Creating documentation for startups: Panel discussion
Technical writers are brought into startup companies when the company’s product starts getting traction and someone recognizes that the documentation requires professional attention.
But startup companies aren’t like established companies, and the environments can pose unique challenges for technical writers. At a startup company, the following are often the case:
You’re documenting early versions of products that constantly change direction with each release.
- You’re the lone writer in the organization, and no one exactly knows how to interact with you or where you fit into the product lifecycle or org chart.
- You have to define the entire tech comm platform and toolset, as well as the authoring and publishing workflow.
- The doc has to be sexy enough to help sell the product and get investor funding, but also usable and functional with a direction that will scale as the company grows.
- Your role may extend across documentation to also blend into support, marketing, QA, and engineering as you wear numerous hats on multiple teams.
- You need to ramp up fast and deliver, often without a lot of direction or support from co-workers.
The Bay area has more startups than any other place in the country. If you’re working in tech comm, you need to know the right strategies and skills to achieve success in these highly dynamic, shifting startup environments.
The format of this event is an interactive panel discussion. You can ask the panel of experts any questions you want.
Kayce created API guides and references at an Internet of Things startup for three years. He shot himself in the foot by creating an incredibly painful and counterproductive authoring workflow in DocBook, and then created an acceptable one using Sphinx and Markdown. He now documents Polymer and Chrome DevTools at Google.
Like many technical writers, Elisa started off in a different career. After years of designing environmental, educational, and housing programs and writing grant proposals to fund them, she changed her focus. She obtained a certificate in Technical Writing, and then began producing API, SDK and middleware documentation for Silicon Valley software companies. She has worked for several startup companies, and also in startup environments within larger companies including Apple, Google, HP and Cisco.
Daria got her first internship as a technical writer at a small start-up back in 1997 (the height of the dot-com boom). That experience made her a start-up addict, and she has worked exclusively for small, venture-funded start-ups ever since. She has boot-strapped the docs for 5 companies and counting, has lived through one IPO and 4 acquisitions, and has developed an expertise in ‘big data’ technologies along the way. Her ‘How to Explain Big Data to a 5th Grader’ article is one of the most viewed articles on Information Week in the Big Data category.
Richard Mateosian is a freelance technical writer who for twenty years has specialized in documentation for developers. Before that, he obtained a PhD in mathematics, spent 15 years as a programmer, wrote two computer books, and spent a decade as a technical and strategic marketer in the semiconductor industry. He is a Fellow of STC, a former chapter president, and one of the leaders of the Touchstone technical communication competition. He is a charter member of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core and has been the Review Editor of IEEE Micro for nearly 30 years.