BTS 8: Technical Writing Tips from 17 years of Experience

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In this episode, we unlock 17 years of technical writing tips,  stored away in our guest, Deepak’s brain.

He shares his rich experience from his humble start to the very apex.

Follow us as we clear all doubts and we get deeper insights into what technical writing is all about.

Also learn technical writing 101, possible career paths with technical writing, and how to handle difficult situations with clients like Deepak.

Please introduce yourself

My name is Deepak Kothwade and I’m from India. I work around tech solutions companies and I have 17 years of experience in technical writing.

How did you get into technical writing?

I still recall that day when I wanted to join a journalism course. 

I went to the journalism institute to join the course and then the clerical staff told me why don’t I join the technical writing course rather than the journalism course because it has a good future. 

A portfolio builder for tech writers

There are a lot of IT companies and it’s really good to join IT companies because there’s a bright future with them. So I said alright!

And that’s how I joined the technical writing course. It was a six months course and I got interested in what they were teaching, finished the course, and became a technical writer. This was way back in 2006.

Could you share some wisdom from your 17 years of experience as a technical writer?

So technical writing is kind of a writing where the technology is written in a simple and easy-to-understand language.

So it’s easy, the first thing that I learned is that you need to understand the technology first. 

If you understand the technology then it’s easy to write it but when you don’t understand the technology, you may not write it the way users want to read it.

So learn the technology and then write, it’s really as simple as that.

What were some of your best experiences working as a technical writer?

It was my very first company. An IT company named Sigma software solutions which was a platform for internet technology.

 I still remember that  I went through a couple of interview rounds to get to the final stage for the technical writing position. 

The position for which I was selected was not for beginners, it was for someone who should have had experience in writing technical articles for over three years. 

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Based on my knowledge my abilities and my confidence, the CEO of the company said “ let me give you an opportunity, if you can do it then that’s good, if not, you will find something else.

I said alright! — that’s where I got my first job at Sigma software solutions and yeah I really enjoyed those days when I used to write for the software to expand it to an easy-to-understand language. I worked with Sigma software solutions from 2006-2009.

Have you ever had any memorably or bad experiences in your career?

Everyone goes through such a kind of experience in life.

So I met a boss who was kind of a person who wanted everything to follow his demands and not the due processes that were set. 

So when I would write, he’d tell me that this is not good, this document has so many errors or it’s in a bad condition and we need to work on it. 

How I addressed that situation was that I used to tell myself  “let me find out if there are gaps or really any mistakes in my documents”.

 So I look at it and the stuff I had written seemed to be correct to me. A couple of times, I noticed the document was quite optimal.

 Then, I go back to my boss and say that  “hey it looks completely okay to me, can you please check one more time and let me know?

He used to tell me “Deepak you have to look at it one more time, there are a couple of typos and some grammatical errors that you can just correct.” 

The experience was bad but yes the experience taught me that in a difficult situation you have to find a solution. 

After some years I got another opportunity and I never got bosses like that.

Was technical writing what you always wanted to do even growing up?

My parents were asking me to follow the medical field like a doctor or a pharmacist. Something different from what I am currently doing. 

So I said alright!— I’d try to do that. Somehow I did not get the many marks that I should have gotten to get into the medical field and that’s how I got into the engineering field.

When I got into the engineering field, I became an engineer and eventually, a technical writer.

So when I look back at my past it seems that I have taken the correct decision because the position I have is far better than what doctors are having in terms of everything. 

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In my current position, there is job security, and future prospects, and also the financial aspect is great.

The reason is that here you write just technology. It doesn’t matter which technology you write about.

You can write for medical technology, you can write for machine technology, electronic or airplane technology.

It means there is no specific domain that you have to focus on or work on.

You have plenty of opportunities and you can explore so many options.  So, if someone wants to explore technical writing as a career path, they definitely should because there is no restriction. 

I don’t regret not doing medicine and I’m really enjoying my technical writing career.

How was your journey along the lines of finance?

I won’t go into details because everything is available on the internet but I will say when you start, you won’t get what you expect as the salary.

 You don’t have experience. You may want to go with $10000 in the contract you’re signing. This would be difficult if you haven’t proven yourself.

First, prove yourself and if you make your boss and your company happy in a year, they will double your salary.

In the case, your salary gets increased you also need to know that there is a limit to everything. 

It can’t go beyond a certain band or budget the company has. For instance, the information technology industry has certain bands for all kinds of roles including technical writers and software engineers in that industry 

If you want to work for a company because the company pays me well. Definitely, you should look for other opportunities in that company and then make your career in that place because they will think about you. And they will call you for an interview.

So in this way, you will get all the stuff that you wanted 

What will you describe as your writing weakness?

I definitely had some weaknesses and I tried to work on them. So my first challenge was:

Writing in such a way that would be accepted globally. I had to learn and I used a few dictionaries like Oxford. I went online and tried to understand the various aspects of various words like synonyms and other specific words that can help me.

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So I’ll openly say that writing in a way that everybody understands I worked on for a couple of years.

So apart from that thing another was making the document a quality document to meet my audience’s requirements.

I didn’t feel confident in myself, so I used to go through my documents multiple times to see if I understood them. If I understand it then,  my audience can understand it.

So I started the same thing with all my documents and this is how I overcame that weakness starting from not so confident, to completely confident, to tell my boss that my work didn’t have any issues.

In these two areas, I have grown.

What will you say to intend freelance technical writers or those seeking full-time positions?

Technical writers, do start whatever assignment that you get because no matter how big or how small the assignment is.

The client is going to get more opportunities to know about your work and you can go for bigger assignments.

 Also, don’t assume that it’s this kind of role or job of less status.

Don’t have anything specific in your mind but just focus on your work and once you focus on your work, your work speaks for you and you don’t need to prove yourself again.

For technical writers look for opportunities and get more assignments, build yourself and you will rock at anything!

Look for any opportunity, work there and then get your hands on it.

Connect with Deepak Kothwade on Linkedin.

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