In episode 21, Becky Todd from Atlassian joins us to talk about career growth, leadership, and mentoring. How do you move up to the next level at your company? Does upleveling require a management track, or there other ways to increase your leadership and influence? We also chat about mistakes we've made, what we've learned, ways to increase our influence and visibility both inside and outside corporate walls, why we sometimes back away from persuasion efforts, the balance between autonomy and micromanagement, mentoring strategies and opportunities, and other career-related topics within technical communication. We also look at the Season of Docs as an opportunity for getting involved in open source projects
Considering earning a master's in technical writing to move up the career ladder? If so, check out Mercer's online master's in Technical Communication Management program, which is positioned within Mercer's School of Engineering and focuses on teaching you management skills to influence significant organizational change. There are many details to consider when choosing a master's in technical writing program, so I reached out to Pam Brewer, who directs the program at Mercer, with some questions.
I recently conducted a survey with engineers who write documentation to see why they are coming to my API documentation site — whether certain trends are pushing them to write more documentation, or whether the technology landscape is becoming more complex, or some other reason. Results from the survey are provided below. The most interesting result is that engineers who write docs almost unanimously agree that they prefer to treat docs like code.
Although I'm not familiar with FAA-regulated flight manuals, when I read about the Boeing disaster and the lack of information around the controversial MCAS feature, my two takeaways from a documentation perspective are to ask these questions: How does this product differ from other products? and What does the customer need to know? These are challenging questions in any documentation project.
A brief account of biking in Alviso County park's pathways.
If you're considering entering a tech comm program to transition into technical writing, keep in mind two considerations — the emphasis on technical skills, and the potential drift from corporate relevance.
When we see risk-taking and idealism in younger people, it's hard to avoid adopting a more cynical attitude born from our own learned experience. And yet, encouraging youth to avoid risk-taking and follow a safer route also diminishes the chances of their success.
XML Documentation for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) provides a DITA-based CCMS for both technical documentation and digital asset management. Palo Alto Networks used AEM to build a world-class documentation portal. A driving factor in their adoption was the ability to integrate documentation and marketing content.
A recent study looked at how developers interact with API documentation. It found a mix of systematic and opportunistic learning styles. While we often write with the former in mind, focusing on the latter styles (opportunistic) might be more beneficial, and will cause us to focus on improving search, navigation, interactive components, troubleshooting, error messages, and other action-oriented features.
The engineering demographic can make even a relatively young person seem old. This sense of growing old is causing panic in many tech workers in Silicon Valley. One solution might be to change your mindset about what it means to be young, and to learn to unlearn what you have already internalized unconsciously.
In episode 20, Matt Reiner from K15t joins us to talk about minimum standards for documentation -- what techniques or standards can you put in place to help engineers and other contributors meet the minimum requirement for good tech docs? What essential sections, headings, or topics should you include in templates? And how do you help non-native speakers with grammar issues? We also discuss how tech writers can work with marketing to create honest and interesting writing. There seems to be the feeling that tech writing is dull but accurate and marketing copy is flashy and fluffy -- we brainstorm ways technical writers can better align with marketing writers.
Corporations often expect tech comm academics to fashion their curriculums to suit corporate needs; in contrast, academic departments want to give students a safe space free of corporate agendas for critical inquiry. Tech comm academics are often caught between these two groups and must satisfy both.
This week I traveled to Louisiana to attend the Symposium for Communicating Complex Information and presented on tech comm trends. You can listen to the recording, view my slides, and read my latest thoughts on trends here.
In the workplace, why aren't technical writers recognized as SMEs with the same credibility and respect as engineering SMEs? Why do PMs and others often override the judgment of technical writers on matters of language and docs? This post explores the challenges that technical writers experience as SMEs in the workplace, and strategies they can implement for asserting their expertise. The format is a Q&A with authors of a CDQ article, with a survey at the end.
How do you become a 10X technical writer in the workplace (10X means 10 times more efficient and productive than others)? In this post, I raise the question and then offer a few tips I try to follow: (1) Record your meetings with engineers, (2) Respond quickly to emails and messages, (3) Iterate on content with ever-expanding layers of reviewers, (4) Put some work back on those who request it, and (5) Learn to say no so you can focus on fewer projects with deeper engagement.
© 2023 Tom Johnson