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How To Get Into Technical Writing With Colum McAndrew of Mimecast

Category: Podcast

Last updated on Sep 22, 2022

Colum McAndrew, Knowledge Base Manager at Mimecast joins us to discuss how to get into technical writing in this episode of Knowledgebase Ninjas.

Connect with Colum and Mimecast here:

Key Takeaways:

Colum fell into technical communications by accident and now has 20 years of experience

Colum was assigned a one off project to sort out the documentation for a project that was poorly documented whilst in a previous role, he performed well and later moved full time into the field.

Colum first experience technical writing whilst directing a family drive

Colum’s family needed to drive from the north of England down into London, without a Sat Nav, Colum wrote out directions to enable them to navigate. This was Column’s first exposure to technical writing and was the first time he realised that actually, he was pretty good at it 😉

Integration between product and product marketing team

Colum meets regularly with the product and product marketing teams to ensure they are aligned. There is also a close relationship with the customer success team, as they are on the frontline speaking with customers.

Streamlining communication between these teams

These two teams are able to create a Jira work case for the documentation team by simply emailing a specific email address, this will create their case and will subscribe all relevant parties to ensure this can be tracked through to resolution.

Always have the product open whilst writing documentation

Colum states that is very important to have the full context of the product open with you whilst writing documentation. This can improve your writing as you may be able to find a better solution to the problem that your reader is having by using your product in a different way.

Knowledge-centric content

Mimecast currently surface articles to the customer as their request comes in, if these don’t suffice and the customer goes straight through to the support engineer… the engineer will respond to Colum’s team to share how the article did not solve the customer problem. This allows the documentation team to improve those articles to reduce support load next that issue is experienced by a customer.

Integrating documentation from acquired businesses

Colum’s team have had to integrate the documentation of businesses that have been acquired by Mimecast, these have varied from .pdf’s with screenshots to complete WordPress sites. He mentions the importance of aligning the style guide of all new content to ensure a consistent experience.

Two technical writers are handling approx. 40 work cases per month

Colum’s team of two technical writers handle approximately 40 new work cases per month, though last month they handled 67 – it was an interesting month!

Colum’s #1 documentation related resource

Colum highly recommends the Communicator journal created by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators:

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Gowri Ramkumar

Mar 25, 2020


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