Sofia Emelianova, Senior Technical Writer at Google, talks about challenges faced by technical writers and techniques for crafting high-quality product documentation.
- Sofia’s LinkedIn
- She wanted to become a software engineer or a linguist, or a translator. In her opinion, she solved the problem brilliantly. In her first job, she helped customize an enterprise resource planning system for the needs of a logistics business. As part of the job, she wrote instructions for the internal users.
- Tom Johnson’s blog called I’d Rather Be Writing inspired her to get formally into technical writing.
- Currently, at Google, Sofia is responsible for the whole content production of documentation for Chrome developer tools.
- Sofia says the biggest challenge in a technical writing career is the curse of knowledge which comes with constantly gaining context on the thing that you are writing documentation on. When you’re in context, your vision kind of blurs a bit. Hence, it’s very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the user.
- Her solution to this is to seek out opportunities to get direct feedback from the reader of her documentation or her coworkers who are out of context to read her documentation and see if it makes sense to them.
- “Another challenge is the whole velocity of development. I’m the sole technical writer for the developer tools. Sometimes I get help from my peers at Google technical writers or vendors. However, when I’m doing it on my own, I must improve the pace of my context switching to keep up with everything.”, says Sofia.
- She adds that we can’t focus on several things at once, so what people perceive as multitasking is very rapid context switching.
- “When it comes to creating quality documentation, my go-to person is always subject matter experts. To speed up and ease communication, I spent an hour researching the topic and compiling a set of questions for the subject matter experts.” Sofia adds.
Rapid fire with Sofia
- Highly recommended resource
Google developer documentation style guide and The Elements of Style – a book that contains insightful advice that can be effectively applied to technical writing.
- One word that comes to your mind when you hear documentation.
- A piece of advice you would give your 20-year-old self
Do not get intimidated by complexities and always try to learn something new.
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Also, Check our Podcast on Technical Documentation with Tom Johnson of Amazon