Today’s Tech Role Model is Katie Mitchell. Katie is a Technical Writer and Content Creator at Salesforce.org. She enjoys reading, devouring chocolate chip cookies, and pretending to be from Atlanta. She’s on Twitter and the ‘gram @blkkatie.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
My official title is “Member of Technical Staff, Documentation,” but that doesn’t tell you much. I’m a technical writer. I write documentation for Salesforce.org products so nonprofits can use them more easily.
What attracted you to this role?
As a writer, I’m always looking to gain new skills. I’d done UX writing and content creation in my previous role. Technical writing is a whole other beast, and I was excited to take on that challenge. My role is remote and Salesforce is committed to employee wellness and directly giving back to the community and organizations that are important to their employees. I took all those things into account when I was deciding to join my team.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
I have the ability to work anywhere in the world, but on a typical day, I’m working out of my living room. I log in a little before 9 AM EST and get caught up on what happened after I logged off the previous day. Most of my team is on the West Coast, so they’re working 3 hours after I’ve stopped.
Right now, I have a few assignments that other writers walk me through to make sure I’m publishing to the right thing and not breaking anything. I’ve also been reading a lot to learn more about the platform and how nonprofits use it.
I’ve been getting out of my comfort zone and having coffee chats with other folks on my team. We’re all remote, so forming relationships takes a little more effort than bumping into someone at the latte machine.
What skills/technologies help you succeed?
My job wouldn’t work without Google Hangouts Meet. Since I work remotely, I’m always on video calls and sharing my screen. I use Zoom for that, too.
Being able to communicate sometimes complicated ideas in an accessible way is the main function of my job. Because I’m new to Salesforce, there are some things I legitimately don’t understand that I’m tasked to explain. I look at that as an advantage though because it makes it easier for me to explain things in a way that a newbie would get because I am a newbie.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your technical writer role?
When you think of a technical document, you probably aren’t envisioning something that’s enjoyable to read. Luckily my manager encourages me and the other technical writers to write compassionately and incorporate storytelling into our technical documentation. It’s not the norm in the technical writing space. It’s an exercise in empathy, and it feels good creating well-written, narrative-focused technical docs.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
The most fun part is also the biggest challenge. We’re writing technical documents, not blogs or marketing material. Striking a balance between technically correct and helpful and beautiful and fun to read isn’t always so easy.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your technical writer role?
My goal for this role is to reach beyond just the feature I’m documenting. I want to introduce more people to a different type of technical writing that is compassionate, empathetic, and human. That will require me to hone my technical writing skills even more and find ways to bring how my team works to other teams and eventually other organizations.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
In this role (and probably just in life), curiosity is key. There’s a lot of things I don’t know, so there’s always an opportunity to look up stuff and research it. But also, being unafraid to ask “dumb” questions is one I’ve honed over the years, and it definitely comes in handy!
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this technical writer role?
I’m a writer, I think, because I prefer not to talk. But working remotely has made me be more aware of how I communicate with my team.
As far as technical skills, there are a lot of new platforms I’ve been exposed to, so just getting my feet wet with using those has been an experience.
In your role, what metrics define success?
One way I measure success is to look at the data around who is actually using the feature I’m documenting and seeing where they’re getting stuck so I can improve that portion of the documentation.
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