New NCRA CEO announced

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyThe Daily Record (Baltimore, Md.) posted an announcement on Oct. 2 about Marcia C. Ferranto being named NCRA’s new Executive Director and CEO. The piece was generated by a press release issued by NCRA on Ferranto’s behalf.

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Connecting the dots between strategy and volunteerism

Jim CudahyI began writing this column in Ghent, Belgium, in a room with two dozen Chinese court reporters quietly engaging in the Intersteno equiv alent of NCRA’s Speed Contest. With fingers tapping and pressing away as the ambient noise, I can remark that this event — Intersteno — is remarkable on a number of levels. What strikes me most notably is that an event of undeniable global scale takes place — even on a biannual basis — effectively rests on the shoulders of volunteers.

That’s asking a lot of volunteers, and NCRA does the same. And we’re now asking for more.

Over the course of the past year, the NCRA Board has assembled a strategic plan. Within this plan are six general areas of focus or, as I have come to call them, “buckets”:

  • Awareness
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Professional development
  • Resources
  • Member tools

Each of the strategic buckets represents areas of focus that you —NCRA members — have identified as critical to the profession over the next five to 10 years. As an example, we need for more people to know and appreciate the value of stenographic court reporters; hence, we have an awareness strategy. As another example, we need to get more students enrolled in court reporting schools and move reporters out into the field, so we have our education strategies.

We have a lot to accomplish, and we have finite resources — both in terms of human capital at the staff level and in, well, cash. So, we lean disproportionately on volunteers to execute on the tactics in fulfillment of our strategy.

The Board has outlined aggressive new charges for our volunteer committees and attempted to align their activities with our strategy. Virtually all of our committees now will rely on individual NCRA members to carry the responsibility of not only coming up with great ideas, but executing them as well.

Think of it this way: If we, as an organization, have 1,000 lbs. to carry, our old way was to rely on 10 people to carry 100 lbs. each. But with our new direction, we’re seeking 100 people to carry just 10 lbs. each, thus distributing the weight and perhaps, over time, enabling us to carry even more than we ever have in the past.

For our awareness strategy to work, when we come to you, the members, to spread the word about Court Reporting and Captioning Week, we will only succeed if you are inspired to get involved. For our education strategy to accomplish its ambitious goals, when we come to you to engage with prospective students in your area, we will be far more effective if you are willing to make a presentation at a local high school or take part in a career day with a neighborhood court reporting school.

You’ve given us direction. We have taken action. Now, we need you to be on guard for your marching orders. It’s the best way you can serve your profession and its future. It’s the best way you can engage with your court reporting community. Soon, we will bring these volunteer requests to you: Are you ready to lift your 10 lbs.?

Community Matters

Jim CudahyA year ago, as I had just been handed the reins as executive director and CEO at NCRA, I took as my first responsibility to engage in a sustained listening tour with stakeholders from across the court reporting community. I visited a number of state associations during their annual conferences. I spoke one-on-one with some of the luminaries of the profession. And I otherwise sought to engage in a dialogue anyone and everyone with a vested stake in our industry.

That is how I found myself in June of 2012 at Stenograph’s headquarters in Elmhurst, Ill. I spent the better part of a day with Stenograph CEO John Wenclawski, and we talked about the past, present, and future of court reporting. I even was treated to a wonderful cookout as my visit coincided with a quarterly lunch Stenograph hosts for its employees.

At some point during my discussion with John, we talked about what we could be doing together to advance the collective interests of the court reporting profession. I said that I thought there were a number of areas where we could work together, but, as always, that NCRA needed to be careful about not appearing to show favoritism to one vendor over others. John stopped me and asked a simple question: “Why?” However simple the question, it raised an important point.

From the outset and throughout my first 12 months on the job, I have challenged the status quo as NCRA has embarked on the development of a new strategic plan. If we are going to affect substantial, positive change within the court reporting industry — and we are going to do just that — then we need the participation of the entire court reporting community. Our vendors have deep ties to the profession, day-to-day contact with court reporters, and resources and ideas that can and should be put to practical use in advancing NCRA’s strategy.

Stenograph was not the first vendor I met on my listening tour, and over the course of the subsequent months I have spoken oneon- one with the principals of dozens of companies that serve the court reporting industry. In each case, part of the conversation has included, “What can we be doing together to advance our industry?” Everyone has had great ideas and insight that I couldn’t have received anywhere else based on their unique perspectives and expertise.

With that as background, let me tip my cap to Stenograph as it is in the process of celebrating 75 years of service to our industry. As I conducted a special interview with John Wenclawski in celebration, it was captivating to learn about the various business ventures with which the company has been engaged over the years. A surprise to me was that a great deal of Stenograph’s work in the early years was not related to court reporting.

That doesn’t change the fact that, for 75 years, Stenograph has been synonymous with “court reporting.” From the first machines it built in the 1930s right on through to synchronization of its product lines with computer-aided transcription and realtime four and five decades later, the history and accomplishments of Stenograph over three-quarters of a century have been intertwined with the history and accomplishments of our industry. Indeed, it was out of a sense of responsibility to give something back to an industry that ultimately compelled Stenograph to get involved with court reporting education in recent years.

On that day a year ago June when I was in John Wenclawski’s office, we were throwing around ideas that we as a community could use to promote the court reporting industry. At some point, we came up with the idea of hosting what later would become “Court Reporting and Captioning Week.” It was a great idea and I can’t tell you who came up with it. It hardly matters though, because that’s what happens when you engage with a full community; great ideas emerge.

So, I ask the entire court reporting community to take a moment to wish our friends in Elmhurst well-earned congratulations on 75 years of service to our community, to their community — the court reporting community.

Jim Cudahy, CAE, is Executive Director and CEO of NCRA.