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A Week in the Life of a MURAL Tech Writer

Ben
I cræft wonder from swirls of blips and bleeps. Big fan of chonky pixels. #TNETENNBA
・4 min read

In this post, we introduce you to two MURAL technical writers on the Developer Experience team. Developer Experience creates informative and inspiring content geared toward developers.

Lauren and Ben shared some of their stories from a week in early March, 2021.

Lauren: Hello! I’m Lauren. This is Ben.

Ben: Ahoy hoy!

Lauren: We’re the technical writers here at MURAL. When I tell someone at a developer-focused tech conference that I’m a tech writer, I invariably get asked, “What’s a tech writer?” Good question. What is a tech writer? Our day-to-day responsibilities include creating how-to guides for using products, video tutorials for navigating a user interface, API documentation for developers, and more. In short, we teach people how to use a product effectively.

Ben and I were the first tech writers at MURAL. Many of us know what it's like being the first (or only) tech writers at a company. We tend to be hired later in a company's development, once the need for a writer becomes apparent. Once engineers start engineering and get closer to releasing a product, they often realize that they need a dedicated wordsmith.

At the Write the Docs conference several years ago, someone asked which tech writers had "fallen into" the job. I was one of the few people in the room who didn’t raise my hand. I’d specifically sought out the position, diving deep into the job. It wasn’t an easy position to dive into since entry level jobs can be hard to find, but finally I got my foot in the door through an internship with Mozilla and the Outreachy program. Ben, how did you get started?

Ben: I had a few years of technical troubleshooting under my belt, but wanted to move into a career that was less about reacting to incoming software and hardware problems and more about creating useful content. As you mentioned, Lauren, being the sole tech writer is a common situation. At my first tech writing job, there was one other tech writer, but he gave his notice a week after I got hired. Then, well ... it was basically just me for 7 years. It's not easy being the only tech writer, but there are some benefits. The only team you have to manage is yourself. And you can get a little more sympathy for content timelines, as everything has to funnel through one person: you.

Lauren: So, what did you work on this week?

Ben: This week, my main focus was our first blog post (for this blog!). And being our first post, we naturally wanted extra focus on research and rewriting.

Our director Jacob suggested that we cover the story of how MURAL completely rewrote its engine using different technology and provided us with a first draft. This story would be a good showcase of how MURAL grew and performed under the pressure of COVID traffic, while sharing the technical details involved in rebuilding our main product engine from scratch. It was a great idea (plus, our director suggested it). We had our work cut out for us.

Taking Jacob’s piece as a starting point, we interviewed some of the developers at MURAL who were involved in the engine rewrite. We asked questions, took notes, asked more questions. We broke down the existing story and rethought it as a longer form technical piece, really homing in on the dev language and reasoning behind key decisions. Within a week, we rebuilt the story from the ground up (like the engine itself) as a much deeper dive. How about you, Lauren?

Lauren: Cool. I worked on the API documentation. This is content that shows developers what our APIs do and how those developers can use them. When consulting API documentation, developers need to see what endpoints are available and how they can be integrated into their own apps, so conveying this information to developers quickly and efficiently is important. That way, they can get started on using the APIs as soon as possible.

Also this week, I worked on writing documentation for integrating Single Sign-On (SSO) into a customer’s MURAL account. SSO integration is such a complex process that most IT admins often work quite a bit with the Customer Success team to get it working. Breaking the setup process into basic, step-by-step instructions can give the reader clarity. It helps them figure out the next step faster so they can get SSO integrated into their MURAL account faster. Again, it’s all about providing efficiency.

Ben: That's the thing I love most about being a tech writer: Helping people to learn and solve problems through clear instructions. Speaking of which, I have to start diving into the next set of API articles. Catch you soon.

Lauren: Ciao!

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

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