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Building a Promising Technical Writing Career with Michael G. Khmelnitsky, Principal Technical Content Developer at Qumulo

Building a Promising Technical Writing Career with Michael G. Khmelnitsky, Principal Technical Content Developer at Qumulo

Last updated on Aug 9, 2021

In this week’s episode of the Knowledgebase Ninjas Podcast, Gowri Ramkumar is joined by Michael G. Khmelnitsky, Principal Technical Content Writer at Qumulo. They discuss Michael’s approach towards technical documentation, innovations in the industry, and tips on building a promising technical writing career.

Key Facts

  • Michael has been associated with the technical writing industry for over a decade
  • Michael is a former Information Developer II and SAP term Superuser (Business Intelligence Suite) for SAP
  • Michael is a former Senior Program Writer at AWS (Amazon Web Service) 
  • Michael is a former Principal Technical Writer, Project Manager, and Team Lead for Oracle

Key Takeaways

  • After graduating, Michael struggled to get a job, so his father advised him to try out technical writing as an intern at his company
  • Michael loved the experience and learning he acquired as a technical writing intern 
  • In 2010, learning technical writing was comparatively difficult. However, Michael was able to learn structural writing and the landscape/basics of technical writing 
  • During his internship, Michael enrolled himself in several related courses to enhance his technical writing skills
  • Throughout his technical writing career, Michael has worked with renowned organizations such as SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, AWS (Amazon Web Service), and Oracle
  • Michael believes that a technical writer should focus on the targeted audience and their needs while creating a document 
  • Michael believes that quality documentation requires constant grooming and improvement  
  • Michael shares that “communication is often misunderstood, it’s not about sharing what we have but about making the audience understand what they are looking for”
  • At Qumulo, Michael’s team takes care of a variety of content, including knowledge-based articles, release notes, support articles, and internal documentation 
  • Michael discusses the difference between documentation styles at large and small companies. He believes that large companies have a relatively structured process, whereas smaller companies’ processes are mostly haphazard and require streamlining. “There is a need to create a middle way to create a life cycle that is appropriate”
  • To produce high-quality documentation, writers must; 
    • Have product knowledge 
    • Understand the technical concepts
    • Know about the targeted audience 
    • Acquire high-resolution images
    • Understand the functionality and operations of the organization 
  • Michael believes that including a technical writer as a core member of the team is a huge step for innovating the field. Technical writers initially were kept on the side, waiting to be included in the process. But now they are considered key members and play an important role in technical product launches. The job has a steep learning curve, and technical writers are now integrated into a series of scrums. They get to attend stand-ups and meetings and work closely with software developers – something unheard of only a couple of years ago

Michael’s biggest influence

Michael believes Shawn was the first person to teach him the term ‘technical writing’. At the time, they were using structured writing and data tracking/tagging, so there was a lot to learn and explore. He shares that it was quite overwhelming to organize technical concepts, but Shawn was the person who inspired him to follow his track. 

Key resource

What documentation-related advice would Michael give to his twenty-year-old self?

“Get your hands dirtier, faster”. Michael shares that initially, he was quite shy about learning the technicalities and asking questions. “It is important to keep asking the questions to develop a better understanding of the product, which improves documentation quality”.

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