Here is my list of why technical writers can make great scrum masters — slightly tongue in cheek but mostly true.
But first things first…
What is a Technical Writer?
Tech writers create support documentation for end users using plain English practices — so users can understand the first time. Whether it is user guides, help files, installation manuals or how to guides and FAQs. You name it, I have done it. And from my perspective, they can make great scrum masters, here is why.
Technical writers, or technical communicators — which is what they are mostly known as these days — have a different perspective from testers and developers. They are there to support the end user and work with developers and testers to ensure all user support needs are met. They have a natural affinity with dev teams, as they are willing to ask silly questions, questions that end users need to know. Over time they have this wall where nothing penetrates, a tech writer will see a developer’s eyes roll and simply make it a challenge to bother them until they relent. Seriously though, tech writers tend to be polite, considerate and patient. They have great people skills because they need to get vital information from a developer or tester and to maintain that need, they need to build and maintain that relationship. They become part of the family, and since there is typically only one per company, they can be considered impartial. Which leads to two obvious traits that all technical writers usually have — if they want to be successful. Firstly, the ability to build relationships over time; and secondly, they must have natural servant leadership skills. Two must haves to make a great scrum master as well.
Natural communication skills
Communication is a technical writer’s business, they live and breath written and oral communication all using plain English practices. With this natural ability of communication and friendly disposition — being fondly known as the ‘scribe’. A technical writer can use this ability to keep everyone on track without being too authoritative, hence channeling servant leadership skills.
Not afraid to ask dumb questions
As I mentioned earlier, technical writers must have a thick skin to persistently bother developers and other subject matter experts to ensure they gather the requirements they need to support end users. As far as being a user advocate, technical writers are thoroughly resourceful and by nature think outside of the box. This ability to be tenacious is also an important skill to be a successful scrum master.
Highly organised team players
Technical Writers — like a lot of other agile practitioners are constantly multi-tasking wearing many different hats. They work with a multitude of people and need to prioritise work accordingly. They are the ideal t-shaped worker in your squad.
Will not touch the code
Yes, that is exactly right. Technical Writers are not interested in your code. They are more interested in capturing usable information, communicating with the team and stakeholders, building relationships and supporting the team and the product. They have a natural empathy for people, they want to help them understand how things are done, they worry so users do not have to. Just like the impartiality reason I mentioned previously. You can trust a technical writing scrum master, they won’t touch your precious code. Because they probably don’t know how!
If you like what you see, follow my more regular blog series here: https://www.lukepivac.com/