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Farewell address offers insights into a memorable year

Conventionlogo_noyear_NAVYThursday, July 30, 2015

NCRA Business Meeting

President Sarah Nageotte’s Address


Wow. What a year it’s been.

I want to start by thanking my fellow board members; the dedicated, hardworking staff at NCRA headquarters; the committee members and volunteers who have devoted their time and energy to NCRA during this past year; and in addition, I want to welcome our new CEO and Executive Director Mike Nelson, who is going to help the next generation of leaders take NCRA to the next level. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the membership. Without you, NCRA simply does not exist. All of us together — we are NCRA — and I would not have the privilege to speak to you today without the collaborative work of an entire network and team.

One year ago, I stood before you and introduced the beginning of the largest national awareness campaign that our profession and association was about to engage in — Take Note. This campaign was long overdue and was aimed to highlight our profession as one with viability, one that generations to come can feel confident in entering into; parents can be assured their children will have a career held in high regard and enriched in a history hundreds of years in the making. And we have been successful! National media hits ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Fox & Friends morning show to CNBC’s Squawk on the Street; countless local news media hits; and many interviews and opportunities for the NCRA board and members alike to promote the stenographic court reporting and captioning profession. We all saw the impact that the skills of our Wisconsin colleagues had on the Final Four college basketball tournament!

This year, I wanted to make an impact on the future of NCRA itself, to develop new governance standards by which boards of current day and future could rely upon in their service to our profession and association. I’ve learned through my volunteer work that it is not about my voice or one voice, but it is a collective voice of a profession, taking the knowledge base and the facts that we have to represent each of us. I wanted to show that the leadership of NCRA works for the profession and you, the members, and is not an elitist group. After all, we are simply court reporters and captioners too — just like you — who decided to step up and donate our time and skills to make the profession we love even better. I believe that you too should serve on the board or a committee and share your knowledge and passion to protect the profession that has provided so much for each one of us.

Our profession, our association — even life — had plans for me that I never expected to have to undertake.  In addition to the goals and plans we set out to achieve, in December I learned that there was another task that lie ahead, one that had the potential to negatively impact NCRA if not handled in an efficient and effective manner. Unexpectedly, our then CEO and Executive Director was leaving NCRA. I am so proud of the NCRA board and our staff members because there were times which we were facing this year that could have crippled us, yet instead of us straying too far off course, through our strengths and our resolve, we were able to do the job that we were entrusted to do. I am so proud of the leadership I have provided to my association, my profession, and to my board. This past year has demonstrated that impossible is not a word I accept, especially when I have a network and team that have banded together and focused on the positive accomplishments that we have been able to make this past year; ranging from the public awareness campaign, to securing the lease on our new headquarters location, garnering more awareness and official recognition through our third annual National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, to reenergized support for our court reporting programs and students.

I cannot even begin to describe the constant ebb and flow of NCRA’s and our profession’s business in which your NCRA board was engaged.

You heard our Secretary-Treasurer deliver her report. She has provided numbers that are not pretty. And while the board approved and accounted for some losses to fund our public awareness campaign and education initiatives, other deterrents could not be planned or accounted for. Therefore, we must continue to tighten our belts and focus renewed energy on increasing our membership numbers and showing the true value of belonging to the national association of stenographic court reporters and captioners. Historically, our membership numbers have experienced a three-to-four-percent decline each year over at least the past five years, and for many years before that. This year, I am proud to say our numbers are strong and going in a direction we have not had the privilege of seeing during my service on this board. We must keep this upward movement going!

I am excited about how far we have come, and I refuse to be distracted by obstacles that only detract from our objective to move our profession and association forward. The independently produced Industry Outlook Report presents our profession with many opportunities. However, if those opportunities are not taken advantage of, if we do not fill the vacancies and positions out there, the Industry Outlook Report also presents our profession with a future that will be replaced with alternative methods. But not because our skills and services are not needed; solely due to the fact that there will be a lack of trained stenographic reporters available to fill those slots. The world will not stop and wait for us to catch up.

We must continue in our drive to engage more individuals to become a part of our time-honored profession, to become skilled, trained stenographic court reporters and captioners. We must mentor. Mold. Guide. We must quit thinking of ourselves alone and think of the entirety of us together. We have so many outside forces trying to pull us apart. We must bond together and show the world what skills and value great court reporters and captioners have to offer, and recruit our colleagues not yet members of NCRA to join our forces. There is tremendous strength in numbers. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If we don’t hang together, we most assuredly will hang separately.”

I have come to learn that in order to be an effective leader, I had to focus on being productive and making a difference, exerting my energy where it would be used for good. I encourage others to lead in the same manner — our future leaders need to exert their energy where it will make a positive difference if we want to see our profession grow and our association advance into the future. There is no other choice. We need to focus on educating and promoting to our clients and to the public, and we need to grow our ranks with trained, skilled professionals.

I am disappointed in those who choose to live in their glass house and throw stones and those who choose to believe that the stenographic profession no longer has a viable future. We are here today because we are the future. We are technology. We are the right now. We need to look forward and be a part of an industry that is a team and provide solutions where problems may lie. No finger pointing. No excuses. We only grow stronger together when working together. United we stand, divided we fall. It’s as simple as that.

“They” are not NCRA. “It” is not NCRA. I am NCRA. You are NCRA. NCRA is each one of us in not only this room, but also every reporter, captioner, instructor, student, our staff at headquarters — and yes, even those who are not members are still NCRA. NCRA exists because of each of us — our entire profession. NCRA is each of us, and we must stand in support of not so much the idea, but the reality of what NCRA is. The next time you read on social media or in an email asking about “what is NCRA doing?” walk to the nearest mirror and ask yourself, What am I doing to save this profession? Are you helping an entire profession and an association or are you helping only yourself?

As I turn the reins over to Steve Zinone to lead us in our next year, I ask you to give Steve and the board the respect they have earned through their hard work and dedication; I encourage you to give back to your profession and association; and I urge you to be productive and make a positive difference which allows us to move into the future together.

It has been an honor, a journey like no other. I thank you for the privilege to serve as your president and for a lifetime of memories.