Series: In Love with my IT Job
- Interview with Thomas Walker – Technical Content Developer at K15t in Stuttgart
- Interview with Desislava Mihaylova – Senior Technical Writer at Progress in Sofia, Bulgaria
- Interview with Ulrika Månsson – Language Engineer and CAT Tools Specialist in Sweden
No job is the same as another. This makes it all the more interesting to gain an inside view into the office next door. Many people have an accurate picture of the character of a creative or an IT person. Thus, creatives have a reputation for being eccentric. People working in the technical industry, on the other hand, are expressed in clichés as abstract, “nerdy”, or lacking social skills. The fact that all these are prejudices and stereotypes that are often not true in reality can be experienced by everyone who is familiar with the industry. Especially in the IT sector, it is worth taking a closer look at the profession. In the end, it is more varied and communicative than assumed at the beginning.
Which skills do you need to work as a technical editor, software programmer, production technician or mechatronics engineer? Do creativity and social competence really only play a secondary role? In addition, IT knowledge and skills are increasingly sought after by companies. The growing digitalization of the economy has an effect on the entire industry. Even non IT-related professions are becoming more technologically active now. The vision of a future with Industry 4.0 is still ahead, but companies are already setting up for it.
In our series, people from different age and professional groups introduce us to their IT jobs. Beginners, students, and people with quite long working experience share their motivation and recommendations, confirming prejudices or invalidating them.
Today we talked with Thomas Walker, a young Technical Content Developer at K15t in Stuttgart. We liked to know what makes him love his job..
What made you want to become a Technical Content Developer?
Thomas Walker: I decided to become a tech writer for many reasons – first and foremost because I love language, and have always had a keen interest in computers and IT. I’ve found reading and writing great fun for as long as I can remember, and growing up I was constantly fiddling around with computers: building and disassembling them, playing with new programs and operating systems, generally trying to figure out how they work.
After my studies, I started my professional career as a translator and copywriter. From the beginning I found IT-related texts most interesting, because the challenge of explaining complex technologies and concepts in a clear, understandable way fascinated me. That’s when I first realized that tech writing might be a rewarding career choice that would play to my strengths as a writer. So, as soon as I saw the job offer for my current position at K15t Software, I knew I had to go for it – especially as a friend of mine was working here at the time, and recommended it as an awesome place to work. I sent out an application the same day and the rest, as they say, is history.
Please introduce us to your job. Can you describe a typical working day?
Thomas Walker: As you’d expect, I spend most of my time writing documentation. If there’s nothing pressing on the horizon, I’ll take a look at my backlog and see if there are any lower-priority tasks I can take care of, such as updating or reworking older documents. At K15t Software, we employ an agile approach to technical documentation (widely known as “DocOps”) – meaning that we’re constantly improving and adding to the documentation throughout the product lifecycle.
If there are new releases coming up, I’ll have a meeting with the developers involved, and establish what needs to be documented. After I’ve written the docs, I start drafting release notes, and once everything is ready, I publish the new software release. Sometimes I also work on marketing content, especially when writing the documentation has gotten me familiar with important new features. Because we’ve integrated Disqus – a social commenting tool – into our help sites, users can directly post questions or share their opinions, which they usually do once or twice a day. I’m responsible for answering these inquiries. I really enjoy that, as I find it satisfying to help people directly, and the questions we get are really varied. Recently I’ve made some “crash course” videos for some of our products, in which I give a brief background introduction to the software and demonstrate how to use its basic functionality. We published those videos to YouTube, and we try to use them in the docs too. I like that, as it’s quite a modern and progressive way of doing documentation.
Finally, I also help out the developers by writing UI copy. Sometimes this involves editing text written by the devs, and sometimes I write copy from scratch based on their input. This is what I enjoy most, because it’s often very challenging to convey the necessary information within the limited confines of the UI, so there’s an incredible sense of satisfaction when you hit the nail on the head.
Have you always wanted to be in this profession?
Thomas Walker: As someone who studied an arts subject (German) at university, for some reason, I always assumed that I’d end up in more of a marketing-oriented role. But I’m really thankful that I got the opportunity to get started in tech writing.
What surprised you in this profession?
Thomas Walker: I think the most surprising thing for me is just how many different things I get to be involved with. Before I started, I was scared that I might end up being the guy who sits in the corner and writes the docs while everyone else ignores him, but it’s really not like that whatsoever. As part of our DocOps approach, tech writers are fully-fledged members of an agile team – and I really feel that my feedback, input and work are valued and taken seriously by everyone from the marketing team to the developers.
What changes have you recognized in your industry in terms of developments and innovations?
Thomas Walker: One great innovation is the collaborative power of our content collaboration and authoring system, Confluence. Without Confluence’s collaborative features, I’m certain that I’d find it much harder to work together with so many of my colleagues from different departments.
Our last question: What would you recommend for those who want to go in the same direction as you?
Thomas Walker: Keep on reading and writing. Do anything: launch a blog of your own and just start writing about tech. The most important thing is to get started honing your skills. If you don’t know any coding, maybe start doing some free online courses – this is not absolutely necessary for many tech writing jobs, but I took a few courses and was amazed at how much more confident and self-assured it made me as a writer.
Thank you, Thomas, for this interesting insight. We wish you all the best for your next years!
Series: In Love with my IT Job