Senior Technical Writer, Thermo Fisher Scientific
Debra Brinson has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. She has worked in the Bay Area as a technical writer for over 20 years, a second profession that she transitioned to after spending five years working as a journalist. This profession continues to pique her interest because it provides opportunities to learn every day, and constantly entices her to climb out of a comfort zone and continually grow.
Most recently, Debra has become integrated into a team of dedicated technical communication colleagues in the field of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology. Her assignment: to improve two help systems made up of content in various stages of completion and sorely in need of being reorganized, rewritten and updated. Debra’s colleague offered to pitch in, using an “Agile writing project” that gets writers scaling product learning curves, writing, and improving content effectively and efficiently, and minimizing the amount of time that SMEs spend explaining how the software works. Debra will explain the details of the process and describe the outcomes, including compelling reasons for working as a team to create component-based content that delights both customers and internal users.
My colleague and I managed a team of 5 to 7 writers, using Agile processes to successfully overhaul a Help system for complex genetic sequencing software in just over six months. The approach uses 3 weekly sprints that gets each writer 1) analyzing and identifying gaps in existing content 2) writing and updating content, and then 3) peer editing and revising content. The sprints overlap so that every week each writer is actively writing, peer reviewing and editing content.
Facing deadlines for frequent quarterly releases, we used Excel spreadsheets and OneNote notebooks to record meeting notes, topic TOCs and assignments, rather than a more administrative intensive ticket-based system (such as JIRA). Writers, whose skill levels ranged from junior to senior, learned how to use the software through hour-long question-and-answer group sessions with SMEs.
Attend this session to learn how an agile writing process can help boost collaboration and increase comradeship amongst information developers; decrease the time spent with subject matter experts, and optimize content development.