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Hard skills vs soft skills in technical writing with Jonathan Glassman, Senior Technical Writer, GitLab 

Category: Podcast

Jonathan Glassman, Senior Technical Writer at GitLab joins us in this episode of Knowledgebase Ninjas Podcast and discusses the skills that technical writers should possess in the field. He also talks about different paradigms and tools that might be useful in technical writing.  

About Jonathan

  1. Jonathan’s  LinkedIn 
  2. While working in the UK Insurance industry, he went through a career change process and discovered that technical writing would be more aligned to his goals and skills.
  3. Initially he worked as a legal technical writer. While in that role, he was able to do some software documentation. Later he worked with government digital service on their software documentation.
  4. Recently, he moved to Gitlab as a senior technical writer.

Key Takeaways 

  • According to Jonathan, the essential skill in any profession is being able to communicate with people regardless of the communication used.
  • “However, in technical writing, I always look for someone who can build relationships with subject matter experts as you’re talking to get the information from them to then build the documentation you need to build to serve these needs you need to serve,” he says.
  • Another skill is attention to detail at the fundamental level. It is not just paying attention to Starguide, it’s also making sure you correctly follow, say, workflows that help make your remote setup work.
  • It’s tempting to always get focused on the hard skills and even the words on somebody’s CV or resume. But if a person is less open to learning new skills or tools, it will be difficult for them to contribute or add value to the team or any organization.
  • Jonathan believes that being able to use the command line is a very good transferable skill now. This will place you in good stead in the technical writing space.
  • Docs-as-code is an intuitive tool and very responsive when it comes to help and support. It is one of the desired skills to focus on in the documentation.

Rapid fire with Jonathan

  • Biggest influence  

“I am lucky in my career to work with some brilliant folks who have inspired me to be a better technical writer. Learned so much from tech writers at GDS and GitLab- Laura Hiles, Jen Lamborn, and Rosalie to name a few from whom I have learned a lot. “

  • Highly recommended resource

The ‘Write the docs’ community is great, as well as I’d Rather Be Writing by Tom Johnson.

  • A piece of advice you would give your 20-year-old self.

“Write down everything that you achieve in your job because it makes it easier when it comes to reviewing time. It might sound a bit traditional, but unfortunately, in the world we live in, documentation with good detail will help you so much in life.” 

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Jonathan Quotes


Gowri Ramkumar

Mar 10, 2023


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