Jordan Stanchev, User Assistance Development Architect at SAP Labs, joins us in this episode of Knowledgebase Ninja to share his insight on the possible career trajectories for aspiring Technical Writers. Check out all the other episodes of Knowledgebase Ninja here.
Connect with Jordan and SAP Labs here:
Jordan’s journey into technical writing
Jordan’s journey is one of the most poetic and powerful we have seen. While the journey itself is fascinating, it is a benchmark for all aspiring individuals starting their career. It is the motivation that you can do whatever you want as long as you are passionate about it. Similarly, if you are not interested in a job that you are doing, your performance and your morale would decline. Twenty years ago, as Jordan was getting finished with his university, he applied for a junior Java developer position at a small company, and he got the job. Everything was fine for the first few years, but Jordan soon realized that being in a job that you don’t like doing is a ticking time bomb. It eventually goes off. The quality of work Jordan was producing decreased, Jordan’s motivation dropped, and he soon realized that he did not want to do this. He did not want to be a JAVA developer anymore.
Luckily for Jordan, a position opened in his company for technical writing, and it looked good to him. Jordan was interested in trying a new field. Several years later, as Jordan looks back, he notes that it was the right decision. He has managed to carve out a very respectable career for himself. He has led teams, he has received promotions, and it has been a very long and successful career, and it sees him now being the User Assistance Development Architect at SAP Labs in Bulgaria. At this point, he is now in charge of the entire User Assistance department.
Potential career options for technical writers
Jordan has met his fair share of technical writing critics over the years. From industry professionals to university graduates just looking to start their career, everyone is sceptical regarding technical writing. Jordan has been told time and time again that technical writing as a field is dead. Now, while Jordan does not believe that technical writing is doomed to fail and that it is a finished profession, he does believe that some part of what the sceptics say is true. According to Jordan, the classic technical documentation is now a dead end. The previous, outdated method of writing about a piece and then forgetting about it is pretty much finished and non-viable in today’s fast-moving industry. He also believes that the idea of technical writers being a separate entity and only being approached in the end to write a few pages about the product is a non-viable idea.
However, Jordan does believe that technical writing and technical writers have a very bright and exciting future. That future is, indeed, different from what technical writing used to be. However, it is a bright one, nonetheless. First of all, for proof, Jordan takes a look at the current employment scenario. In a crazy time like this, technical writers are thriving while so many other posts get laid off. That is because technical writers have become more and more critical to a product. This happened because technical writers’ skillset is usually very diverse. They are essentially the bridge between the development team and the users of the product. They are incredibly involved, and how products are produced, they are in charge of industry-standard instructional videos and documentation styles that are changing every day. Thus, technical writers hold a very high position in an organization. According to Jordan, technical writers can hold any position they want. They can be project managers; they can be team heads or company managers too.
Jordan’s documentation process
Over time, Jordan has worked on several different documentation techniques. He is experienced in many of these techniques. Whether you look at SAP Labs or in his previous jobs, his documentation techniques have varied. In SAP Labs, they used to have a very centralized system for technical writers. They were one central technical writing team which then applied to all of the development projects that were happening in SAP Labs offices around the world. They then realized that they could do it better. They learned that the technical writers are not integrated into the whole process enough and that there was a more effective way of doing things.
Thus, they restructured the organization and got to the point they are today. Now, technical writers are an integral part of the software development part of the company. A name change also indicates this. Their post names have changed to reflect the fact that they are now not just writing. They are developing software, and they are writing. It is a much more fluid system now, and it is one which is very effective when looking at it from a user assistance aspect.
Factors Jordan keeps in mind when writing.
The most crucial factor that needs to be kept in mind is the audience and their needs. Once that is understood, the writers can move on to the writing standards your company has set. Understand the words and tone they want to convey. Lastly, when you understand all of it, Jordan believes that it is essential to understand what medium to use. Any good technical documentation person must know when to use other forms of media like videos or audio instead of a written piece.
What advice would Jordan give his 20-year-old self?
If Jordan could go back and give advice to his 20-year-old self, he would tell him to be confident, believe in himself and most importantly, always deliver on your promises. Jordan believes that this is incredibly important for a person’s integrity.
Who has inspired Jordan in technical writing
Sven Denecken – Head of Product Success, Co-Innovation and Content at SAP SE
T. Harv Ecker – CEO of Harv Eker International & Author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (best seller)
Jordan’s favourite documentation related resources
Courses on Business Analytics
BABOK® Guide – (A Guide to Business Analysis of Knowledge)