Life of an ATA Technical Writer
What comes to your mind when you think of technical writing? Would it surprise you to learn that only 30% of a technical writer’s role at Ataccama is actually writing and the rest is spent playing around with our product? We recently sat down with our Lead Technical Writer Danica to find out what she considers her team’s biggest achievement and most interesting project, what surprises her about Ataccama, and what she likes best about her job. We hope you enjoy her story as much as we did!
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey with Ataccama.
I joined Ataccama as a technical writer for the master data management part of our platform three years ago. I had never been a technical writer before so everything I know about technical writing and about tech in general, I owe to Ataccama. Within about a year, the opportunity to become a team lead just kind of showed up. It was quite organic as we were a small team. I started booking all the meetings, writing down the priorities, and then we decided to make it official at one point.
Outside of work, reading and writing are my number one hobbies. I really enjoy journaling and all that goes with it. I’m an avid fountain pen collector — I have about 30 of them at the moment. Basically, I like anything to do with stationery. If you buy a fountain pen, you need to buy ink for it, which means you need good paper, which means you need a nice notebook for it, so it’s easy to get carried away. 😃
What’s an average day like in the life of an ATA Technical Writer?
“Most people think that technical writing revolves around writing, but that’s really only about 30% of what we do. We spend most of the day playing around with the product.”
There’s no real formulaic way our day unfolds. But most of the technical writers aim to have one or two bigger tasks that they’re working on as well as a few smaller ones. Usually we receive a task from one of the development teams, we take a look at it to ask any initial questions, then we start playing around with whatever the feature or task revolves around.
A lot of our job is this kind of initial testing. Most people think that technical writing revolves around writing, but that’s really only about 30% of what we do. We spend most of the day playing around with the product. We need to install it on our own, check out what’s new, and sometimes we actually find some bugs. We don’t go into as much detail as developers or QA, but we do follow the development flow from beginning to end. Once we’ve asked any other questions based on what we found, we actually sit down and write about what we tested.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for a Technical Writer at Ataccama?
The biggest challenge is just keeping up with things. There’s a lot of stuff going on at Ataccama at all times, especially in engineering. There are a lot of new features being developed, and certain teams start using new technologies that we’ve never heard of before, so as a technical writer you really need to be proactive about this when you see your team starting to use something new. You need to get in there immediately, start asking questions, and be eager to learn about it. Otherwise, it’s very easy to get lost.
Why do you think Ataccama is a good place to work for Technical Writers?
“If you see an opportunity and think you can make something better, pretty much everyone in the company will just say to go for it. Let’s do it. Let’s make it better. There’s no real red tape anywhere.”
What surprises me about Ataccama and makes it a good place to work is that it gives you a lot of space to learn what you want to know. There are no constraints in terms of improving. Ataccama really cultivates this culture where we’re quite open to you or anyone taking action or filling a position that maybe doesn’t exist yet. In my case, the technical writing lead wasn’t really a thing before I became one. If you see an opportunity and think you can make something better, pretty much everyone in the company will just say to go for it. Let’s do it. Let’s make it better. There’s no real red tape anywhere.
There are also a lot of things going on and that’s great for technical writers because it means a lot of opportunity to learn new things, and to stay up to date with new technologies and new things going on in the tech world. It’s a fun and fast-paced place to be.
What do you like best about your role?
By far, it’s my team. I enjoy working with them and seeing the improvements we make to documentation on a daily basis. The best thing is when one of the consultants tells us that they’ve noticed that a particular section is much better.
Most of our value isn’t found in just finishing up a task and forgetting about it — it’s long-term improvements to the documentation. And, as a single unit with a team lead at the front of it, we can now make these bigger improvements to the documentation. It’s rewarding to bring everyone together and focus on a joint goal to make everything better.
What kind of people are you looking for on your team?
“Our technical writers need to be eager to learn new things, and they need to be undeterred by the fact that they don’t know something.”
We’re looking for people who have technical writing experience and feel comfortable documenting and playing with a rather complex product. Specifically, we’re looking for a couple of general technical writers and also one who has experience with Cloud technologies and is comfortable with Linux to help out the Cloud team. Our technical writers need to be eager to learn new things, and they need to be undeterred by the fact that they don’t know something. Personality-wise, we’re still a fairly small team, so we’re looking for someone who’s friendly, laid back, and willing to chat with the team and just fully be a part of it.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
We recently released the new generation of our product — Ataccama ONE Gen2 — and that involved a completely new set of documentation. Everything had to be done more or less from scratch. It was definitely the largest thing we’ve ever done. It involved bringing together all the skills of all the technical writers. Overall, we changed up a lot of things and there’s a completely new structure for the documentation.
One of the challenges was making it look and feel the same as our old documentation so that our clients could use it with ease from the get go, but at the same time, to introduce some new things that will hopefully make their lives easier when they’re reading through it all. It was 997 articles so it was a huge undertaking for what at the time was five of us. 😃
How do you see your future at Ataccama?
I would like to stay in documentation in some way, but maybe expand what documentation really means. Right now, it’s the official documentation that’s given to clients, but clients receive about a million other pieces of information from us that we don’t consider to be documentation. Now that we’re growing and we’re still more or less home office based, it’s more crucial than ever to have everything well-documented.
As a technical writer and team lead, my job is to make sure that everyone has the information they need to use our products to the best of their abilities. If I were to expand on that, it would mean that everyone within the company and all of our users would have all this information at their fingertips.
Like what you’ve heard and want to join Danica’s team? She’s hiring! Apply today as a Technical Writer. Interested in Cloud technologies? She’s also looking for a Technical Writer for Cloud Solutions and Deployment.
Want to learn more about our team and company culture first? Take a tour of our offices and find out why we were awarded Prague’s IT Office of the Year 2020.