Sam, Technical Writer

Name

Sam

Title

Staff Technical Writer

Group

LabVIEW Software

Date Joined NI

August 13, 2012

Degree

B.A. in English Writing and Rhetoric

School

St. Edward’s University


How did you join NI?

As a student at SEU, I really didn’t know what technical writing was until my senior year. My concentration was creative writing, and I was struggling with the thought that teaching may be my only option after graduation. Nothing against teaching, but it wasn’t very high on my preferred occupation scale. Luckily, a couple of recruiters came and visited one of my classes to talk about technical writing at NI. My initial reaction was, “That seems interesting. Too bad I’m a creative writer.” As my senior year went on, however, I couldn’t help considering technical writing as a viable option for my future. I had the technical interest and writing skills, so why not? During my final semester, another recruiter came to speak in another of my writing classes, and I made it a point to make a good impression on the recruiter. Later, at the encouragement of a professor, I submitted my application and was invited for an interview soon after. I must have made a good impression because they offered me a follow-up, full-day interview. After a couple weeks of hopeful anticipation, I received an email informing me that I got the job. And now I’m here!

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

  • Compose documentation plans and draft documentation for new software features
  • Review other writers’ documentation and provide feedback for improvement
  • Attend team meetings with my group to discuss any challenges or documentation-related concerns
  • Meet with software developers to familiarize myself with new features
  • Resolve issues in existing documentation brought up by corrective action requests
  • Mentor and train new writers or interns
  • Contribute to ongoing extracurricular activities, such as planning recruiting visits to schools, coordinating charity events through NI Gives, and organizing social events for the Tech Comm department

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

We have a database that we use to keep track of requests for improvements to our documentation. These requests are known as corrective action requests (CARs). When anyone finds an issue in the documentation–be it a customer, a developer, a writer in another group, or a writer in your own group–they typically will file a CAR to address the issue. These issues can be anything from a missing period to an incorrect technical detail to a request for a complete revamp of a topic. When a CAR is assigned to you, you may need to spend some time researching the problem and talking with developers to get a full understanding of the issue and how to resolve it. Unlike many of our other tasks, resolving CARs is ongoing throughout the year, and writers are expected to address CARs in every documentation phase.

What do you like best about NI?

My favorite part about NI is that I feel valued as an employee. From day one, NI puts in the time and effort to make sure you get the training you need to do well in your role. NI also provides many opportunities for both career and personal growth through supplemental courses and a wide array of optional projects. Our managers do their best to make sure that we have everything we need and that we are able to grow our careers in the direction that we want to go. NI even provides access to a health center, a fitness center, basketball and volleyball courts, and cafeterias just to make sure its employees are happy here.

How has your career grown since you started at NI?

Even though I’ve only been around for about a year, I’ve actually had the opportunity to grow my role in a few ways. I started off just writing documentation and keeping to the basic responsibilities of an entry-level technical writer. After a few months, I was able to start coordinating projects among my group and getting involved in cross-group projects. And now I’m supervising an intern and getting a taste of what it’s like to manage.

If you could add one event to the Olympics. what would it be?

Definitely kite fighting. That, or synchronized underwater basket weaving.