What is your job title?

In the past I’ve held the following positions: Technical Administrator Technical Writer Documentation Specialist Technical Communications Manager Publications Team Leader The first three have similarities as they were all grounded in the production of technical documentation. The latter two are essentially the same thing, leading a team of technical writers producing technical information. None of the job titles I had limited me, by my thinking, in what I could and couldn’t do. My current job title, as confirmed on my new business cards which handily arrived just AFTER I’d been to TCUK12, is Product Information Manager. I didn’t choose this but, whilst talking through my role and responsibilities recently, I realised it’s pretty accurate. The team I’m part of does …

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The single customer view

I just found this sitting in my drafts folder. The company name has changed (we are now Kana Software) but the premise is the same. Interestingly, the parallels between our thoughts on customer service and the thoughts in tech comms of better integration within a support system (providing information as part of call deflection) are striking. I’m going to try and pull these together in a future post. I was asked to write an article for Credit Control Journal on behalf of the company I work for, and for the sake of historical archiving (and so I know I have it somewhere), here is that article.

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The Five Year Plan

It’s a common question during interviews, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”. At that point some people will talk of how they want to have progressed in their career, have learned and expand their role, be able to look back with a sense of achievement and look forward in a clear direction. The smart people will simply say they don’t know, but that they know that their natural ambition and drive will have moved their careers forward. I was recently asked the reverse question by an interviewee, “Where do you see the team being in five years time?”. My response was honest. “I don’t know”. And I truly don’t. I know what we have in front of …

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Finding Ada

This should be easy. I work in a software company, I’ve only ever worked in software companies so, in honour of Ada Lovelace Day (what do you mean, who?) I should be able to join in “sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today”, right? I work directly with many smart and inspiring women and, indirectly, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many more in my profession, but how many of them have inspired me? When I sat down to write this I did wonder if I would be able to think of any women to which I could assign this claim. But then it’s not …

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Finding Ada

This should be easy. I work in a software company, I’ve only ever worked in software companies so, in honour of Ada Lovelace Day (what do you mean, who?) I should be able to join in “sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today”, right? I work directly with many smart and inspiring women and, indirectly, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many more in my profession, but how many of them have inspired me? When I sat down to write this I did wonder if I would be able to think of any women to which I could assign this claim. But then it’s not …

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On pedantry

I start this blog post with an admission and an apology. Admission: I am a manager, I don’t spend a lot (any) of my time writing technical content these days. Apology: One of my weakest areas is in the intricacies and ‘correctness’ of grammar. * That said, there is one thing that continues to frustrate me about the technical communications profession, the constant ‘deep dive’ into every single aspect of one sentence, one clause. Dear grammar pedants, please stop! Don’t get me wrong, I know that good written information is a keystone of our profession and I’m all for discussions to make sure things are being approached correctly and debated thoroughly, where appropriate. Please note the last two words of …

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What do we want?

At TCUK12 this year, I chatted with several people about authoring tools. Vendors, other technical writers, managers, I asked the same two questions, again and again. What authoring application do you use, and why do you use it? The answers were illuminating, interesting and always useful. There are many, many options out there, catering to many different needs, and all of them have a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Alas, no matter how hard I tried, regardless of how many ways I tried to bend our requirements, all of those conversations led me to the same conclusion. No-one out there builds what we want so we may have to build it ourselves. As part of improvements to our content, …

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Working globally

The big picture is coming together. Development teams in seven different locations round the world, contracted technical writers in some locations, none in others and a product line that is merging… why that all sounds like a challenge! I’m still in discussion about how we will gather information from disparate teams using different processes (some use SCRUM, we use a blend of waterfall and ‘Agile’), still trying to figure out what our deliverables will be and how they will be delivered so whilst it’s been a few weeks now, it doesn’t feel like things have changed all that much, apart from now knowing that bar one technical writer in Ireland, my team are THE team. By my reckoning that makes …

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Two into one

What happens when one company acquires another? How do you merge departments, working practices, content? That’s the challenge that lies ahead for me as my company was recently acquired by Kana Software. We are still in the midst of integration planning, figuring out how to take the best parts of both product sets forward, and I’ve started to look over the documentation created by our counterparts across the water. It’s immediately obvious that we will need to make some compromises. Firstly in tooling, we use Author-it they use FrameMaker, and then in style (both writing and content delivery). We’ve been moving to a more article type deliverable, focussing on explaining the reasoning and thinking behind a product feature and only …

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Why Fitbit is winning

My main aim for this year was to lose weight. Actually that’s not true. My main aim for this year was to be happy which involves changing my lifestyle and habits, mostly focussed around my fitness and weight. Data helps me with this, tracking my weight loss lets me look back and see how I’ve been doing. To that end I invested in a set of Withings scales. They’ve been great and have really helped me keep focus, and given me that little spur I needed from time to time to get back on my bike, or go for a walk, anything to be a little more active. Aside from my happiness, losing weight is also something I must do …

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