, change happens. While Jim will be missed at NCRA, an opportunity has arisen that will allow us to find our next executive leadership and boldly progress into the future. This opportunity comes at a time when NCRA and our profession are engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign following the release of the 2013-2014 Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report produced by Ducker Worldwide. Launched in September 2014, the Take Note campaign thus far has proven a success. We are in a position to go into the marketplace with a strategy in play that is positive and offers an area of growth and innovation. Change is good.

The NCRA Board of Directors has secured the services of a professional search partner, Vetted Solutions, to manage the process of identifying the best candidates to consider for NCRA’s CEO and Executive Director. I have appointed a Search Committee consisting of individuals with an array of backgrounds and experience from our profession and association. Those members are Stephen Zinone, Nativa Wood, Michele York, Jan Ballman, Jay Vettickal, Karen Yates, and myself. The Search Committee’s task is to work alongside Vetted Solutions and narrow down the pool of qualified candidates for the NCRA Board of Directors’ ultimate consideration and selection.

Change is movement, and moving forward in the search and selection process is a top priority for Vetted Solutions, the Search Committee, and your Board of Directors. Though it’s difficult to nail down a concrete time frame during which we would select and welcome our new CEO and Executive Director, we’re moving swiftly, wasting no time in identifying qualified candidates, and we’re hopeful that we will be nearer a selection by mid-April.

NCRA offers significant opportunity to the right candidate. We are poised to grow, and we have positive momentum because of the leadership and direction we’ve taken as an association in the last few years. The new CEO and Executive Director has dedicated volunteers and a best-in-class staff ready to help him or her succeed, and for that reason, I’m beyond confident that the change that lies ahead for us will remain positive.

Likewise, because NCRA is an excellent leadership opportunity for the right individual, we are also in a powerful position in terms of our selection process. We have a clear image of who we are as a profession and we’ve identified the critical areas within our five-year plan with the Vision 2018 roadmap. We can be selective. We can take the time and care we need to find a leader who is committed to our cause, and can forge ahead with a dedication to the bright future we all envision and deserve. The search process has been marked with great focus on finding a candidate who has the right experience in the areas that matter most to NCRA, that being experience with a professional membership, financial acumen, a strong leadership and development background, and fresh ideas about how to shape and support the evolution of our longstanding and proud profession.

Looking back over my time on the NCRA Board of Directors, I have been fortunate to experience positive change, both personally and professionally. Was the change expected? Not always. In fact, some changes were unwanted or otherwise placed before me to accept. And that’s not a bad thing, because each modification and shift has guided me and made me stronger. They have been positive for me, much like NCRA’s change in association leadership just two and a half years ago has strengthened its focus on the future of a profession. In addition, the profession, like each of us, is adjusting and aligning our services to meet the marketplace’s needs and demands, yet another area of advancement.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to recognize Jim for his leadership as NCRA CEO and Executive Director since June 2012. Jim, thank you for dedication to the stenographic court reporting profession and to NCRA. Your vision and commitment have been instrumental in creating an atmosphere that has allowed for a positive change within a profession and association. Good luck to you as you embark on your new professional journey.

Progress. Growth. Hope. Opportunity. I am excited to embrace and be a part of the changes taking place at this time, and I look forward to seeing what the future brings. Change is welcome!

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.

President’s page: Mirror, mirror on the wall …

By Sarah Nageotte

“You look so much younger in person,” someone said to me at a recent state convention. As any woman will admit, and possibly even men, too, that is one compliment I will never grow tired of hearing.

Age is a number. That number can define a person. In fact, numbers correlate to entire groups and generations. Unfortunately, those numbers and dates and generations have been known to bring stereotypes. For instance, three common stereotypes are: Baby boomers are out of sync with technology, Generation Xers are negative cynics, and Millennials aren’t motivated by anything and think only of themselves.

I can write an entire novel on examples that debunk these stereotypes on each level. On the flipside, I know stories that go to further these theories. But what is relevant in today’s society, and most important to our profession, is to look at each age, each number, and each individual separately.

We need to challenge the stereotypes and treat everyone as an individual. We need to find common ground and connect on the human level shared by all. We need to find the talents each of us have to offer and always assume that everyone has value and worth to contribute. We need to mingle with different generations and those who approach things differently than ourselves. At the same time, we need to expect a lot and hold everyone to the same standards for all of us to learn, grow, and perform to our highest and best abilities.

The success of a profession is dependent on the contributions from all within, and the court reporting and captioning profession is not unique in this regard. I am now in my 17th year as an official court reporter, and I am halfway through my term as NCRA President. I did not get here by myself, and I do not continue each day on this journey alone. I have an entire network of professionals, friends, and family whom I turn to daily.

My network consists of my coworkers at the courthouse, the judges I report for, my colleagues in the field, students striving to be a part of the greatest profession of all time, and my mom, dad, boyfriend, daughter, and family as a whole. I am surrounded by individuals that stereotypes would lead you to believe I cannot get along, much less work with. Instead, I have taken the challenge to throw stereotypes out the window and look past numbers and generations. I look at the person. What can I give to them? What can I learn and gain from them? How can we work together to make our lives better? I encourage each of you to do the same. What do you have to offer? How can you enrich the life of someone else? Is it through mentoring? Sharing your experiences? Offering your perspective?

Ronald Reagan stated, “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”

If we allow stereotypes to take hold of us, we will not go further, we will lose opportunities, and we will isolate ourselves from seeing true potential in one another. We should take the experience and history of what lies in the past to grow and move forward, and, yes, stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us. But we should always keep an open mind and be willing to accept that desired results can be accomplished through different means; and maybe, just maybe, someone in your network has an approach that is better than your own.

I am honored to be a part of our timeless — and ageless — profession. Whether you have been reporting one month or 50 years, you have the opportunity to network and continue to grow our profession. Mentor a court reporting student or new reporter entering the field. Reach out if you need guidance or assistance. Work together with your fellow court reporters and captioners. Learn from each other. Teach each other. Adapt to change. Grow and move forward together.

We should always recognize and be proud of the numbers we are assigned, the age we have attained, and the experiences and knowledge each of us possess. But please join me in challenging the stereotypes. Let us look at each person for who they are, and not which generation or number they carry. Start now and take one number — 2015 — and define 2015 as the year of you! You will make a difference for yourself and an entire profession!

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached atpresident@ncra.org.

NCRA urges regulations to require captioning in more markets

On behalf of NCRA, President Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, submitted comments regarding the rewriting of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is charged with reviewing and updating the current law. The comments, submitted to the committee on Jan. 22, address such issues as increasing the current number of media markets required to provide captioned programming from the top 25 to the top 50. Nageotte also called for regulations to be included in the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2012 that would require captioning on original Web content produced by over-the-top video services, such as Hulu, Netflix, and Yahoo!

Read the comment letter.

Open letter to the membership from NCRA President Sarah Nageotte

O n Jan. 6, NCRA President Sarah Nageotte addressed the membership in a letter that announced that Feb. 27 will be NCRA CEO Jim Cudahy’s last day.

Read more.

What an honor it is to be your 107th NCRA President

As professionals, we continually pursue the path of greatness. We strive to perfect our skills and pursue additional credentials. We are always improving ourselves. We embrace new technology and progress forward in serving new markets. We are a timeless and ageless profession walking boldly into the future.

NCRA is proceeding in its execution of a powerful five-year plan, Vision 2018, which focuses on key issues and opportunities in the stenographic court reporting profession. We are prepared to go into the marketplace and tell today’s generation why court reporting is a career worthy of their time and consideration. The livelihood of our profession is dependent on our ability to resonate with potential students, and I am confident that we are going to make an impact with our efforts.

If you think back to the late-1990s and early-2000s, you may recall that headlines screamed of an immediate nursing shortage. The timing was ideal. The economy suffered after 9/11, and young people were concerned about securing full-time employment after college. The nursing profession took advantage of these conditions to talk about its unfilled need and assured the public that plenty of nursing jobs awaited those who received the necessary training. As a result, many pursued nursing degrees, despite the fact that nursing is a challenging career! Because of the potential for financial success and practically guaranteed job placement, parents across the country were more than happy to support their children’s decision to pursue nursing.

Let’s turn those headlines in our direction. The stenographic court reporting profession is facing a shortage as well. The independently produced Industry Outlook Report offers a startling look at what could happen if we do not produce enough skilled court reporters in just a few short years. It’s as simple as this: The demand for court reporting services will soon exceed what the current pool of court reporters can provide. There is demand for more court reporters. Our profession is not on life support. Our profession is strong. We can guarantee job placement and financial wellbeing for those who consider court reporting as a profession. And this is good news.

In fact, this may be the best news we have received in a long time.

We can prove to today’s parents that court reporting is a profession that their children should pursue. We belong to a profession that demands a closer look. We have something amazing to offer, and at just the right time, too. Traditional college degrees are expensive and don’t necessarily guarantee job placement. Millennials are seeking careers with flexibility and the opportunity to grow and learn something new every day. Most notably, they are fully equipped to be the technological leaders of the future workplace. It seems to me that court reporting is the perfect answer.

What we are going to do is launch a national campaign to put stenographic court reporting in the spotlight. It’s going to be shining bright on us in the months and years ahead. We are going to get more students into schools. We are going to work with our court reporting programs like never before in order to get more students out of those schools. This path ahead does bring challenges. It’s not going to happen overnight, and we have a lot of catching up to do, but I know we are heading in the right direction. [Ed. Note: More info on this project can be found here and in future issues of the JCR. Or visit crTakeNote.com for more details.]

I look forward to our paths crossing because together, we can guarantee our future shines bright. This is our time!

 

Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org. This column is adapted from her presidential speech given during NCRA’s 2014 Convention & Expo in San Francisco, Calif.

In the presence of greatness

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRIn the century-long history of NCRA, special men and women have become stars in our field by virtue of their incomparable excellence and performance at the highest levels, over a period of decades. No name is more renowned in our pantheon of greats than Bill Cohen who celebrated his 90th birthday last fall in New York City. I was privileged to be a guest at the luncheon honoring this icon of court reporting. And what a gathering it was!

Bill’s friends came out to honor him, and they did so movingly, as Bill sat modestly at the head of the long table and each guest rose to say what Bill had meant to them. Many of you know Bill as a great Speed Contest Champion, a winner of three successive national contests in the 1950s. He then retired from competition but has remained for the last half century a commanding presence in the lives of his peers and the students and young reporters he has mentored and taught, including three young reporters he mentors today. Those three were in attendance to bear witness to the lasting influence this man, so generous with his time and talents, has had in their lives.

Bill Cohen_JCRJune14I heard the heartfelt accolades as each guest recounted his special connection to Bill Cohen. It was humbling — and exhilarating. Here were some of the best-known names in court reporting acknowledging their debt to Bill as, fi rst and foremost, a revered role model in their lives. My husband, Ed, stood to thank Bill for inculcating in him a passion for excellence: “I learned from Bill that excellence is always and ever the goal — nothing less.” It’s a priceless insight. Be the best you can be! Always!

I was reminded of Aristotle’s words: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Bill’s career, extraordinary for its length and its accomplishment, is a testament to his enduring ideals. He has graced us all with an unassuming professionalism in his daily work that raises the craft of court reporting to an art. If you want to know how to do it right, watch Bill Cohen and learn.

It’s remarkable to consider how many students, fellow reporters, colleagues, and peers have benefited from the stellar example Bill has set for seven decades. “Awesome” we would say today!

I could not help but wonder, whether the conviction that animates Bill’s ideals lives on in our profession. Granted, times have changed. Life is bruisingly fast-paced. There’s no time. We’re all in a hurry. Bill Cohen has always made time for others. That’s why he is a role model nonpareil. And that is his life’s lesson for all of us: Take the time to share your talents with others.

Being in the company of such a man renews the spirit. I left the luncheon inspired to be the best I can be, every day. To make the quest for excellence part of my daily routine. To make it a habit. I wish you could have been there.

 

Nancy C. Varallo, RDR, CRR, is NCRA’s president. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.

Boston strong

Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRRI live outside Boston, and for me and my family, terrorism struck close to home last April 15 when two bombs went off at the fin­ish line of the Boston Marathon. There were deaths and grievous injuries, and our city’s easygoing self-confidence took a hit. Terror­ists had struck. Would they strike again?

On that terrible day, the Boston Red Sox were playing at Fenway Park. Diehard fans, like me, had low expectations for our Sox this season because the prior season was a disaster. The Sox had collapsed, riven by locker room tensions, ego-driven mal­contents on the field, and a manager who failed to bring the team together. The Red Sox finished dead last in 2012. Could they improve on that in 2013?

Red Sox icon David Ortiz rallied his team with defiant words, “This is our city! Stay strong!” Only days later the Red Sox played again, and 38,000 fans crowded Fen­way Park—as usual. The city of Boston was not going to be cowed by fear of terror­ism. For baseball fans out there, you know how this story played out. The new Red Sox grew long beards as a sign of team cohesion and solidarity in the face of terrorism and, most importantly, played to win. And win they did! Against all odds, they upended the experts’ predictions and finished first in 2013—and then won the World Series. What a turnaround!

The 2013 Red Sox hit the jackpot for many reasons, but for those of us who watched them play the 162 games of base­ball’s long season, the biggest reason was easy to see: they played to win, every day. They never gave up. They never coasted along; they always gave it their best shot.

We are court reporters, and the lessons for us are clear: be the best reporter you can be. Every day. Don’t be dispirited by competition or fear of technology. Resolve to perform better today than you did yes­terday. Don’t be complacent. And week by week, in the daily grind of a long year, you will succeed.

Like my city of Boston, the Red Sox adopted “Boston strong!” as their man­tra. Those two words were mowed into the centerfield grass of Fenway Park, and Boston Strong became the calling card of the revitalized Red Sox, their credentials as players: You can’t beat us down! We will claw our way back and find a way to win. And they did.

We court reporters have all the tools we need to win our competitions in the mar­ketplace. Realtime services are unbeatable. Nobody except stenographic court report­ers can reliably deliver top-drawer realtime. It’s our calling card, and our ticket to suc­cess. Our marketplace is impressed by good realtime; they know what an advantage it is for them; they know how to use it. It’s up to us to deliver it, day in and day out.

2013 was a magical season for the Red Sox and all the fans of Red Sox Nation. My trips to Fenway Park were exciting and, yes, inspiring. My beloved Sox were showing us how it’s done, one game at a time. And the ultimate prize was theirs: the World Series.

What’s your World Series? Where do you want to be professionally this year? What goal of yours is out there, waiting for you to make it a reality? Credentials matter. Do you have your RPR? RMR? CRR? Now’s the time to go after them.

The World Champion Red Sox had an exuberant victory parade through down­town Boston, where the city came out by the thousands to cheer their baseball he­roes. I can’t promise you a ticker tape pa­rade through town, but when you achieve your goals, you will be amply rewarded. Set a goal, work hard, reach your goal. How sat­isfying! How rejuvenating to your self-con­fidence! Be Court Reporter Strong this year, and experience a renewed sense of pride in yourself as a topnotch professional.

 

Nancy C. Varallo, RDR, CRR, is NCRA’s current president. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.