The technical writer’s 5 best friends

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Technical writers need to expand their personal and professional friends because they need to. Building a strong personal and professional network
1. The product manager
The product manager can be the technical writer’s best friend or worst enemy. Knowing a competent product manager can aid technical writers to better understand the product they are documenting.
On the dark side, when faced with incompetent product management, a technical writer with their grounding in writing product requirements and functional specifications can help be a voice of reason during the triage of ambiguous or plain technically unfeasible requirements.
2. The senior DBA/database architect
The whole world and many of today’s leading-edge web applications run on databases making a senior DBA and database architect a valuable friend indeed.
3, The storage area network engineer
Let’s face it all the business world’s data (and secrets) live on one SAN or another.
4, The financial controller
It never hurts to know the person who handles the money and processes the checks. This is true for employees not just freelancers and independent contractors.
5. The solution architect
Solution architects and network architects can be valuable friends of the technical writer because of their responsibilities over the design of solutions.
Who are your five best friends as a technical writer?

 

Photo by Drew Farwell on Unsplash

A lesson I learned as a contract technical writer

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As a favor to an old friend,  I spoke to one of their friend’s kids who got laid off and was forced to go into contract IT work so they could keep paying the bills.

Here is one question and answer that stuck out from our phone call:

Them: What do you find true about contracting?

Me: The very people who will criticize you for the tiniest mistake will be the same people who take credit for your successes and good ideas after your contract gig ends.

Unfortunately, depending on the organization, it happens to full-time employees too.

Reflections on my technical writing career

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I was once asked in a job interview: “Why do I stay a technical writer when it must be such a dull and boring profession?”  After the meeting when I was peeling rubber out of the parking lot, I took a few moments when I was decelerating to think about some of the more interesting moments (at least to me) from my career:

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My advice to junior technical writers

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Much of my technical writing career has been spent working in the trenches directly with technical teams. Unfortunately, this means I don’t know any junior technical writers anymore.

I’ve seen a lot in my time as a technical writer, and if I did advise new or junior technical writers, it would be the following:

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Learning new software: A personal retrospective

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When I was in college, I took an on-campus job in my college’s computer lab that I still consider to this day to be a very formative experience. The director of the computer lab helped me discover the technology chops that I still carry me to this day. He had a penchant for scouting student employees from non-technical and liberal arts areas of study like English, Education, and Psychology. He is one of the only people in my academic and professional past I call a mentor. When I found a home working with technology, I gave up my goal of becoming a journalist for becoming a technical writer. College was tough because of my dyslexia, but my job in the computer lab charted a new course for me that I am still following today.

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An alternative perspective about taking meeting minutes

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I was talking to a recruiter once who asked me how I felt about taking meeting minutes. The first thing I said was “I think meeting minutes are overrated because I’ve rarely if ever seen them consulted again by meeting participants. When is the last time you consulted meeting minutes after a meeting was over?” While we both laughed about my response, I was quite serious and didn’t know how serious I was myself until well after the call was over.

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Lessons learned from working as a computer book industry technical reviewer

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I was a computer book technical reviewer earlier in my career. It was a freelance gig, but I still consider the work one of the more formative chapters in my professional writing career even though it wasn’t writing work.

Computer book technical reviewers sometimes called technical editors are responsible for ensuring the technical accuracy of information technology book manuscripts. The work taught me to pay attention to technical details, which in turn went on to influence my work as a technical writer and freelance writer.

The lessons I learned include:

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