The new year is a good time to share some big changes in my life during 2022. I left you in August last year with the promise of more blog posts, then silence. I didn’t manage to publish one post in months.
There was a reason for this. Over the last year I had been feeling that I was ready for a change and a new challenge, so I started applying for jobs. In September I started working as a technical writer for a team of cloud engineers. I definitely got what I asked for – a big challenge!
I am part of a technical writing team that manages technical documentation for cloud engineers. While my experience with website development and writing technical documentation has been helpful, every day I am dealing with documentation about processes that I don’t fully understand. So how does that work?
The cloud engineers are responsible for writing the first substantive draft of all the documentation. The technical writers act as editors and archivists. One of my tasks is to edit the documentation where necessary to ensure that it is clear, succinct, structured properly and meets the requirements for our documentation repository. As with any editorial task, I make sure that I don’t unwittingly change the meaning of the documents I am working on.
The technical writers identify gaps in documentation, organise the storage of the documentation within the repository and ensure that the documentation is easy to find. We have an important role as advocates for documentation, encouraging engineers to write documentation as they work. One of the first things I did was create a catalogue of our documents including the date each document was last updated.
In this job I am drawing on my experience and skills as a digital historian. Writing, editing and research skills are essential, but technical skills are also very useful such as the skills digital historians develop in programming, website development, using APIs (such as the Trove API) etc. The Programming Historian has a lot of tutorials covering the kind of skills I use at work. Another fantastic learning resource is the global community of technical writers called Write the Docs. I owe a lot to Tim Sherratt and the work he has done on Trove over the years and the THAT unconferences he organised – I have learned a lot from him. And of course the world of #DigitalHumanities on blogs, Twitter and now Mastodon. Stretching back, I am also grateful for the opportunities to learn programming at school and university.
When applying for jobs, I repeated to myself “be careful what you wish for Yvonne”. I have been around long enough to have had my share of shabby work experiences. I did not want to lapse into feeling that life would be rosy if I got one of the jobs I applied for only to be shocked by reality when I started work.
However, I did not need that level of caution. My boss is fantastic and I cannot believe my luck to be part of a wonderful team of professionals who really care about doing things right and work respectfully with their colleagues. No job is perfect, but when you work with colleagues who have the right attitude, so much more can be achieved.
While being on a scary ride working hard to learn a heap of new things, I have loved every day I have worked so far. I am on a steep learning curve. At times I feel that I am dog paddling in a sea of terminology and processes I have never encountered before. But there are enough terms I understand for me to grasp and then develop my understanding of a particular process. The fear is probably more like the fear of going on a scary theme-park ride than a more mortally serious fear. It is the kind of feat that if you confront, you will be enriched by the experience.
I am very glad that I pushed myself and grasped this opportunity!