Jim

Senior Technical Writer
DAQ and Control Documentation
Joined NI on February 18, 2014

Education

Ball State University – B.S. in English, minor in American Studies
Texas A&M University – M.A. in English, emphasis in Anthropology and Ethnic American Literature


How did you join NI?

I first heard about NI through the Austin chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). Many years ago, I helped judge online help entries for a regional STC technical writing competition, and the judging took place in a training room in building B. Later, I worked for a year in a contract position, converting Frame-based specifications to DITA and uploading web output to VCM. I left to pursue a full-time position elsewhere, but knew that I would jump at the opportunity to come back to NI. I heard about a potential opportunity from a former manager, and joined NI in 2014.

What are the typical activities you do each week as a Technical Writer at NI?

My regular, general activities include gathering information, writing and editing content, organizing information, coordinating reviews, tracking and reporting progress, and preparing documents for publication. I develop documentation for Automotive Ethernet and DSA hardware as well as Calibration Executive and vehicle communication interfaces software, so I’m usually working on several releases simultaneously. If this week is any indication, my typical week involves meeting with two or three different project teams, preparing a hardware manual for one product and help documentation for another, putting together a ReadMe for a critical software update, coordinating document reviews, and meeting with my DAQ and Control team.

Can you tell me a little more about one of the tasks you listed above?

Gathering information for product documentation can take many forms, from interviewing subject matter experts to setting up a test environment for some DIY time. It might involve interpreting mechanical drawings and schematics or doing some web research. But one of the best ways to get started, I think, is just attending early-phase project meetings… even if the project is in a planning phase and there is nothing yet to document. You can learn a great many things just by being a proverbial “fly on the wall.” Not only will you learn about features, challenges, and what the customer should expect from the product, but you’ll absorb language, terminology, and a fundamental understanding of the product so you’ll be ready when it’s time to write user documentation.

What do you like best about NI?

The people and the culture. NI is the first place I’ve worked where every single person seems wholly interested in, engaged in, and committed to our customers’ user experience and to developing the best products possible. I like the relaxed, or “casual-but-committed” environment we have here at NI. As introverted as I am, it’s also important to me to have a way to connect to people and feel like I’m part of something. I get that not only through typical work-related activities, but also by participating cross-group activities such as NI Cycling and NI fitness challenges.

How has your career grown since you started at NI?

Prior to NI, I mostly wrote software documentation, especially for network security products. Since I started at NI, I’ve learned a lot more about electronics, hardware documentation, managing multiple documentation projects, and prioritizing tasks.

What 3 fictional people do you want to have a beer with?

  1. Doctor Who
  2. Gandalf
  3. Wonder Woman