I started my career as an Information Developer not so long ago. I never worked in the field of technical communication before and never thought that someday I would give it a try. So, as Bryan Adams sings, ‘Here I am, this is me’. I have not acquired any extensive experience yet, but still, I think that I can share some discoveries made during my debut in this position.
Simply writing is not enough
It is not a secret that a good Information Developer should have exceptional writing skills. However, this profession is not simply about putting words together. Your main task is to make complicated and confusing information understandable and easy-to-follow. It is believed that if your text is not clear, that means you have not put much effort into it. Therefore, simply writing is not enough. Writing simply is what really matters.
Writing documentation is a creative activity
Most people reckon that technical writing has nothing to do with creativity. Actually, I was of the same opinion. In my understanding, writing documentation was rather a routine and dull process deprived of any emotional coloring. Fortunately, I was in the wrong. It turned out to be so interesting to transform complicated information into user-friendly content. However, you need to show your great creative flair not only for writing clearly, but also for communicating your ideas visually. Yes, you heard me right. Good visualization can replace hundreds of words. Therefore, work of Information Developers frequently involves creating infographics, presentations, videos, and believe me, this is a very creative process.
Information Developers are not introverts
Many people assume that Information Developers are compulsive introverts, who usually work independently, are not sociable and enjoy the internal. However, this pervasive assumption is completely mistaken. Writing documentation is impossible without collaboration and interaction with other people such as members of your team, clients, editors, or SMEs. Actually, you MUST come out of your shell even if your personality has some tinges of intoversiveness. Moreover, it is a usual practice to take on different roles, including a detective, journalist, reporter, and even a psychologist. Yes, even a psychologist. Sometimes, to get a response you should know how to approach a person. Therefore, fundamentals of emotional intelligence would not go amiss. In other words, all possible methods (of course, except cruelty and any amoral actions) will come in handy when you need to get information.
Constant reviews and criticism are part of the job
Numerous reviews flavored with criticism are an indispensable part of writing documentation. However, not all people take criticism lightly. In most cases, it hurts our ego and undermines our self-esteem. That is why if you have decided to become an Information Developer, be ready to deal with tons of editing and criticism it entails. School your character! Just remember that being wrong does not mean being bad. Besides, if you are a newcomer to the field, you can even take advantage of your reviewers’ remarks since that helps acquire professional experience. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Therefore, relax and take criticism lightly. Do not waste your nerves!
Information Developers need time management skills
Writing documentation is not an endless process. There are time frames called ‘tough deadlines’. Everything you work on must be accomplished on time. Otherwise, you will experience the bitterness of your unpunctuality in the form of dissatisfied clients, irritated colleagues, unjustified expectations and loads of additional work. That is why, it is extremely important to master the art of estimation, and thorough planning. It will help you to improve your work performance and make meeting deadlines less stressful. So, time-management and good organizational skills is one more point to be taken into consideration.
There is a lot of information to devour
To start working as an Information Developer, the first thing you have to do is to get acquainted with numerous rules and standards for writing good documentation. For instance, since I work in the IT-sphere, I had to read Microsoft Manual of Style, which is a guide to usage, terminology, and style for professional technical communications. Besides, it is important to become tech-savvy and be ready to master such tools as Microsoft Word (well, working in it professionally does require a lot of in-depth knowledge), MadCap Flare, RoboHelp, Photoshop, Snagit, and many others. In addition, I was supposed to know my way around System Requirements Specification, technical specs, etc.
Actually, this to-do list can be continued, but to sum up, prepare for constant acquiring new knowledge and developing new skills. On the one hand, it is difficult and tiring, but on the other hand, it is fascinating. As a result, you do not run in place since space for personal and career growth is unlimited. Just aim high and reach for the sky!
We often have rather a misconceived idea about this trade, and that is why the overall image of an Information Developer is a bit distorted. I hope that my discoveries may help you to dispel some myths surrounding this profession and decide whether it is suitable for you.
To learn more about traits an Information Developer should possess, see 10 Indispensable Traits of a Successful Information Developer.