Technical Writing and the value of documentation

Technical Writing team is responsible for supporting, teaching and helping engineers to create, maintain and publish useful, assertive and clear documentation.

This post is a collective effort of the following Technical Writers chapter members: Navya Gopisetti, Tiago Volpato, Thiago Soares, Ivan Maricic, Paulo Victor, Breno Barreto, Stefany Miguel.

Technical writing is the practice of  producing technical documentation for products or projects, such as how-to guides, tutorials, user manuals, visually appealing documentation, online help, videos etc. However, it’s not just about writing, but rather a fusion of researching the audience and their needs, testing, learning technology, and writing.

At Nubank, Technical Writers have significant exposure to various technologies and a room to experiment and implement modern technical writing trends. 

The following are some common skills of technical writers:

  • Technical skills: be curious to learn or be aware of the technology used for a product or service for producing better documentation. Technical writers interview the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), Engineers, Product Managers to gather and understand the information and document it.
  • Writing: have a flair for writing. A technical writer should be able to create clear, concise, and structured documentation.
  • Interpersonal skills: be able to extract the information required for documentation. Generally PMs, SMEs do not have enough time, and this is where a technical writer’s interpersonal skills come in handy to gather more information in a short time.
  • Analytical skills: interpret the given information using logical skills and document it.
  • Design skills: understand the prominence of visuals and convey complex processes visually so users can easily understand the information (“a picture is worth a thousand words” ).
  • Validate documentation: may have to test the technical procedures by following the steps in the documentation; this is to ensure that the documentation is in-line with the product.
  • Tools Analysis skills: analyse, evaluate,  and choose the right authoring and publishing tools; it is good to know or have hands-on experience with authoring tools, but not a mandatory skill as different companies use different tools.
  • Research: conducting proper research is a demanding skill for a technical writer since researching activities are what is leading up to the writing process. Even when you know the subject all too well, research in some shape or form is inevitable.

In a nutshell, the Technical Writing team is responsible for supporting, teaching and helping engineers to create, maintain and publish useful, assertive and clear documentation.

The Evolution of Technical Writing at Nubank

The creation of the Technical Writing chapter at Nubank was motivated by that infamous reception of new hires: ‘Hello, new member, welcome to the team! We have some written material to get you on board, but it is a bit scattered around! I will gather some links and send them to you soon!’. In addition to the fragmented documentation, the content was outdated, lacked standards, non-reliable, and lacked enough information. Besides, the development teams are distributed across different places, hindering the information and knowledge flow from one team or Engineer to another, often leading to inefficient outcomes. The impact of these problems was magnified by the hypergrowth Nubank underwent in recent years, which highlighted the need for documenting all sorts of information.

In November 2019, with the goal to prevent an imminent information lapse, we started the Technical Writing chapter. As an initial project, we decided to partner up with the Conta Business Unit (responsible for the development of our Digital Checking Account). The goal was to produce templates for service playbooks, process flows, and procedures. With the great interest emerging from the Technical Managers after such initiatives, we were able to develop a sustainable approach to enhance the documentation as a whole across teams. As a result, we evolved from creating artifacts to developing documentation strategies, writing standards, and coaching Engineers on Technical writing best practices.

We, the Technical Writers, work for multiple teams based on the documentation needs. Our primary goals are :

  • Organizing the existing documentation based on documentation standards 
  • Finding  gaps in the documentation and communicate these to the respective Engineering teams, and 
  • Collaborating with teams to produce enhanced documentation

Nubank’s vision for Technical Writing

Nubank’s Technical Writers are in a phenomenal position to support the company’s rapid growth. Therefore, we don’t just see people in this role as mere content creators, but also as information architects and knowledge experts. We all need simple, concise and clear style guides that are easy to understand for everyone, regardless of their background and role. Therefore, Technical Writers are the ones who should be able to set new processes and tools, implement better documentation practices, create resources and standards to guarantee the quality of the content, and turn complex unstructured technical information into structured and findable knowledge.

When we talk about improving documentation, we are often talking about a deep cultural change. Being documentation-centered takes moving the behavior of engineering teams towards new daily practices. At Nubank, Technical Writers are the main levers in this cultural transformation.

By transforming raw information into easily readable documents, we simplify the complexity, and help the company navigate its own expertise and ultimately saving vast amounts of time, effort, and money. This perspective is even more critical in a company such as Nubank, whose teams and product portfolio grow at hyper speed. The bigger we get, the larger the amount of knowledge being generated every second. If kept disorganized and inside silos, these pieces of knowledge become obstacles on the way to our goal of freeing people from financial complexity. 

Technical Writers are here to make sure we turn Nubank’s engineering knowledge into bridges instead of barriers.

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