However, today, I’ll not focus on describing the technical writer’s role. Instead, I’ll use my experience and tell you which skills – in my opinion – are desired in this job and are helpful, especially at the beginning of the new work path.
I’ll not write about such obvious aspects as proficiency in the English language, basic technical skills, teamwork, or multitasking. I have chosen four key powers that, I believe, may help in taking the first steps in this job and also in further development.
Skill #1 – self-organization and planning
A technical writer works with and is a part of the project team. Participates in a meeting such as a sprint planning and review – the source of knowledge about the project. That’s why, during the sessions, technical writers are careful observers and listeners.
All team members – a Product Owner/Manager, testers, developers, and analysts – plan their tasks for each given sprint (most often two- or three-week). In the project, there are usually a few testers and developers, who cooperate. A technical writer is one and single: their task is to plan their activities to enable supporting the team during the sprint without any delays.
It means that every technical writer needs to organize their time work on their own. In other words, a person who decides on such a role should have high planning and self-organizational skills. Some tools might help in it (I use Google Drive), as well as the ongoing cooperation with business analysts.
Skill #2 – communication with the team
From my point of view, a skillful approach to every team member is useful. We talk differently with a tester who helps us find ourselves in the system built by the project team, and with an architect, who likes solid communication, and finally – we talk differently to Product Managers.
While building such relations, it’s worth being a bit of a chameleon, adjusting to a situation and places in which we operate. Of course, always being yourself at the same time ?.
Skill #3 – assertiveness
The proficient use of English is one of the critical skills but also the skill that may cause some big troubles.
Why? Sometimes a technical writer is asked to do a job that is beyond their competencies. For example, translating legal business documents. The ones who ask for that mistakenly assume that a specialist proficient in the English language might handle proofreading or even translation of such documentation. And we all know the saying that if being good at everything is the same as being great at nothing ?.
In my opinion, translating contracts, annexes, or other business documents should be passed to a team or a single person specializing in this particular field. That’s why for us, technical writers, assertiveness comes in handy – it’s worth knowing when to say NO.
Skill #4 – honesty
It happened more than once that I could not deal with something despite my willingness, big ambitions, and strive for perfection. It was too new for me, definitely too difficult, or I just was out of time for that.
What then? Now I already know it’s not the end of the world. We all are one team. In cases like that, there’s nothing else than being honest, open… and ready to ask for help from the rest of the team members ?.
- Junior Technical Writer
For a year, a Junior Technical Writer with many years of experience in the corporate world – from the junior to the leader position in the account projects for English- and French-speaking customers. Her journey with technical writing started from gaining the ITCQF certificate and working in one of the biggest teams supporting the extension and maintenance of the portal for global pharma customers. One of her main responsibilities is preparing release notes for three teams and updating user guides or troubleshooting documents for the customer. Outside her everyday work at Craftware, she’s been a Business English Trainer by passion for years.