Technical Writer — what do we do and how to become one

Andre Sato
Jan 10, 2020 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Me at work | Photo by Renato Galisteu

Nowadays, IT companies are seeking a specific role to be part of development teams. The funny thing is, this person is not a developer. So, what is a technical writer?

A Technical Writer (a.k.a. TW) is responsible for writing technical documentation about the product in development, usually, this documentation is customer-focused or internal guidelines.

Some might say having a TW working with dev squads could be a waste of time (since the TWs do not code) because developers must spend time explaining what has been implemented and then the TW can write something about it.

Well, I’m proud to inform you that this is a vision that is going down! More and more companies are looking for technical writers. Instead of thirteen, I can list three reasons why:

  1. Save time during development — Yes, it is true. Instead of overloading your developers to write the documentation, a TW can do it while the developers are implementing a new feature during a sprint. Once it is completed, you have in hands both the product and its documentation.
  2. Guidelines written by a specialist — You know, there are rules. Everywhere. As you follow some to code, you have to follow some to write as well. These rules assure that you have quality documentation and no one is better than a documentation specialist to apply these rules while writing the documentation.
  3. Have in hands a knowledge center — Not only the customer documentation but things such as internal guidelines, how to use tools, feature overview, technical posts, and onboardings, bring to you a knowledge center and this is the best result you could dream of. Of course, this is not 100% enough to solve problems from customers’ side or internal ones but just imagine having all the information you need centralized in one place, well organized and structured. How much time would your teams save by not trying to discover by themselves where things are and how they work?

How a Technical Writer works

Image from Imgur

In case you are wondering how a TW can work without knowing how to code, I’ll tell you. Communication is the key. Always.

It is an essential skill for any Technical Writer to know how to fetch information from developers and testers, make yourself clear and objective with your questions, and always ask what you don’t get at first. This is the best way to master the subject you have to write about. Also, study as much as you can about that subject.

From a more practical point of view, a Technical Writer must handle content management, time management, and have excellent English skills. And here goes why:

  1. Content management — A TW must be able to handle different versions of documents, publications, and organize all the content in the most granular way possible.
  2. Time management — Usually a TW is assigned to more than one task at the same time, it is crucial to know how to manage your time to accomplish all tasks.
  3. English — All documentation is always written in English according to the Simplified English rules.
  4. Documentation written in XML — XML tags the elements of a document. For example, there are tags for a paragraph, an item in a numbered list, and a heading. Using these tags, you can create information that a rendering engine can format appropriately for a wide range of output media (that is, things can have different formats in different places), so, a TW must/should know how to deal with mark-up languages and content authoring tools plus XML editors. Most of the companies adopt XML based documentation for this reason.

I can tell you that here at Wildlife, we’ve been working to reduce the backlog accumulated for almost nine years. At the same time, the Technical Writing area is being structured aligned with what the company needs the most for its documentation solution.

The next logical step is to attend real-time demand, I mean, working together with our teams. That’s how the information is detailed since the beginning, all knowledge or information that a team generates is transformed into a guideline by the Technical Writer. I’m looking forward to this day!

How I became a Technical Writer

Now, sharing a bit about me and my story. I have a BA in Linguistics and never wanted to pursue an academic career, so I had to move into the industry anyway. Which sort of industry?

Many segments hire technical writers but previously I was working in the Telco industry, writing guidelines for billing system users, then, I decided it was time to move on and Wildlife was a great move. I like to write, to read, to learn new things, and working with technology is both a challenge and an achievement.

I’ve been a Technical Writer since 2015 and it is very comforting to see that year by year, more and more companies are looking for technical writers in Brazil. We need to catch up with other countries where the area and the job role are totally consolidated.

I see a lot of work to do here. Assemble a team, understand the demand, align our work with managers and tech leaders, structure our internal processes, and ‘put things in their places’ like reducing the backlog. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. Also, there is a mindset change. Introduce Technical Writers to dev teams and show them how we can be productive and helpful.

I can’t picture myself working with anything else. I have goals in this area, to become a Documentation Manager is one of them.

Wildlife’s recruiting process

If you’ve got this far and wants to know how is our hiring process, here it goes a few observations:

  • Be proactive, take ownership of documentation, and write it the best you can.
  • English proficiencies are not required but are something nice to have.
  • Previous experience in the area? If you are a Technical Writer, I want to know where and why have you been hiding for so long.
  • There is no specific background in Brazil.
  • After talking with me and my manager, there is a written and oral test to do.

Wildlife Studios Tech Blog

Wildlife Studios is building next-generation mobile games

Andre Sato

Written by

Wildlife Studios Tech Blog

Wildlife Studios is building next-generation mobile games, and it takes a lot of data, innovation, and knowledge. Our tech people are here to share how they are building the best in class technology to improve people's life with fun and innovation.

Andre Sato

Written by

Wildlife Studios Tech Blog

Wildlife Studios is building next-generation mobile games, and it takes a lot of data, innovation, and knowledge. Our tech people are here to share how they are building the best in class technology to improve people's life with fun and innovation.

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