First Time for Everything

My new company does new software releases every 60 days. As part of the development team, technical writers participate in that cycle, putting out new documentation simultaneously with each new release. Release day, as you can imagine, is a busy day for everyone. Technical writers are making sure everything is documented correctly, all the pages are updated that need to be, and nothing was broken while making those changes. 
Then, too, the release can’t actually happen until 6 pm, to ensure it doesn’t interfere with any users. Even though technical writing could probably put out the updated documentation a few hours earlier, they choose not to. Everyone stays and does the release, and then does all the checks to confirm it all went OK, starting after 6 pm.

Yesterday was my first release day.

Fortunately for me, my boss let us publish to production early, so I got home not that much later than normal.

I did, however, spend the whole day reviewing all my pages and making sure everything looked good in the test environment. 

There were some UI changes to some pages that required additional documentation at the last minute, and I spent most of the morning on that. I expect I’ll get more efficient over time, so it won’t take so long. But when I sent the changes to my boss for approval, he told me this was exactly what they are looking for, and he had a few minor style suggestions.

Now I know that we say, “choose X from the Y list,” rather than calling it a drop-down menu; and I know that we capitalize the name of a report it’s mentioned, but not the word report or the thing in general. So I would say “choose the the Bike Mileage report from the Statistics list,” but then say, “when viewing bike mileage, you can sort by…” I also learned to keep my sentences shorter than I normally would, and to crop screen shots as tightly as possible while still giving context.

Hopefully I’ll be able to retain my regular writing voice here, rather than turning into all revival technical writing all the time. 

This is really cool – getting to actually generate my own content that goes out into the world! At CRL, the lab reports were all firmly templated, and we only rarely diverged from the template. At my other jobs, I got to do a bit of that, but nothing as independent as this job. Here they basically say, “Here’s a feature. Understand it and explain it clearly. Go.” 

I still need a lot of hand-holding, but the baby steps I took this week made me excited for the future.