Technical Communication Rises as a Community: Bulgaria

tekom Europe BulgariaTechnical communication (TC) as a professional opportunity is not a new notion in the IT field. Technical writers have been part of the hardware and software development process for decades, and are now playing the invaluable role of describing and explaining often abstract and low-level technical procedures in a more human-like manner to the worldwide business community.

Today, we take a closer look at Bulgaria.
How did the community start there, and what has been achieved so far by its members?

Guest Author Dragomir Anachkov

Historical Background

Technical communication was legally established as a profession in the USA in 1980, thus providing official recognition of all industrial and software technical writers working there. There is no doubt that that act has put the emerging community of technical authors on the worldwide IT map for decades to come.

Local and International Steps in Politics

Later on, ever since the foundation of the Bulgarian Technical Communicators Community – “tekom Bulgaria” – in 2015, technical communication has been on the rise. As a logical consequence, on December 21, 2017, the TC representatives in Bulgaria (now officially known as “technical documentation authors”) finally received their well-deserved legal recognition by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy.

This new legal framework has become a reality thanks to the relentless efforts of all authors who stepped in to organize and participate in the “tekom Bulgaria” petition. Coinciding with the beginning of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this historical event may prove crucial for the career development of all who want to find their place in the technical writing field.

The Calling Has Turned into a Mission

There will always be a need for new IT experts in the Information Era that we are all living in, and not all of them have to be programmers or engineers. The role of technical writers is constantly evolving and exploring new grounds, and humanitarian and soft skills are becoming more and more important by the day. For instance, I used to be called an information developer. Although that is still true, I am now a user assistance developer. The emphasis is on helping people. There are many well-educated people out there who are not aware that our profession exists, but who deserve the chance to prove their quality.

Now is the time for us to use this momentum and work proactively to help drive the future progress of the IT field in Bulgaria and other European countries alike.

 

The Core of TC: Having a Positive Impact on User Experience

Documentation is essential for every product. Usually, it is one of the first things that customers get to learn about a product. Badly written documentation has often been a pitfall for many products, even though initially conceived as very promising. This is valid for all sorts of software and hardware products.

What Can Happen If the Manual Is Not User-Friendly…

If we leave the IT world for a moment, there are plenty of examples of board games with badly written rules.

Even if these board games have the potential to become a staple, a badly written rulebook usually earns them the reputation of an unplayable mess. Reports of negative user experiences quickly spread in forums on the Internet, which often leads to the complete abandonment of these games.

The core: write user-friendly content.

In general, a lot of people are unwilling to buy games with incomplete rules even if the game components look astonishingly good. In recent years, there have been plenty of examples of board games funded on Kickstarter that ended up in a similar situation. And the problem is not that there aren’t any rules.

Explaining these rules is not a trivial task and shouldn’t have been underestimated in the first place.

The same goes for every product. I have recently struggled with a new TV and its manual. Loading the already existing set of TV programs shouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, wrong… Luckily, customer support was there to lend a hand. It was all a matter of a couple of sentences that should have been in the beginning of the manual. Alas, they weren’t there at all. At least, I couldn’t spot them after several rereads.

What does it matter that you have a new and shiny gadget if you can’t find a way to use it?

 

How Does the New Legal Framework Contribute to the Popularization of TC in Bulgaria?

The biggest direct benefit is that internships and training will now be acknowledged if an author of technical communication decides to move on to another job.

The new legal framework should also facilitate the following activities:

  1. More Job Opportunities

In recent times, a number of job offers for technical writers have been appearing on a more frequent basis. Though I do not know the specifics of these job offers, one thing is certain: Apparently, employers in Bulgaria have recognized the need for technical writers in their work environment, which is a positive sign indeed. If the Bulgarian business climate remains stable enough, this positive trend is likely to continue.

  1. Easier Popularization

People are usually more willing to believe that something is there if they see it with their own eyes. They are driven by curiosity. Thus, they are now more likely to notice the increasing number of job offers for technical documentation authors.

Not Resting on Our Laurels: Current Activities
However, this doesn’t mean that we should leave all the hard work to our curious nature. This is where our proactive nature should step in. One of the most recent and continuously growing local initiatives is the tekom Bulgaria Roadshow.

tekom Bulgaria

Highly concentrated attendees during the workshop exercises in Veliko Turnovo

It started as a sole initiative in 2016 by Desislava Mihaylova, Senior Technical Writer at Progress. As of 2017, it now consists of three more members – Vanya Kiritzova, co-founder of tekom Bulgaria and a Senior Manager at VMware, Margarita Staneva, Manager at VMware, and Iva Koevska, Senior Technical Writer at ATTRAQT.

The Roadshow represents a series of events that aim to popularize the field of technical communication among students, software developers, and owners and employees of small businesses in towns and cities outside the capital. So far, these events have reached several major cities – Plovdiv, Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Vratsa.

  1. More Educational Opportunities

In Bulgaria, technical writing is currently being taught and studied in several universities in Sofia. Thanks to members of the local technical writing community, courses have been held in other Bulgarian cities as well.

More and more Bulgarian students have gotten to know more about technical writing:

  • Dobrinka Stefanova and Ekaterina Mitova, User Assistance Developers at SAP, coordinate a specialized course on software documentation at the University of Sofia, “St. Kliment Ohridski”. In 2018, almost 40 students managed to pass the final exam with an excellent grade.
  • Jordan Stanchev, User Assistance Development Architect at SAP, gives another course on software documentation at New Bulgarian University. These courses aim to provide students with helpful practical knowledge and professional tips if they ever wish to join the technical writing community.
  • With the support of Telerik Academy and at their premises, Petra Lazarova and Desislava Mihaylova from Progress, together with Iva Koevska from ATTRAQT, organize annual workshops to enhance the skills of technical writers and draw newcomers to the professional field.
  • Technical writers organize an annual open day for recent college graduates and candidates for internship at the office of VMware in Sofia. The purpose of the event is to introduce them to the profession and help them practice their technical writing skills.

Bridging the Gap to Related Study Courses

However, many of these students have a more technical background. Does this mean that they are the only ones suitable for the job? Actually, philologists and translators with the right attitude can offer quite a lot to the IT field, too. Therefore, the appropriate courses on technical communication may narrow this knowledge gap and develop a wave of humanitarian engineers. There is also another aspect to this. Some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students neglect the role of technical documentation. A large part of them may become software engineers one day, and they should be aware of the overall importance of technical documentation – and that there are other intriguing IT career opportunities out there as well.

 

Why Should People Want to Become Technical Documentation Authors?

Technical communication offers something unique.

It offers a strong sense of innovation, sometimes even encouraging improvisation in a field that is often perceived by some people as rigid and straightforward. However, it is indeed flexible and gives you the opportunity to do a lot of things that software developers and engineers do in their everyday work life. At the same time, technical documentation authors have a lot of other tasks and responsibilities common to user experience and design experts, for example.

Technical communication offers one of the more diverse professional experiences currently available in the IT field.

Technical communication in Bulgaria also has something else to offer – an expanding and welcoming community full of professionals who generously spend their spare time to share know-how that is very difficult to obtain by other means.

Give it a try and get in touch with us at tekom Bulgaria to learn more about what we do, and why we do it.

tekom-Bulgaria team

tekom Bulgaria members at Evolution of TC conference in Sofia, 2017.

More information:

How is the community evolving in your country? Leave a comment below!

About the Author:

Dragomir Anachkov has been working as a user assistance developer at SAP for the last two years. Before that, he used to work as an IT support technician. Dragomir enjoys playing chess, board games, his bass guitar, and reading a wide range of literary genres.

 

 

 

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