Never take off your thinking hat
Technical writers usually in companies that make software or hardware and receive limited or no training. Some days can be filled with meetings which imply opportunities to ask questions and share ideas. Being attentive and utilizing your experience to navigate new scenarios is a sign of a quick thinker. Discussion with fellow writers also expands your thought process and can lead to the resolution of challenging problems. Asking questions helps writers in their daily tasks and also brings a fresh perspective to the organization.
Develop the habit of speed reading
A writer cannot get far without keeping abreast with industry trends, tools, and best practices. White papers, articles on reputed websites, and interviews by leading industry experts are some of the ways to learn about the latest news.
One of the fastest ways to read is by focussing specific keywords and statistics in the reading material. Abstract section of white papers and journal articles is the window to the research. By reading the abstract, identify if the remaining article is worth the time.
Instead of reading the entire interview, note the names of software, hardware, or technology mentioned by the interviewee. These will come in handy to expand your research in the relevant direction.
Be prepared for every meeting
Before entering a meeting, always enquire about the topic of discussion. If the team is developing a new feature (part of a software/hardware), search how other companies have documented something similar. If the meetings are tech-focussed, ask these questions to filter out irrelevant information:
- Does this feature need documentation?
- Is there a user interface associated with the feature
- Who will use this feature
Take notes especially for items that directly impact documentation. This activity will help narrow your focus when you start authoring content.
Understand your role in the organization
Companies hire technical writers to create documentation, but sometimes it is the minimum expectation. Writers play the role of coordinator, editor, and branch out to become information architects.
Define your work into three sections:
- Tasks I must do and like to
- Tasks I don’t want to do but have to
- Tasks I don’t yet do but would like to
Work that aligns with the first two points usually takes most part of the day whereas the last point is aligned with career progression. Discuss all the three points with the supervisor and seek their help in minimizing the tasks you don’t enjoy. Automation is the answer to many mundane tasks that writers have to do daily.
Technical writers are skilled in adopting new technology, which is one reason why they work for diverse products throughout their careers. You might have done an online course from SCTA, have an arts degree, or experience as a developer. With research and writing aptitude, anyone can excel as a technical writer.