Joyce Query

If creating a successful business from scratch is a good thing, then growing a second firm out of the first one must be even better. That’s what Joyce Query has done with her TechWrite Inc. and its little sister, i2 (i-squared).

Now one of the region’s leading technical communications authorities and innovators, Query was a humble technical writer within a giant investment firm when she launched TechWrite in 1989.

”TechWrite is a technical communication and documentation firm which was founded at a time when business began making a cultural shift toward outsourcing expertise that fell outside of core competencies,” she says. ”TechWrite was also a first-wave participant in what has turned out to be the surge of entrepreneurial activity that has carried on to the present day. TechWrite’s innovative response to both trends and culture resulted in activities and services that went far beyond traditional notions of technical communications.”

As the business grew and prospered, Query recognized a need for related services that were more comprehensive and organizationally focused than traditional technical communications. So she founded her second business, i2. Now with 20 full-time employees in a North Shore headquarters, Query is president and CEO of both firms, keeping a steady hand on the wheel as both her companies cruise through a sea of opportunities. And frequently, one company is able to feed business activities to the other.

KM: A new discipline

i2’s line of business, knowledge management, didn’t even exist a decade ago.

Says Query, ”i2 is a spinoff from TechWrite that occurred as the tools of our trade increased in number and sophistication, as did the means for delivering information. Because we always maintained a staff of full-time consultants, writers, editors and project managers, the cumulative knowledge of our company grew geometrically. It quickly became clear that our customers’ greater area of corporate need and the work that our consultants had become uniquely qualified to perform had gone far beyond the role of technical communicator.”

She says that even though the concept of knowledge management has been around for several years, what her company does is unique.

”Our work is an amalgam of business analysis, process improvement, content blueprinting and development and more. Anyone with content and knowledge to manage, in any form — text graphics, data, interactive multimedia — can benefit from our insight and process. Most everybody in business looks at hardware, software and pipelines, but companies rarely look at or think strategically about the information itself, about the nature and characteristics of the content they use. We do.”

Her experience has taught her that when you understand the knowledge you have, the knowledge you need, all of its audiences and how that knowledge must be used, then you can use all your resources to the greatest effect.

”We help organizations evolve into a fruitful knowledge culture rather than try to impose wholesale change on an operational environment,” Query says. ”In addition to providing the customized formulas for knowledge efficiency, i2 also maintains the practical expertise to help implement our knowledge strategies, to capture, evaluate and share information, according to an organization’s technology and culture.”

Local woman makes good

Query’s story is a classic example of one good thing happening after the other. Born in Pittsburgh’s South Hills area, she graduated from Mount Lebanon High School and attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1974.

In 1975, the first of her two children arrived. After a few years, she was back in school, this time at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in technical writing in 1983. That was a rare and specialized degree in those days, and she was quickly hired by Federated Investors, where she became of an anchor of its budding technical communications section.

”I really enjoyed that experience,” she says. ”Making the decision to go out into business, walking away from a very good position like mine, was just plain scary. But I did it — and I promised myself I would give it two years.”

She didn’t need two years. Query and TechWrite quickly secured one major client, then slowly and steadily expanded. Unlike many successful high-tech start-ups, she grew her businesses from the ground up — without the help of a grant, guru, sponsor, mentor, lawyer, accountant or consultant.

Query is a member of the Society of Technical Communication and WIRED (Women Initiating Regional Economic Development in Western Pennsylvania) and does work for Habitat for Humanity. She has no plans for drastic expansion of either company and no interest in early retirement or an alternative occupation.

”I love what I’m doing, and I’m doing what I love,” she says. ”I’m going to focus on growing these two businesses and advancing the quality of the tools and concepts we use. Knowledge management is just beginning to be understood.

”I want to be part of that business evolution. How to reach: Joyce Query at (412) 278-3400 or [email protected]

William McCloskey is a Pittsburgh-based free-lance writer.

about this series …

The SBN/PNC Women in Business Series is a monthly series sponsored by PNC Bank showcasing the achievements of some of the region’s top women business owners and the obstacles they have overcome.

PNC Bank continues to expand its commitment to women business owners. Its PNC Bank Foundation continues to support Seton Hill College’s National Education Center for Women in Business with a $250,000 grant to fund the design and maintenance of a Web site resource for women business owners. This article may also be viewed online at its Web site at