My First Year As a Technical Writer

My First Year As a Technical Writer


3 min read

In April 2023, I quit software engineering and accepted an offer to join Cloudflare as a technical writer on its Developer Platform. Before that offer, I had been a software engineer (Java developer) since about 2019.

My first year as a technical writer taught me a lot about technical writing, and I feel that my interpersonal skills have grown significantly in the past 12 months.

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is subjective because it depends on the company and, more specifically, the team. My work-life balance as a technical writer is the best I've ever had.

When I was a software engineer, I found it difficult to switch off from work completely.

I was concerned about things breaking, finding a solution to a bug, not being able to complete tasks within tight deadlines, impressing my manager, and so on.

As a technical writer, I still have deadlines and tasks to complete by a certain date, but overall, deadlines have been more relaxed.

I can switch off from work, I'm not concerned about things breaking, and there's no "urgency" because content is not mission-critical.

Blogging is different from technical writing

In my first 3-6 months, I learned how to write as a technical writer. Before becoming a professional technical writer, I've been writing on this blog since 2021.

Blogging helped me a lot with my current role, but I still had to learn about:

  • Technical communication

  • Information Architecture

  • Markdown

  • User journey

  • Docs-as-code

In addition to the topics above, I've also had to learn about the company's and the team's processes. This has been a huge learning curve, but having the right manager and supportive colleagues has made the learning enjoyable and not overwhelming.

Technical writing is more sterile and straight-to-the-point than blogging. I had to learn to cut out the fluff and tell the user what they needed to do to use the product without adding words that carry no value.

You have to advocate for yourself

As a technical writer, you'll often have to advocate for yourself. Technical writing is an underrated and taken-for-granted role.

Sometimes, software documentation is not considered part of a successful product but is more like a side-project ("after-thought").

As a technical writer, you must speak up often, advocate for your work, proactively engage with the SMEs (subject matter experts), and participate in all the meetings necessary to perform your role successfully.

Technical writing is about asking the right questions

Technical writers are responsible for identifying the information the users need to use a product successfully, and create content from there.

Since software engineers are responsible for building the product, technical writers must ask questions to access the knowledge they need to write the documentation.

Software engineers build the product, but they don't know (or take for granted) what the users need to use the product from scratch.

Project management

When I started my role, I was surprised by how project management plays an integral part in my role to ensure that I track my work. I use JIRA on a day-to-day basis to:

  • Create tickets.

  • Track how many tickets I close per Sprint.

  • Track the progress of each product's documentation.

Commonalities between software engineering and technical writing

Both software engineers and technical writers:

  • Use Git (or other version control) and GitHub.

  • Use an IDE.

  • Follow an Agile process.

  • Both build for the users (but from different perspectives).

  • Perform peer reviews.

Technical writers write little to no coding, and are more concerned with creating user-focused documentation.


After reading this article, you have an idea of what a technical writer does.

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