WtD Prague: Tech writing in developing nations
This week I’m attending Write the Docs Prague. It’s super exciting to attend a European Write the Docs conference, and to be visiting the lovely city of Prague. This post contains my notes from a talk at the conference. All credit goes to the presenter, any mistakes are my own.
Prerana Pradhan‘s presentation was titled, “Fostering Technical Writing in Developing Nations”. I’m very interested in this topic. Building tech writing skills around the world is a goal that’s close to my heart.
Prerana is based in Nepal. Prerana graduated as a software engineer, and joined a company in that role. At the same company she took on a few different roles. Part of her work involved writing user manuals. She didn’t have the role of tech writer, but she enjoyed the work. Then she applied for a position as a tech writer at another company.
At first, Prerana was unsure about making the switch in role from software engineer. The role switch was unusual in Nepal, but Prerana really enjoyed tech writing, so she decided to go ahead. In the last six years, the tech writing team at her company has grown from one to six tech writers, and Prerana is now the lead of the tech writing team.
An opportunity came along to teach undergraduate students about tech writing. Prerana was uncertain of her ability to take on this work, and was also unsure about the time commitment. But she went ahead and accepted the challenge.
Her fears proved groundless. Prerana found that she enjoyed sharing her real-world experiences with the students, and she was able to teach pretty well.
After the first year of teaching the 101 course in tech writing, the university asked Prerana to develop and teach the 102 course as well, with a focus on the language and disciplines of technical communication.
Bridging the gap
In her work at the university, Prerana discovered that computing students were unaware of tech writing as a viable career option. Some of the students had good writing skills and when they learned about tech writing, they were willing to pursue the career after graduation.
Prerana sees academic internship as the way of bridging the gap between the universities and the companies that employ tech writers.
Prerana has given talks at meetups about believing in yourself. People come up to her afterwards to discuss tech writing as a career option.
In Nepal and other developing nations, STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths, and medicine) careers are in demand, and there are also more and more tech writing jobs being advertised.
Working in an organization
Prerana recommends building a team structure that promotes collaboration rather than hierarchy.
Hiring strategy is important. Few people have the required tech writing skills, so Prerana recommends hiring people with aptitude rather than looking for existing skills.
Prerana’s team also promotes internal skill-sharing sessions, where they discuss topics like DITA, minimalism, copyediting, and other tech writing topics. One of the goals of these sessions is to be aware of what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Technical writing is often neglected, especially when deadlines are pressing.
Stakeholders believe that tech writing is something anyone can do.
Prerana noted that everyone in the organization needs to understand that tech writing is part of the development process and needs to be done in the correct way.
Reasserting tech writing as a career choice
A few years back, Prerana was having doubts about her choice of tech writing as a career. So she did some research and attended some conferences, including LavaCon and now Write the Docs Prague. This was an eye opener to her, to hear about the lives of hundreds of other tech writers.
Prerana realized again that she really enjoys this role.
Some goals to focus on:
- Continue collaborating with educational institutions and other companies to promote tech writing.
- Participate in conferences and meetups.
- Spread the word about tech writing. Do anything that triggers a conversation, and see what other tech writers are doing around the world.
- Expand your skill set.
Prerana expressed her thanks to everyone who has helped her directly or indirectly in her journey.
Thank you Prerana for an inspiring story about tech writing in a developing nation.