The world of IT and high technologies is constantly growing and expanding its horizons. IT has immersed into our lives so quickly that we can’t imagine our daily routine without technologies anymore: mobile phones, smart watches, e-books, laptops…
And every single gadget or application has supporting documentation that bridges the gap between technology and users and makes learning curve as smooth as possible. Technology is striving to become closer to people, and Information Developers (also known as Technical Communicators or Technical Writers) are the wizards who help bridge the gap.
Is there any silver bullet or golden set of characteristics for becoming a successful Information Developer?
Yes, for sure! As a manager who has put all her soul into growing one of the best teams of Information Development professionals in Ukraine, I want to share my findings with you.
When conducting interviews and watching people grow professionally, I’ve come to understanding that Technical Communication is not simply about being able to write. To provide out-of-the-box documentation solutions to very complex issues, professional Information Developers should possess a specific, yet very versatile set of skills.
So, here’s the list of top-10 traits that will ensure the Information Development world is your oyster:
1. Love for technology
I’m the advocate of a theory that people do things best when they love doing them. Therefore, you can’t become a great Information Developer if you don’t feel interest either for technology or to linguistic things you come across daily. I’d go further and say, you will make it only on condition that you take interest in how the technology and language develops and what it brings to people every day.
Learning is great, practice is even better. Try to learn a new programming language or play with an Arduino board someday. You’ll feel the difference at once, and you’ll never be indifferent to the things you document, I bet!
2. Eagerness to learn new things constantly
This trait is required to keep pace with the giant steps of IT innovations nowadays. Each day brings something new in IT: gadgets, technologies—you name it. If you don’t get accustomed to this pace, in several years, you’ll find out that you’re overboard. As my husband says, “The greatest sin of an engineer is lack of curiosity”. Your motto should be: “Not a day without learning something new!”
3. Analytical set of mind
“Aren’t these the Business Analysts who should possess this trait?”, you’ll ask? And the only response here is “No!”. Ability to analyze information and find hidden interrelations, ability to make conclusions, as well as try different hats on when developing information is indispensable. The analytical skills help you find the most relevant information, identify your target audience, and present the information to the audience in the most appropriate and effective way.
4. Logic and ability to structure information
Oftentimes, when starting the documentation project, in the best case, you just have a bunch of Specifications, Technical Tasks, as well as lots of information gathered from the SMEs. What’s important here is not to get lost in the jungles of diverse information. Here’s where your logic and structuring aptitude comes to place and guides you through these jungles.
Structuring is also important when it comes to drafting the outline of your deliverables or working on them further. Be the guide for your users; don’t let them get lost and frustrated.
5. Attentiveness to details and thoroughness
These are the key traits of an Information Developer. Don’t be afraid to look like a nuisance or ask too many questions, this is the only way to get objective facts on your plate. Don’t be afraid to stand for each comma you’ve put. At the end of the day, thoroughness will bring you the best praise from the thankful users.
6. Creativity and imagination
Just writing is not enough, you should always be creative. “Technical documentation has no place for creativity”, you’ll object. However, I believe that information can be delivered to users not only in writing, but also as images, schemes, videos, voice, or other interactive materials. When starting the documentation project, think and analyze before deciding on the solution. With current technologies, the sky is your limit to provide the best and most helpful type of documentation to your users: no matter whether it’s a Guide, e-book, Help System, website, or an eLearning. You drive the changes!
You do things best when they are part of you, when you live these things – and this is no news. It’s been my credo for a long time – once you see a sparkle in the person’s eyes and passion for the job, hire this person, and you will never ever regret. If a person is passionate about the job, they will find the way to bring creativity and imagination into it. Passionate people ignite the team and spark invaluable ideas.
8. Approachability and sociability
The profession is frequently called Information Developer or Technical Communicator, which really presupposes a lot of communication—that’s not only technical writing alone. When working on project documentation, you will need to communicate with various audiences to get the needed information:
- with clients – to agree on certain decisions.
- with developers and quality engineers – to discover how the application works in the tiniest details.
- with business analysts – to understand why the application works in such a way and how it will be used in real life.
- with UI/UX experts – to work out user workflows and application interaction with the users.
And this list is not exhaustive. You must be a point at which the information from different sources gathers. And to be this point, you must do your best to find a key to each knowledge holder. You must not be afraid to ask “dumb questions” and irritate SMEs a bit. Keep in mind, one day you may help them with the information you’ve gathered.
9. Time management
This skill is surely a must for a successful Information Developer. Ability to meet tough deadlines and not get lost in hundreds of small tasks is a real art. Prioritization and multi-tasking skills will also come in handy. Attention to your time and respect for the time of other team members will gain you credibility and trust.
10. Writing skills
I’ve put this skill last, but it’s not least. The aptitude for writing clearly and concisely on complex technical matters is a skill that should be constantly developed.
Technical documentation may seem terse and boring to the people who have come across poor technical writing samples. Technical documentation can be diverse: when needed, it can be simple and techy; in other cases, it can be an interactive video tutorial that requires your participation, still it will be just one of the technical documentation types. It’s up to you to decide on the most appropriate deliverable.
With this said, I’m convinced that you don’t have to be a philologist or a linguist to become an Information Developer, also you don’t have to be a programmer or a physicist to write on complex technical or physical matters. You just have to love the job and never stop on what you achieve.
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” © Steve Jobs.
Be that one! Stay inspired!