By Sayanti Das
I have often encountered this question in interviews, amongst peers, and as a technical writer, “Which stream of sciences has certified you to take this role?” And my answer (with a smile) has always been, “From Humanities, and English Literature was my specialization.”
My role as a technical writer – rather I prefer to call technical communicator or information developer – has been one roller coaster ride. I remember that my first job as a technical writer transitioned from a content writer; every day when I woke up, I felt they would ask me to leave today. So, let me try my best! It was not at all a comfortable role to start off. I was averse to technology, I did not know what an authoring tool was (to me MS-Word was the only tool to be used for writing); and biggest blow came when I had to unlearn the English I had learned, to deliver what I was expected as a technical communicator.
Does it sound scary? It is not! It is just the initial hiccup that everyone faces when one plunges into something new. It is like the first day of your first board exam; or if you are a mother your first feeling when you were rushed inside the OT on a labor pain; or, if you are a father, your feeling when you saw your wife being rushed inside an OT on a labor pain. We humans are skeptical about any new experience or exposure. But, life is all about taking risks! If you can take the risk by taking a board exam, or by bringing a new life from the OT, then why not try an out-of-box thinking when it comes to your career? You can fail once or twice, but on the third attempt, you will learn to sail through. Maybe master it as well!
Coming back to the topic – technology is and has been away from any dogmas! You cannot say you invented a technology, thereby you own it. You innovated a technology because there was a need amongst the customers. Therefore, your innovation is for everyone, and every other person has the right to come up with something to add upon it; or customize it to suffice their needs. Secondly, technology is based on a flow of logical analysis. Every small detail has a logic (interpreted as an algorithm) behind it. The small icon of the battery on your phone indicates the consumption of your battery with a percentage figure. And that is all you need to have – the Interest; thereby, eagerness to learn.
Learn, Upgrade, Grow
The key mantra to sustain in this industry is to learn, upgrade, and thereby grow. When I was authoring user guides and troubleshooting guides, I got an exposure to work on instructional designing, which was also a deliverable from the technical writing team. That exposure and knowledge which I received during my tenure at Deloitte have always given me an edge in the market. Thereby, don’t stop your learning. If you learn more than your required field of work, welcome that experience. Those smaller exposures and education can take you a long way.
Another very important aspect a technical writer should remember is the value of humility. There will be plenty of unknown areas which may sound heavy, difficult, and mind-boggling. So, when you are approaching an SME who might be a product architect, go with a mind like a clean slate. In most cases, such knowledgeable people are ready to teach others, so that the best of the team effort comes up. Carry your humility with you, and you will end up winning it. However, do your bit of homework before you meet any SME. That triggers an SME to go an extra mile to teach.
Take ownership of your work; even if you fail. I remember I worked almost all weekends over a project in my first six months in Ericsson. I was new to the domain, the processes and tools, and the work culture. To train myself to deliver the good amount of CLIs at the time of GA needed a lot of time. I gave away all my holidays, weekends to meet the deadline; but in the end, I won the trust of my managers that I can work under stringent deadlines, pressures, and uncertainties. This turnover was also new to me, that surely increased my self-confidence.
All these small incidents, situations, interviews, eagerness to learn and assist added up to what I am today. My role (as a Business Manager) in IBM is just not stuck to writing or authoring; it is not even stuck to the role of an Information Architect. It is an overall responsibility of delivering different types of content to the customers. So, getting into the shoes of the end-users I should be able to think ways to deliver accurate, necessary and interesting content; it can vary from preparing user guides, videos, FAQs, blogs and other modes of writing. Seems interesting? To me, it is! Anything new should be explored, and we should never get carried away by its result.
Before signing off, I would like to reiterate one of my favorite dialogues from the famous Bollywood movie which rings into my ears especially while coping up with my profession and this competition:
“Don’t go for success; go for excellence. Success will eventually follow!”
About the author
Sayanti Das carries over 10 years of technical writing experience, and currently works as a Business Manager with IBM Watson-FSS, Bangalore. Having earlier worked with MNCs like Deloitte, Ericsson, and CA, she is thankful to every company that has added value to her skill set and helped her get acquainted with many talented professionals and highly motivated individuals.