81. Exploring Technical Documentation
Lenora Porter is a Front-End Engineer at Heroku, and she's joined by Sejal Parikh, who is a Product Manager for developer-focused content at Salesforce. Sejal started her technical career in QA, before transitioning into freelance (then full-time) technical writing. When she started her tech writing career, she really had no idea that the field existed, much less what it entailed. She grew to love the role, and the way it called upon her skills of writing and technical knowledge.
Technical writers can be grouped into writing for three categories of users: end users, who need help with user interfaces; administrators, who configure what features are available for an organization's users; and developers, who use APIs to build their own tooling and workflows. In essence, technical writers craft content so that users don't end up stuck whenever they need to solve a problem. These writers often need more sophisticated and complex tooling than word processing software to publish their work.
Even for the writers working with APIs, a background in development is not necessary to be a technical writer. Good use of language and an interest in helping others is enough. When Sejal was starting her career transition, she found plenty of videos on YouTube to help break down the tasks a technical writer might face. She also attended several conferences, and spoke to writers around her, to get a better sense of what the work entailed.
Links from this episode
- Sejal volunteered for many years with the Ratan Tata Trust
- OpenAPI and RAML are just two of the formats used for documenting APIs
- The Society of Technical Writing and Write The Docs offer resources for aspiring tech writers