Jack of all trades Pt. 1

My name is Gordon McLean, I am a Technical Communicator* and I am proud to be a jack of all trades.

Working in the software industry, and particularly for a company that has embraced the XP development methodology, I have exposure to, and contact with, most of the other roles in the company. I talk to Marketing to understand to who, and where, we sell our software. I talk to Deployment to understand the real issues they experience when using our software (they are our customers). I talk to Training to make sure we are promoting the same message. I talk to Testing to make sure the bug that I have found IS a bug and should be logged. I talk to the New Feature development teams to understand what they are working on. I talk to the Core team to make sure I’m aware of the myriad of feature requests and bugs that they are fixing, and whether they impact the documentation. I talk to our Support team to understand the common issues being found. I talk to the Architects and product managers to make sure what we are doing fits with the strategy.

Throughout all of this I must have an understanding of both who I am talking to, and what concerns them on a daily basis. I need to know enough about how Marketing and Sales work, what languages the Development team use, and know the business reasons behind why a particular piece of functionality is being implemented, and throughout all of those discussions I have to remember my role, and consider how the information I’m receiving in the discussion may impact the user and, therefore, the documentation.

Frequently I find myself to be the cog that transfers a snippet of information from one area to another. A minor bug fix that relates directly to a new feature. Most times those links are known, but on occasion they are only discovered when one of my team has started to consider the documentation requirements in that area.

Talking to all of those people, these different professions has helped me understand my role, and re-enforced my belief that, whilst writing documentation remains the core part of my job, a large chunk of our value comes from making, and maintaining, those connections.

Perhaps Technical Communicators are the social web of the workplace?

Prompted by The Top 5 Reasons to be a Jack of all Trades

* Communicator/Writer/Author, pick one. I favour ‘communicator’ because I don’t always communicate through writing, sometimes through UI design, sometimes through infographics and diagrams. You get the picture (pun intended!).


  1. Couldn’t agree more! I used to be a tech writer within the Marketing department, mainly writing sales & mktg copy.

    For a year now, I’ve been in (backend) development, and it’s broadened both my horizon and my contacts into the company tremendously (not least since I kept my mktg/sales contacts of before…).

    I would stress that last point even more: Frequently, I believe that the value of my day-to-day communications (“What do you know about…” / “What’s become of…” / “Do we have any document/knowledge about…”) exceeds the use of half of my writing.

    So thanks for a great reminder of the worth of TecComm beyond the mere output!


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