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Secrets of Successful Technical Writing Using ClickHelp: Insights from Seasoned Specialist Mridula Menon at GreyOrange

Posted by
Elmira in ClickHelp Features on 9/13/202311 min read

interview with mridula cover

In the fast-evolving realm of technical communication, professionals are tasked with the pivotal role of translating complex information into understandable and actionable content. To shed light on this multifaceted field, we had the privilege of conversing with a seasoned tech communication specialist – Mridula Menon, senior manager and information developer at GreyOrange. She has been working with ClickHelp for a long time, helping various companies solve complex documentation tasks with excellent results. And today, we will have a conversation with her, delving into her experiences, insights, and strategies that have shaped her journey. In this exclusive interview, our expert offers a candid glimpse into her evolution from a software developer to a proficient technical writer, reflecting on the key mentors, experiences, and personal motivations that drove her to pursue this distinctive career path. Mridula highlights the dynamic nature of technical writing, the power of effective collaboration through ClickHelp, and the intricate balance between linguistic finesse and technological prowess.

Education and Background

ClickHelp: Where did you learn to become a technical writer, and what motivated you to pursue this career path? Can you share any notable experiences or mentors that have influenced your journey?

Mridula Menon: Although a maths enthusiast, I always had a keen interest in the English language and used to be a voracious reader, which strengthened my language skills. My first writing was in the form of letters to my mother when I lived away from her for 3 years during college. Then, the writing took a technical nature when I started working as a SW developer, and I had to write the dev documentation myself. My first mentor in technical writing was Debbi Bock, my first manager at Oracle.

CH: What aspects of being a technical writer do you find most fulfilling? How does it align with your personal and professional goals?

M: To be honest, I do not like being stuck in the same domain. Unlike SW developers, a technical writer can explore multiple domains, learn about them, and write about them. While at it, they also become champions in customer advocacy. Every organization must be able to use technical writers as the first line of users who can give honest feedback about the usability of the product. Any aspect of the product that could be more intuitive can be discovered by a TW and explained in the documentation.

Many organizations undermine technical writers, and my professional goal is to eliminate the bias toward writers.

My personal goal is to become the voice of the writers and ensure that the TW community is well respected in the world of technology.

Work Experience and Projects

CH: Can you provide details about some of the diverse projects you have worked on throughout your career? In which industries did these projects belong, and what unique challenges did you encounter in each?

M: Well, I have worked on C++ projects, in tech support teams troubleshooting DELL Laptops and Desktops, written codes in Seibel Script as a developer, mastered Oracle BI as a Business Analyst, worked on Oracle HCM API documentation, worked on Oracle OCI documentation, learned and aced Salesforce Health Insurance app, now for the first time I am in a role where both SW and HW documentation is handled by team. I am in the world of Warehouse Automation at GreyOrange.

Let me tell you, if anyone looks for a job without any challenges, they aren't going to find any. Every role had its challenges. However, what remained constant is my strategy to tackle them. For a TW, the biggest challenge in any position is knowledge; it is not always easily or readily available. This is where writers need to ace interpersonal relationships. Through building trusting relationships, we can hone our knowledge of the product we are required to write on as we tend to become resourceful.

CH: Could you describe a particularly complex or challenging technical writing project you have tackled? How did you approach it, and what strategies did you employ to overcome the difficulties you encountered?

M: I was just a few weeks old at GreyOrange, and I was asked to help out with the DAP implementation. Until then, I didn't even know that DAP stands for Digital Adoption Platform. I was new to the organization and was just in the process of understanding the automation industry and warehousing. I would study DAP at night and work on the implementation in the morning. My days were long and tiring but immensely satisfying as, on a daily basis, I was implementing every bit of knowledge I was acquiring. The product team was very supportive and helped me understand the complexities of the processes that had to be simplified for the end users. Again, despite being in the shoes of a Content Head/ Senior Manager, I remained a humble student, which helped me build long-lasting relationships with the product team. A writer's forte lies in how smoothly they can acquire knowledge, simplify it, and present it to the end users. A documentation leader's forte lies in how they showcase the doc team's forte in handling complex knowledge with minimal guidance.

a problem of choice for software tool

Choosing and Utilizing Technical Writing Tools

CH: Adopting a new tool often comes with a learning curve. From your experience, how much time does it usually take to become proficient with a new technical writing tool? Can you share any strategies or resources you utilize to expedite the learning process?

M: The learning curve is different for all the tools. It is higher for DITA-based XML editors like Oxygen and very low for Wiki-like tools such as Confluence or HelpDocs. ClickHelp is somewhere in the middle. ClickHelp is feature-rich; hence, it takes time to understand every feature and figure out how to utilize them. One of the strategies is for one person to teach another one. So, the entire team is tasked to master one aspect of the tool and teach it to the rest. This should be a daily activity. As soon as all features are explored, all team members are required to create a demo document and get it reviewed by each other. As a senior manager, I resolve all the technical issues or roadblocks. I study the comprehensive ClickHelp documentation and reach out to the terrific ClickHelp support if I need help to resolve a case. I’m glad to say I have always found answers to my queries through your diligent support team!

CH: What criteria do you typically consider when choosing a technical writing tool? Can you provide examples of how you evaluated different options and what led you to choose ClickHelp?

M: Just like choosing a partner, we cannot have all the qualities in one tool. So, I started by listing out the pros and cons of 17 different tools. My next step was to focus not on the pros but on the cons. If I found a con in a non-negotiable area, for example, if reviews are unavailable, I would reject that tool. After an entire month of going through demos and trial versions, I zeroed in on 3 top choices, one of which was ClickHelp. I started researching user reviews on the product's quality of support and stability. ClickHelp was the only tool where I could see their client's doc portal, which was very convincing. Interacting with their Sales Engineering and customer support teams was a joy. I just wanted to let you know that I and my entire team love the product.

CH: Apart from ClickHelp, are there any other software tools or platforms you use on a daily basis? How do these tools enhance your workflow or help you achieve your goals as a technical writer?

M: Yes, of course, our release notes go out as PDFs generated using Gdocs. Our internal communications happen over Confluence and JIRA. Gdocs greatly help in collaborating with our stakeholders, mostly QA managers and Product Managers. Confluence is a powerhouse; we document all our SOPs and Meeting Notes in Confluence. It's a knowledge repository for my team.

How ClickHelp Makes It Easier to Create Documentation

CH: What factors influenced your decision to choose ClickHelp as your preferred technical writing tool? Are there any specific features or functionalities that stand out to you as particularly valuable?

M: There are many: workflow, conditional content, controlling the publications, access to HTML and CSS files, hosting server, reusability, and easy storage of images and media files, to name a few. I was very particular about the after-sales support, and I would say your customer rating is very high in that area.

CH: In your opinion, what are the main features of ClickHelp that make it a valuable tool for technical writers? Can you share any specific instances where these features have significantly impacted your work or improved your efficiency?

M: The ease of publishing a document and maintaining the versions really makes a whole lot of difference. Content reusability ensures that common content is not repeated in multiple topics. Previewing the published version before the document is published is also a blessing for writers.

ClickHelp abstracts the complexities of a documentation tool in a way that enables the writers to focus on their writing.

CH: Collaboration is crucial in technical writing projects. Can you provide examples of how ClickHelp has improved collaboration among team members in your previous projects? What features or functionalities within ClickHelp have facilitated effective collaboration?

M: My writers often work on different documents in the same project without stepping on each other's toes. I can edit the document they work on only when they unlock it. This means I need their knowledge to undo any of their changes. Not only this, the workflow we have selected has three states—Draft, Under Review, and Ready. This makes it easy to assign the docs for peer reviews.

As you can see, within the team, we can collaborate seamlessly. Now, let's look at how we collaborate with the stakeholders; we can assign a reviewer role to a stakeholder so that they can add comments to the docs we create without the risk of accidentally deleting our content. My writers can then incorporate the comments and push the doc to production.

CH: Considering the end-users or consumers of technical documentation, what advantages does ClickHelp offer in terms of user experience? How does it contribute to enhancing the readability, accessibility, or usability of the documentation?

M: Well, there are quite a few; first of all, at GreyOrange, our documents are not public. They are strictly meant for internal audiences and our customers. So, we implemented SSO, which means that our end-users have access to our content via a secured channel. Apart from this, we can also publish a standalone static page with no menu in case we need to share a standalone document that needs to be printed or viewed. This is useful when we need to share one specific document outside the firewall.

But the most interesting aspect of ClickHelp is that we can give access to our customers via our app so that they need not enter any SSO information and yet get a gate pass to access the relevant documents only.

We can also create different publications for different users; conditional formatting ensures the right audience can view the right content, and also last but not least, fantastic search functionalities inspired by Google.

stay informed

Staying Informed and Advice for Aspiring Technical Writers

CH: As a technical writer, staying updated on industry news and trends is important. How do you personally keep yourself informed and stay abreast of the latest developments in the field?

M: I believe in the Divine and have been blessed with the right opportunities not only to participate as an audience at conferences but also to speak at quite a few of them both online and offline, as well as volunteer for a few.

CH: Based on your experience and expertise, what advice would you give to someone aspiring to become a technical writer? Are there any key skills, resources, or strategies that you believe are essential for success in this field?

M: With all the years of experience in various roles under my belt, I now have the clarity of which role demands what skills. To become an outstanding writer, one should first have the right attitude and walk into this domain with the right mindset. If one thinks this is one of the easiest roles in the world of technology, they are in for a rude shock. More and more tech writing is leaning towards tech and information and less about writing per se. Now, a tech writer is not only expected to explain a product or process in a clear yet simple way, but they are also expected to present the information using various formats such as audio, video, AR, DAP, chatbot, and so much more. So, come into this field prepared to learn whatever comes your way and be outstanding in product knowledge. You will need the prowess in Product Knowledge to be able to explain complex concepts simplistically.

CH: Can you share any memorable experiences from your journey as a technical writer that highlight the impact of your work or the value you bring to projects?

M: I am one of those who spends a lot of personal time in self-learning. Whatever l learn, l try to use it in my workspace. Whatever l use in my workspace, l try to teach my team. So, as an IC, l try to bring innovation in what l do, and as a Senior Manager, l spread my knowledge to my team so they can grow. Am I making them lazy? No, I try to teach one skill to one person and have my team train each other. This way, the team develops a great bond with each other.

In one of my previous organizations, where I was a Principal Tech Writer, scheduling a meeting with the Senior Product Manager was almost impossible. I would remain awake till 3 a.m. IST to talk to him, record the call, and give him the document in a way that would always exceed his expectations. But the sad part is Writers never get appreciated on a public platform. Thankfully, at GreyOrange, we enjoy the limelight for all the good work we do because of the immense support and appreciation we receive from the VP of Product Management. As a manager, I feel that is the difference I brought to the table. I helped my team get appreciated in front of a larger audience that I missed out on in my journey as an individual contributor.

CH: Is there anything else you would like to add or discuss that could showcase the unique perspective and insights you bring to the field of technical writing, particularly in relation to your use of ClickHelp for your projects?

M: We at GreyOrange deal with a high-end product, a mix of hardware and software. Hence, my primary focus was to remove the complexities of using a doc tool and let writers focus on getting the content right. All the data and metadata l can access in ClickHelp are fully utilized to ensure that the complexities of documentation are abstracted. For example, running reports on outdated documents helps me ensure l can conduct a CRUD exercise efficiently to ensure only the best content reaches the user. I have created quite a few custom controls that my team can use in their documents. This is the first time I have used such features in the tools l have used. My next target is to automate doc creation so that other teams can use ClickHelp for their documentation needs.

I see ClickHelp as a very malleable tool. We can use it in whichever way we want to. Hence, the entire document structure can be easily customized. Being able to cater to different customers in different ways without any help from the engineering team speak volume about how easy it is to use ClickHelp in extremely intelligent ways.

interview with techcomm specialist

Conclusion

We can definitely call Mridula Menon the experienced tech communication specialist who may serve as a beacon of inspiration for both newcomers and veterans in the field. The fusion of linguistic artistry and technological acumen, coupled with her unwavering commitment to learning, exemplifies the essence of a successful technical writer. The choice of ClickHelp as a collaborative tool amplifies her pursuit of seamless teamwork and efficient knowledge dissemination. Mridula’s advocacy for fostering respect and recognition for technical writers in the technology world resonates, leaving a profound impact on the narrative of technical communication. As the tech industry advances, this specialist's insights stand as a testament to the resilience, innovation, and adaptability that define the thriving world of technical writing.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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