By Dr. Pankaja Kulabkar and Nupoor Jalindre
On a bright Saturday morning, 89 technical writers assembled at the BMC premises on the Senapati Bapat Road, Pune. The occasion was the STC India Regional Conference and the theme of this event was “Getting Future- Ready!”
Ajit Bhat flagged off the conference with a talk on “The Other Side of the Coin.” In course of this talk, the audience learnt that the development and QA teams have their share of challenges too. Sometimes the development teams have to start work even before the PRDs are ready. Sometimes even the QA teams are not involved when the business implications of features are discussed and clarified. Occasions when the development teams have to deliver features at short notices are not uncommon. In face of these challenges, any help that the documentation team offers is appreciated by the teams. Educating the development and QA teams about the usage of terms is one such instance.
Ajit’s talk got technical writers thinking on how they can contribute to their projects beyond their documentation deliverables. This set the tone for the discussions held during the rest of the day.
Following this talk, there was an exciting round of preliminary quiz by Frederick Menezes. This round helped in shortlisting teams who would participate in the quiz to be held later in the day. The sessions were divided into 2 tracks.
A very interactive session from the beginning to its end. Rajib managed to keep the audience engaged by discussing the trends that are driving the Technical communication industry. He talked about how TC is experiencing a number of fundamental shifts due to various advancements in technology and mobile device connectivity. Few highlights were Tiki Taka to Tiki Tata where Rajib explained the change in tactics comparing them to Tiki Taka in football. He also explained how documentation earlier, in spite of being very lengthy, was of very less use to the user. He stressed on the various formats in which output should be generated.
The Fox and the Crane
Sheece used the Fox and the Crane fable effectively to drive the point why technical writers must think of innovative ways to delight their customers. Today, usability research is a serious business. Companies invest huge money to learn what their customers really want and then create products and services.
Technical writers too need to know what makes their customers happy. This will require a lot of research to understand how customers use the product and to know their pain points and preferences. A good understanding on this front will assist technical writers to identify their deliverable strategies and motivate them to update their skill-sets.
Moving towards solution documentation
Moving from a product based documentation approach to the solution based approach is the need of the day. This was very well projected in the session hosted by Abhijeet. Moving away from SDLC and working directly with the DDLC is required. The various ways in which we can adopt to these changing requirements in the form of methods and outputs was explained with very intuitive case studies.
Documenting for a Technological Domain
Ashwini shared insights and tips for those who wish to prepare themselves for working on technology-oriented domain. She also shared tips on how to perform well once hired for the job.
Preparations must begin from the time a candidate prepares his or her resume. If no prior experience exists of working in a technology-oriented domain, the resume must reflect the candidate’s earnestness to learn the new domain. Once hired, the technical writer must participate in cross-functional meetings to know more about the domain and the processes. While writing, the focus must be on conceptual information and end-to-end workflows. The procedure topics must be short. The technical writer must use the required technical terms and provide relevant examples.
Technical Communication Quiz
Following lunch there were exciting rounds of quiz by Frederick Menezes. The quiz covered multiple aspects of technical communication from style to grammar and evoked the competitive spirit in participants. Truly a treat for both the participants and audience!
Why the Manager isn’t fair?
The quiz was followed by an informative panel session titled “Why the Manager isn’t fair”. The panel was facilitated by Paresh Naik. Here was a topic close to everyone’s heart. Since the panel consisted of managers and members from the HR, the audience made the best use of the opportunity to ask questions they always wanted to ask and never got a chance. There were heated discussions and amidst the discussions several issues got clarified.
Big Data, Small World
A session packed with examples, from the smallest web apps to enterprise applications for retail, helped attendees to understand the concept of Big data. The session also gave an introduction to the various technologies used for Big data projects. A very useful session for developing skills for writers working on Big data projects and for the ones aspiring to do so.
Moving form User Documentation to Developer Documentation
Writing for developers is a different ball-game altogether. Here the end-users are developers. When you write for them you not only need strong technical writing skills but also a passion for technology. If you love working with code and can happily spend hours at it, then this terrain is yours.
Many companies are realizing the need to get technical writers to write documents that typically are written by developers. This ensures that documents are well-written and at the same time enables developers to focus on their core development tasks.
Content-driven delivery model
With spontaneity and passion flowing throughout the session, it is impossible to get distracted. Hemant is known for his remarkable work with infographics, which takes documentation to the next level. The Content-driven delivery model suggested by Hemant would benefit writers to determine the best delivery format and medium for their documents. The session included live examples that have been deployed by his organisation. Contribution from attendees made the session lively and full of action.
The American Work Culture
When teams are spread across countries, understanding the culture of those with whom we work with is important. Bhavana described the current work culture in the United States and shared her insights into the do’s and don’ts to be observed while working with teams in the United States.
Hierarchy is minimal at the workplace in the United States. A lot of importance is given to independence and micro-management is discouraged. Honesty, sincerity, and being straight-forward are appreciated. You are expected to come to meetings on time and well-prepared. During meetings, it is important to observe the time limit. If an agenda is not completed within the allocated time, do not just continue with the meeting but ask for another meeting to bring the issue to closure.
All in all the conference was a great learning experience for all. Mugdha Kulkarni and her team of volunteers did a great job in organizing this wonderful conference. The question on everyone’s mind was: When is the next conference?