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Inside Tech Comm with Zohra Mutabanna
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Inside Tech Comm with Zohra Mutabanna

Author: Zohra Mutabanna

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Inside Tech Comm is a show for anyone interested in learning more about technical communication. It will also be of interest to those who are new to the field or career-switchers exploring creative ways to expand their horizon. You can write to me at insidetechcomm@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.
28 Episodes
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Lisa Zarfl comes from the beautiful city of Graz, Austria. I met Lisa at a conference, and her presentation on machine translations inspired me to bring her on the show. In this latest episode, we talk about all things translation. More specifically, machine translation (MT) and how it can help a business reach a global audience while saving costs. We talk about how technical writers can help the company save costs upfront with the translation before they are deep into the process.  Tune in right away as Lisa has all the nuggets for you.Some questions we do a deep dive into:What is machine translation (MT)?What does the process for MT look like?Is MT based on artificial intelligence?Will MT replace the need for human translators? If not, why?How does an LSP (Language Service Provider) discern which type of content is best suited for MT?What is the difference between internalization and localization?What are the top 3 things that technical writers need to do before they consider translation for their content?Guest BioIn Lisa's own words..My name is Lisa Zarfl. I’m a project manager and in-house translator at MadTranslations based in Graz/Austria. I have several years of experience in the translation industry, specifically in managing the translation of MadCap Flare projects. My job allows me to follow my passion by combining the technological aspects of documentation with the demands of multilingual environments.You can connect with Lisa on LinkedIn. Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio
I have been out of pocket for the summer visiting family in India and taking some time off. I hope you are having a safe and fun summer. I am happy to be back in the saddle...In this latest episode, I chat with Jennifer Savage, a Scrum Master at FinThrive. Since Jennifer was a technical writer back in the day, she has some great nuggets to share on the parallels between the two roles, and how she continues to find value and advocate for us. Isn't that awesome? Well, here are some questions we delve into:What are the similarities between the two roles - tech writer and scrum master?What does the partnership between a tech writer and scrum master look like?How are writers embedded in the scrum process given they are a shared resource at your company? What are some ways for technical writers to find visibility on a scrum team when they are sidelined in the process?Why is the content that technical writers create important for you and the business?What are some pointers for writers to represent and advocate for themselves from a scrum master perspective?Guest BioIn Jennifer's own words...I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism.  About the time I was entering the workforce, journalism jobs were few and far between as the print media was transitioning into the online space.  My first position out of college was as a newsletter editor/writer for a small publishing company.  From there I transitioned into other writing roles over years, from business writing to medical writing to entertainment writing, and ended up in a technical writer role at my current company.  I was brought into the company in its early days to create and publish all of the end-user documentation for their software offerings.  As a tech writer, I worked on a number of delivery teams using Agile methodologies, and after about 7 years, I moved into a Scrum Master role.  I am currently a Senior Scrum Master for several delivery teams at FinThrive, based in Plano.  While I enjoy my role as a Scrum Master, I have a soft spot for documentation and have always made sure they get a fair shake in our planning activities when completing product increments for our software updates.  I live in Frisco with my husband, my teenage son, and four cats. In my spare time, I volunteer with local animal welfare organizations and enjoy traveling with my family.  graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism.  About the time I was entering the workforce, journalism jobs were few and far between as the print media was transitioning into the online space.  You can connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio 
Have you ever thought of documentation being sexy? Probably not. Caity Cronkhite argues otherwise. She wholeheartedly believes documentation is sexy. She shares excellent advice for companies and writers to embrace this low-hanging fruit that can get excellent dividends if executed correctly.What did our conversation touch upon?Caity's journey from a writer to an entrepreneur.How did Caity scale her entrepreneurial adventure while taking other writers with her?When the market gets tough, Good Words keeps growing. How is that possible?What is the measure of good and stable documentation? How does good documentation allow companies to scale?How is documentation doing the frontline work for you?Why should writers unapologetically earn their seats at the table? Guest BioAbout the founder:  Caity was born and raised on a remote farm in rural Indiana. She eventually left her prairie roots to attend Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a degree in Technical Writing and Communication. After college, Caity went west—first to the San Francisco Bay Area, then to Seattle—to start her career as a technical writer and, eventually, an entrepreneur. She is passionate about using her personal and professional experience to uplift others, including advocating for increased labor and wage protections for freelance workers and creating a company that empowers its employees with meaningful career opportunities no matter where they live.Caity currently lives in Seattle, Washington. When she’s not running her company, she enjoys gardening, bodybuilding, road trips, mentoring, and restoring her historic Seattle home.About the business: Caity Cronkhite is the founder and CEO of Good Words LLC. Good Words is the premier technical writing and communications consulting firm, delivering ongoing strategic, management, and implementation support for our clients’ technical writing needs. Good Words’ consultants bring their concise and accurate writing skills and ongoing strategic plans to streamline even the most complex communications for some of the most technically sophisticated companies across industries, from Fortune 500 companies to 5-person startups. For more information, visit us at www.goodwordswriting.com.Some resources worth checking out:The Good Words Blog: https://goodwordswriting.com/blog/Our website: https://goodwordswriting.com/Our LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/good-words-llc/Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio
In this tete-a-tete, Swapnil Ogale shares with us the evolution of technical communication in Australia, especially since the pandemic. Until recently, there was little to no awareness of technical communication at many companies. Swapnil took it upon himself to become the voice of the field, create awareness, and advocate for its adoption and impact on business. Some interesting questions that we dove into:What is the technical communication landscape look like in Australia?What is a technical writer advocate?How did Swapnil perform his own tech comm retrospective to elevate his role and make it visible?What is the Amazon narrative, and how can someone use this narrative before starting a  project?What are some strategies to raise the profile of a tech writer at a company and beyond?These are the links I refer to in the episode: The Not So Boring Tech Writer where I chanced upon Swapnil's interview Amazon narrativeTemplate for the tech comm retrospectiveIf you are looking for openings, Redocly has opportunities. Click here for doc roles.Guest BioSwapnil has over 16 years of technical documentation experience across a range of industries in Australia and globally. He currently works as a Technical Writer in the Solutions Engineering team at AWS Australia. Prior to this, he was a Technical Writer Advocate at Redocly, pursuing his passion for writing, along with advocating for the docs-as-code approach for product content. He initiated the Write the Docs community in Australia in 2016 and has been organizing local meetups and the annual national conference. While he is not traveling, stuck reading any book he can lay his hands on, or trying out new food, he presents at technical meetups and conferences about various things around technical writing. Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio
Ellyn Hassell says, "I want to delight the customer, I want to make sure that I'm doing everything that I can to make this a really amazing experience, help them get their job done, move through the task, and move on."In this heart-to-heart conversation, Ellyn shares with us her experience and insights to create a delightful experience for the customer. She is continually striving to elevate our profession and earn a seat at the table with other disciplines. Learn the unique ways in which her efforts have contributed to product success in myriad ways, especially in user experience (UX).Some questions we delve into:How do you collaborate with UX, Marketing, and other teams? What does "success" look like when you are partnering with other disciplines?How can you remove roadblocks and assert yourself as a writer in situations where you are challenged? How can you elevate your status as a tech writer? Some common abbreviations and terms mentioned in this episode:RDO - Research, Delivery, and Operations (RDO) divisionSCD - Strategic Content DevelopmentSME - Subject Matter ExpertsUX - User ExperienceSKY UX - SKY UX is the next generation of Blackbaud's user experience framework that provides a consistent, cohesive user experience for Blackbaud products. UI - User InterfaceTriad - This is a scrum meeting. Triads may vary from organization to organization, but mostly the triad at Blackbaud consists of the Product Owner (or the Product Manager), the UX Designer, and the Dev team.Guest BioEllyn Hassell is a Sr. Principal Technical Writer at Blackbaud. She leads multiple efforts around UX writing and user assistance patterns that promote innovation and consistency. Supporting several development teams, Ellyn collaborates across disciplines to create a meaningful impact throughout Blackbaud. Other interests include internationalization, usability, syntax standards, and accessibility with the end goal of delighting Blackbaud customers. Ellyn is a proud alumna of East Carolina University (Go Pirates!) where she holds a B.A. and M.A. in English with a concentration in technical writing. She’s presented at numerous local, district, and international conferences, and served as guest editor of User Experience and several other technical and creative publications. Ellyn lives with her husband and two children on the beautiful Chickahominy River in Williamsburg, VA. You can connect with Ellyn on LinkedIn.Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio
In this episode, we explore how content is created, consumed and distributed at an offshore service-based company.Tejasvi Patil shares with us her journey from QA into project management. Tejasvi shines a light on what successful content creation looks like on her team, and the pitfalls of inadequate documentation.  Some topics that we touched upon:The purpose of content in areas of onboarding, training and QA. What is the process of creating content at this service-based company?Do service-based companies have tech writers on their teams? If not, how can the team advocate for a writer.What can happen when content is inadequate and the larger impact on ROI?Guest BioTejasvi  Patil carries with her a vast experience of 16 years in the IT industry. She has been working at Globant for the past 5 years.Tejasvi completed her Computer Engineering and began her career as a Quality Assurance Engineer. Recently,  she transitioned into being a Project Manager. Her vast experience in the quality domain has helped her understand what's most important in the industry is client satisfaction. Her current role is helping her grow professionally and personally. Being a people person makes her job a cakewalk.Audio Engineer - RJ Basilio
In this episode, Bill Glynn shares with us some interesting insights on his background as a product manager, and what collaboration looks like from his perspective. We dive into these questions to understand the big picture and what is at stake:What is product management in a broad sense?What are the ways in which product managers and technical communicators collaborate?What can happen if there is a breakdown in this collaboration among the stakeholders?What happens when stakeholders, such as product management, technical communication, marketing, UX, and developers are not given a seat at the table?What should a company consider for a good customer experience?Is collaboration better with waterfall or agile? Should there be a preference?Guest BioBill Glynn has over twenty years of experience in product management utilizing waterfall, agile/scrum, and kanban processes to develop hardware and SaaS-based products for service providers and large-scale enterprise customers around the world. Bill earned his undergraduate software engineering degree from UMASS Boston and his MBA from Boston College. You can connect with Bill on LinkedIn.Credits Audio Engineer - Raymond Joseph (RJ) Basilio
In this quick chat with Matt, we talk about Matt's background and his eventual journey into UX design. Matt works very closely with UX writers, and my goal is to spotlight what that partnership looks like. We talk about the benefits of that partnership and the challenges when writers are not at the table.Some of the questions we discuss:What was Matt's journey like to transition to UX Design?As a UX Designer, what are you looking for in your partnership with a UX writer?What are the challenges in the absence of a writer? When is the right time for writers and UX designers to start working together?Should writers sit in on research sessions?Guest BioMatt Rife is an award-winning design professional with more than 15 years of experience spanning a variety of sectors, including financial services, healthcare, HR, non-profit, and the public sector.Matt came to the design world after several years working in IT and uses his unique background to craft exceptional user experiences for the real world. After completing his degree in graphic design he found his way into the nascent world of mobile app design and the rest, as they say, is history. Matt is currently the head of experience design at nThrive, a healthcare technology firm. He is the founder of Fifty Eight Creative and also runs the Pragmatic XD blog. You can contact Matt on his LinkedIn profile or via his website.
We are launching Season 3 with a very special episode. In this interview with Kim Campbell, I embark on a journey to understand how academia is preparing the next generation of technical communicators. My aim is to spotlight how the Department of Technical Communication at the University of North Texas, in particular, is collaborating with the practitioners of the profession to bring a hands-on experience to the students and prepare them for the real world. Kim touches upon the disconnect that exists sometimes between academia and the industry, and how a collaboration between the two is the need of the hour for the betterment of the profession and the community at large.  Some questions we touch upon:What are the drawbacks of having tech comm housed in a humanities department?What's the objective of an academic partnership with the corporate world?One of the biggest challenges that academics face is studying what's happening at organizations in our field. Why is this access critical and what can be done about it?What does success look like in academia?Guest BioKim Sydow Campbell, Ph.D., is a linguist who has been studying workplace language for more than 30 years. She joined the Department of Technical Communication at the University of North Texas in 2016, where she now serves as Director of Corporate Relations, promoting constructive interactions among industry professionals, students, and faculty. When she isn't doing research or teaching, you'll find her cooking, watching movies, swimming, or just hanging with her family and fur babies. You can connect with Kim on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimsydowcampbell/.
In this final episode of Season 2, Robert Delwood, a former NASA engineer, sheds light on how technical writers can pivot to API writing. It is a special skillset and mindset. Listen to this exclusive episode to find out how you can acquire this skill and make it in this high-in-demand career. Per the website programmableweb.com, approximately 2000 APIs are added each year. For each API, roughly 2-3 writers are needed. Given this exponential rise in APIs, there is obviously a growing demand for API writers. But, writers are in short supply, while the pay scale is high. If you want to make it in this niche area, you must have the right attitude. What is it?Some key things we touch upon:What is the 30-minute limit test?What are the three strategies to learn API documentation?What are the four easy ways to start building an API portfolio?Also, if you are a hiring manager looking for API writers, this interview provides great tips on how you can find and fill this role with the right talent.Resources:The Programmable WebSearch for articles authored by Robert Delwood on medium.comFind projects on Upwork Guest BioRobert Delwood is a programmer, writer, and programming writer in Chicago’s legal community. He strives to produce innovative API documentation. He’s been an active writer for more than 20 years, 13 of those with API documentation. He’s also been a titled developer, once even writing NASA software that made sure the space station astronauts had clean underwear each day. If the astronauts themselves don’t appreciate it, the other crew members did.
Somebody has aptly said that "looking for a job is like dating". When you are looking for the perfect job opportunity, the process can be daunting. In this scenario, the recruiter or the talent acquisition manager can be your friend. In this heart-to-heart conversation, Olivia Farmer shares with us the "behind the scenes" of hiring the right talent. As much as the days can be grueling, Olivia reminds us how recruiters can be our advocates during the hiring process. We touch upon all facets of hiring, and the many opportunities for you to shine. For example:What are some creative ways to build relationships with recruiters at a company?Why should you consider writing a cover letter even if it is not required?How can a thank you letter work in your favor?How do you answer inquiries about your salary requirements in a strategic manner?How do you tackle age discrimination as an applicant?Guest BioOlivia Farmer is a Talent Acquisition (TA) Program Manager at Blackbaud. After working in the TA space across multiple industries, there is one thing she knows to be true - helping people find their dream job and career is what she loves to do. Olivia is a proud graduate of James Madison University and is currently a student at Clemson in their Master of Human Resource Development program. She lives with her partner in crime, Piper the blue heeler, in Charlotte, NC.
Denise Kadilak says "show that you've got knowledge about the field and that you are self-motivated, and you're willing to pivot, embrace change. If you can demonstrate that in any way on your resume. That's always going to be a big win."We talk about what to do in an interview and what not to in this fun and fast-paced conversation.  Tune in if you are curious about what out-of-the-box hiring looks like. Learn more about what innovative and forward-thinking managers look for in a candidate, and how you can gain that edge as well.Guest BioDenise Kadilak is an Information Architect and Senior Manager with Blackbaud. Her interests include content and knowledge management, information technologies, and researching just about anything associated with technical communication. In addition to her full-time job with Blackbaud, Denise is a part-time college instructor, teaching technical writing, English composition, and Intro to Literature, and she is a regular presenter at international conferences.
Staying with the theme of Job Search and Career Advancement, David Owens dives deep to give us a hiring manager's perspective on what he looks for in a tech comm candidate for his team. If you think tech comm is all about writing manuals in a silo, then this interview may just open your eyes. The field is fast evolving if you have not noticed, and managers are interviewing to fill non-traditional tech comm roles. Are you game? If not, this conversation promises to give you some great tips on how you can and must pivot if you want to interview for success in a content role.Some questions we touch upon:What are you looking for on your first scan of a resume as a hiring manager?What are hiring managers expecting to see in a candidate to fill a non-traditional tech comm role?Has the interview process changed given the pandemic and remote opportunities? Guest BioDavid Owens is Director of Strategic Content Development at Blackbaud. This multidisciplinary team creates a wide variety of content to support an array of products and services. David believes in building modern skillsets that both help team members achieve their career goals and ultimately benefit Blackbaud customers.As an information developer, David has created feature and API user assistance content in numerous formats for products ranging from an enterprise fundraising CRM application to shrink-wrapped, mass-market software and commercial hardware. David has written articles on topics such as single-sourcing and how to become a “technical” technical writer and is the co-author of “Madcap Flare for Programmers” published by XML Press.
In the first episode, Jack Molisani and I talked about how to spruce up your resume. We continue our conversation to discover how to interview for success.  Landing that next gig depends as much on your attitude and experience as it does on how you present yourself at the interview.  Jack Molisani shares secrets about how to be a hit at a content interview. We ponder these questions:How do I prep for an interview?What are some creative ways in which you can steer a conversation?How do you brand and position yourself for a successful interview?If these questions intrigue you, then this conversation has more hidden nuggets that you will want to discover and apply.  Happy Job Hunting!!Guest BioJack Molisani is an STC Fellow, a member of the STC Nominating Committee, and the President of ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency specializing in content professionals (both contract and perm): https://ProspringStaffing.comHe’s also the author of Be The Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement, which hit #5 on Amazon’s Career and Resume Best Seller list.Jack also produces The LavaCon Conference on Content Strategy and TechComm Management, which will be virtual this year in October: https://LavaCon.org
Season 2 - Job Search and Career AdvancementAren't we always looking for those amazing tips that can improve our chances of getting our next big gig? It all starts with that critical document  - the resume. In this debut episode of Season 2, Jack Molisani shares some great insights into the dos and don'ts of things to put on your resume. Some things that we cover:What is an objective versus a summary, and when do you use one or the other?When do you use a functional versus a chronological resume?How do you get the experience and show it on your resume if you are switching careers?Listen to the episode to find a hidden gift. You don't want to miss it. Guest BioJack Molisani is an STC Fellow, a member of the STC Nominating Committee, and the President of ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency specializing in content professionals (both contract and perm): https://ProspringStaffing.comHe’s also the author of Be The Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement, which hit #5 on Amazon’s Career and Resume Best Seller list.Jack also produces The LavaCon Conference on Content Strategy and TechComm Management, which will be virtual this year in October: https://LavaCon.org
My biggest supporter and life partner, Iqbal Mutabanna, decided to interview me for the last episode of Season 1. So here I am in a candid conversation, sharing my professional journey with you.We will pivot in Season 2 that launches in the second week of August. Stay tuned. Thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy my episode :)
Tina Davis, CSM has done a little bit of everything - from teaching dance, working as a television editor to being an entrepreneur. Like many of us, she chanced upon the field of technical writing. Tina sought out the best education opportunity to put her on a road to success - and success she did find in her second career of choice. In this episode, sheshares her journey into the world of nonprofits. If you are interested in working for a nonprofit, tune into this episode as Tina shares some great tips on how writers can find interesting gigs in this sector. Guest BioTina’s career path and interests have been long and varied, including positions as a television news producer, marketing associate, and owner of her own event organization business. She is currently a Product Specialist with the non-profit organization Both Ends Believing, and is a proud graduate of the University of North Texas (B.A. in Professional and Technical Communication and B.A. in English) and the University of Florida (B.S. in Telecommunication). She lives with her husband in Richardson, TX, and can be found working on her personal creative projects and puttering in her garden. 
Laurel Beason has covered the journey from journalism to technical writing, and everything in between.  If you are new to the field and would like to find out how you can move forward with the "think-forward" mindset, then tune in. In this episode, we chat about:The transferable skills that you can leverage to transition from journalism to technical communication.What is on-demand writing and how do you do it?How does the inverted pyramid from journalism apply to technical writing?Guest BioLaurel Beason has earned her living as a professional writer for over 30 years. She started her career as a newspaper reporter in the Pacific Northwest and transitioned into technical writing after moving to Dallas in the mid-90s. She worked at Fidelity Investments, Brinks Inc., and Cisco, creating a wide range of deliverables and supporting a wide range of products. At Cisco, she was promoted into management and was at one point leading 42 writers in seven time zones. For the past two years, she worked in academia, teaching senior-level technical communication courses. Teaching was a life goal and a rewarding experience, but Laurel "missed the real world" and has, since, returned to high tech. Laurel wants to encourage tech comm professionals to give back by teaching and will share a few tips for success.
Sree Pattabiraman's journey is one of exciting twists and turns. She graduated with a degree in commerce but found her first break in technical writing. Today, Sree is a rising leader in the field of technical communication. She is a DITA guru, a speaker at several events, and a role model to anyone who wants to make it in the field.Sree shares her amazing story that started "back home" in India and her pursuit for excellence that brought her to the land of opportunity. I am sure her story will resonate with many of you.Guest BioSree Pattabiraman is a Senior Technical Writer at Extreme Networks, Inc., where she manages software and hardware documentation in the wireless networking products domain. An alumna of the North Carolina State University, Sree has worked on global teams and is an active STC volunteer. In her free time, Sree loves to travel, explore local restaurants in and around the Carolinas, and run her micro food blog.
This space does little justice to the guest I am about to introduce. But here it is...Altaf Tyrewala is the author of the critically acclaimed books, No God in Sight and Engglishhh: Fictional Dispatches from a Hyperreal Nation. He has also edited the crime-fiction collection, Mumbai Noir. Altaf's works have been published and anthologized worldwide. In this tete-a-tete, Altaf shares his journey that merges e-learning and creative writing. He shares an interesting perspective of how the trifecta of communication, technology, and education have always been front and center of everything he's done, and how this trifecta has contributed to his awe-inspiring career. Guest BioAltaf Tyrewala is the author of three fiction books and editor of a crime fiction anthology. His works have been translated into Marathi, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and Italian. He was awarded the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin literature grant in 2011 and served as Director of Chandigarh Literature Festival in 2013-14. He lives in Dallas and works as a Learning Manager for a multinational. Opinions expressed in this podcast are solely his own and do not express the views or opinions of his employer.
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