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Nicola Yap

Broadening Your Skill Set as a Technical Writer with Nicola Yap, Technical Writer at Google

Broadening Your Skill Set as a Technical Writer with Nicola Yap, Technical Writer at Google

In this week’s episode of the Knowledgebase Ninjas Podcast, Gowri Ramkumar is joined by Nicola Yap, Technical Writer at Google. They discuss Nicola’s experience with technical documentation at IBM and Google, career progression tips for technical writers, and the key factors of documentation’s success.

Key facts

  • Nicola’s LinkedIn
  • Google website
  • Nicola is the Lead Technical Writer for Artifact Management at Google
  • Nicola holds a master’s degree in language and professional writing from the University of Waterloo
  • Nicola holds a bachelor’s in translation psychology from Glendon campus of York University
  • Nicola is a certified technical and professional writer from Glendon campus of York University
  • Nicola also holds a certificate for staff training and adult education from Seneca College
  • Nicola has twenty-plus years of experience in technical support and writing. She has worked with renowned brands such as Google, IBM, Nortel Networks, Stirling Douglas Group, and more

Key takeaways

  • Nicola started her technical writing journey at Symantec in 1996. Since then, she has worked with renowned brands such as Google, IBM, Nortel Networks, Stirling Douglas Group, and more. She has now been associated with the technical writing industry for more than two decades
  • She initially thought to pursue journalism, but due to limited opportunities, she decided to get a bachelor’s in psychology, as she always felt inclined towards studying human behavior. Nicola also took French translation and technical writing classes, which led her to become a technical writer
  • Nicola acknowledges her current role as a Technical Writer at Google as an enormous learning curve. She shares that Google provides numerous learning opportunities for its employees at every stage
  • Nicola shares that her experience at IBM helped her become an expert in networking. She believes that meeting new people provides you with an opportunity to explore new ideas, and Nicola loves to bridge the gaps between different ideas
  • Nicola encourages youth to not hesitate to pursue technical writing for it is a promising career path. She believes that along with developing writing skills, understanding of industrial dynamics and technical aspects are equally important
  • Nicola believes that her interest in communicating with different departments helped her develop her technical writing and professional skill set. She further shares that Inter-department communication helped her take several initiatives, which ultimately played a huge role in the success of different companies
  • She shares how she initiated writer-specific education in her team, which allowed a consistent experience while recruiting writers from Warsaw and Bangalore, India. Now the experienced writers have a formal training process to pass down their knowledge to new recruits
  • Nicola advises everyone who wants to join Google as a Technical Writer to learn more about the company as well as its technical side
  • She also shares that restricting your job role in any company is not a wise step because opportunities make their own way and can come along at any point, even when they are not expected
  • Nicola shares her reason for being associated with larger companies such as Google, IBM, etc is that they offer a variety of learning opportunities, which helps her grow. That is also the reason why Nicola stayed with IBM for almost fifteen years
  • Nicola believes that the key elements of technical documentation success are accessibility, ease of understanding, and usability in different scenarios
  • At Google, Nicola uses a variety of (Google Analytics) dashboards that are set up to track page views and aggregate visits. It allows her team to identify topics that need clarity because people are leaving those pages quickly. Once the technical writing team at Google makes the required changes in the document, the same matrix is applied again but with a loop to track if the changes made have increased readers attention and retention
  • Nicola encourages her technical writer’s team to interact with multiple teams to understand the specific features of the product thoroughly

Nicola’s biggest influence

Jimmy Roberts – Software Engineer at Waymo and Former Software Engineer at Google

Key resources

Docs for Developers
Google Analytics
Google

What documentation-related advice would Nicola give to her twenty-year-old self?

Nicola believes that people as young as twenty years old normally have great energy, where a person would want to do everything by themselves. However, she advises youngsters to “prioritise everything, especially work schedule and career decisions”

Secondly, she advises that “everyone should share what they have (as in knowledge) to uplift your teams and surroundings”


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