High-Flying Technical Writing
One of the difficulties with technical writing is the same aspect that gives me great joy: exploration and discovery. I've learned more in the past 30 years than I can even consciously recall. But, not everyone is into a life of constant learning, and technical writing can provide a very stable life, with a fast-paced, repetitive process. Perfect for me, the two things I love in life.
Thanks to Pablo (a multi-dimensional data analysis tool) I have some insight into marketing techniques, data aggregation, and programming bottlenecks. It was a marvellous team. Thanks to MINISIS, I know more about libraries and collections than the average joe. Another amazing and dedicated team. I also began to learn more about user education, beyond the basics of how to accomplish a task, I learned how to select and write tasks and features in a way that promoted discovery on the part of the user. I aimed to teach users the underlying principles of the product while walking them through useful exercises.
Thanks to a long stint documenting ultrasound equipment, I know more physics and biology than school had time to teach. Through my career, I've done everything I could imagine, and more. I never thought I'd find myself in Beijing, nor could I have imagined the moment when I stood next to a "knuckle" from the Canadarm. Both places that technical writing has taken me.
Most of my experience has been with data management and process management. In the first, I've extensive exposure to SQL databases and data manipulation. I have to learn not just what the user is going to do but why they would want to do that. I needed to know more than the user so I could break it down and present the processes that the user would want to do. These sometimes differ from what the developers and marketing joes want; I knit their visions in with mine and score!
The technical writing innovation that thrilled me to my core is DITA, Darwin Information Typing Architecture. Started at IBM, DITA is an XML specification used to build single-source/multiple output content. DITA is brilliant.
One of the greatest challenges in technical writing is keeping up with development. Perhaps I should say, rather, that the challenge is keeping ahead of development. It's much like trying to stay ahead of a landslide, you hear the rumble early on, look about curiously, and as the sound increases to a roar, you start getting desperate and looking for the way to safety. Sounds dramatic? It is.