Wiki technical writer – job description

I found this “wiki technical writer” job description the other day and thought about the ideas in my book. Yippee! Companies are starting to demand the skills and strategies outlined in my book.

Here’s the job description, pasted from the STC Silicon Valley website.

Description:Oak Hill Corporation is currently looking for a Technical Writer with administrative-level experience using Confluence (or another major Wiki tool) to migrate and develop product documentation for one of our clients. The migration task requires some information architecture. This is an on-site full time position. The contract will be about 6 months and could result in a permanent position with the company.

Requirements:

* Bachelors degree in Computer Science or related field
* Thorough understanding of the business usage of wiki technologies (2+ years)
* Administrative knowledge of and experience with Wiki engines, preferably with Confluence or MediaWiki (2+ years)
* Experience documenting technical customer and developer materials
* Portfolio of work showing experience

Required Skills:

* Ability to design, implement, and maintain wiki namespaces and pages
* Ability to migrate legacy documents to wiki
* Ability to architect scalable wiki namespaces and page linking layouts
* Ability to create wiki templates
* Ability to fully utilize tagging and labeling wiki functionalities
* Excellent writing and communication skills
* Understanding of software development life cycle

www.oakhillcorporation.com

Upon closer inspection I realized it is a six-month contract position, that may lead to a permanent position. One interpretation of the fact that it’s a contract position is that the company housing the Confluence wiki really only needs to use the wiki as a web CMS, not as a community site. That’s a valid use of the tool as it offers more interactive, shareable content than most help authoring tool outputs. Check out this case study on the Atlassian site for more information on using Confluence for user assistance.

Another interpretation is that the company hasn’t found anyone with this unique skillset and is hoping the Oak Hill Corporation’s reach will help them find that unique person. In a contract position, the technical writer will have to work hard in six months to establish themselves as a member of the community, as long as their online identity would be permanent enough to allow them to earn attribution on the content. Perhaps a writer who embraces the community would earn the permanent position, though.

I hope to see more job descriptions like this one. I know I see more and more demand for these skills and for user assistance on the web that blends well with the rest of the web content out there, is shareable, findable, and ultimately solves users problems.

What are you seeing? Is there demand for this type of content with these types of tools and skill sets? Are technical writers the ones filling the demand?

9 Comments

  • August 28, 2009 - 8:06 am | Permalink

    That is cool, Anne. But I’m disappointed that the first requirement is a Bachelor’s in Computer Science or related field. If the client is serious about that requirement, which in my view mischaracterizes the skills that they’re actually looking for, then it’s going to leave most of us on the outside looking in.

  • August 28, 2009 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    I have to agree with Larry, looking for someone with a CompSci degree leaves many of us out of the running. Also, thorough understanding and administrative knowledge of wikis would require the abilities listed further on. As well, given the myriad systems with which most writers are familiar, sorting out the wiki in six months shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

    It’s a good-looking description, and I also hope to see more, but I’m a little cynical when I don’t see a requirement for a technical writing background.

  • Hana Candelaria
    August 28, 2009 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    How interesting to see your post today…as I’m getting ready to start blogging about my ongoing experience with Confluence, and the whole business of becoming a Wiki writer.

    I answered a similar ad around Nov of 2008 [from another recruiter], which differed only w/respect to requirement for Confluence admin experience. The ad was posted for access by tech pubs folks, but it didn’t specify requirements for the technical writing background. Nevertheless, and after nearly 25 years w/mgmt/dev/production of ‘traditional’ end-user documentation, I decided to take the job [engineering/developer documentation] primarily to broaden my Wiki [Confluence] experience. It’s been a very interesting adventure…it’s changing the way I write and do business [I’ve also been reading whatever I can find about web writing, and will definitely read your book :) ]

    Craig is correct…sorting out the Wiki is not that difficult. For example, the ability to create new spaces/pages, and apply newer, more efficient templates with a few tech pubs tricks, then moving edited content into better position, isn’t as much of a challenge as many of the other wars that many of us tech writers have tackled.

    But is this Technical Writing? I often feel that my real title is now something like Information Coordinator. I apply modified versions of tech pubs tricks to improve accessibility, navigation, page logic, and content construction. I am currently working with various engineering groups to re-design spaces, reposition content, obtain appropriate plugins, and clean up the writing. Additionally, I do a great many more illustrations/diagrams and a lot less text nowadays.

    wrt to Confluence administration…
    we have several adminstrative users [for various reasons]. Not a one of them spends more than 1 hour per week on the business of administration. Therefore, to go into a job that emphasizes administration, if you’ve been a busy tech writer, will prove exasperating.
    But the ad doesn’t say you need to have *been* an administrator. Rather, it states ‘admninistrative knowledge,’ which can easily be learned by looking at the Atlassian site, and checking out the administrative documentation.

    about the Oakhill ad…I think we’re seeing an early attempt to define skillsets to do a job that’s not well defined [it’s all relatively new]. However, I think that a creative tech writer [who meets criteria listed in Required Skills] could very well ‘define’ the job him/herself during interview.
    More to the point, I think that a tech writer, with online writing experience and an emphasis on project management would do well [and the computer science degree is silly…why should that trump any of the credential that have fueled our careers, including tech comm, UI design, etc].

    Hope I didn’t bore anyone with all this. I couldn’t help myself :)

  • August 28, 2009 - 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Great discussion, all!

    Expecting that a diverse background of degrees that would do well in this type of job, it is a shame if they’d strictly limit it to CS degrees.

    Hana, thanks so much for sharing your experience! To me, the Confluence wiki engine leans towards the sophistication of a web-based content management system. I like your application of “tech pubs tricks” to get the job done and serve the engineering groups well. I’d love to hear what you think of my book, also!

    Thanks for all your comments.

  • September 4, 2009 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    Anne,
    Thank you very much for posting this info, since we’re currently looking at the possibility of using wikis for user docs. I CANNOT WAIT to get your new book: Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation! I saw that it was just published in July. Your blog is a wealth of information for tech writers, and I just linked it to my blog.
    -Gina Fevrier, Technical Writer
    Numara Software, Inc.

  • September 4, 2009 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    Anne,
    I just have to add one more thing about the degree requirement in the job posting (computer science or related field). I don’t think that description rules out technical writers, but instead of “related field”, they could have listed a few more degrees such as “technical communication” or “instructional technology”. I have met tech writers from so many types of backgrounds, and some, with whom I’ve argued on the STC listservs, don’t even have a degree at all! I’m not going to back down on that, being an educator as well as a tech writer. There are many tech writers that don’t have tech writing degrees (like myself, with degrees in French and Education). I don’t think it’s a requirement for those of us with 10, 20, 30 or more years of experience as writers. I am so excited about the possibility of converting some of our docs to a wiki, where users can publish whatever they want, however they want, on demand. Most of all, the ability to give our customers a way to contribute to the user docs (creating, reviewing, etc.) sounds like such a better use of time than just continuing to update our online help and user guides.
    – Gina Fevrier

  • September 4, 2009 - 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gina – thanks for commenting! I think that “related field” covers many bases, though your suggested additional degrees would help with this particular job description, certainly.

    I hope my book is helpful to you especially as you look for users as contributors. Actually, I’m confident it will be helpful. :) Keep me posted on your progress, I’d love to hear how it goes.

  • September 9, 2009 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    Good day Ann,

    Replying late to your post, just getting back from vacation and catching up on some reading, your RSS feed is one I have aggregated to our site.

    This is one of the roles I have been fulfilling within companies for a number of years now, first via SharePoint and more recently with open-source tools like Confluence at USi/AT&T.

    A year and a half ago I took over as the primary web admin for the Charlotte Chapter of STC and after a bit of research (quite a bit actually) I stood up a brand new Drupal CMS based website for the group, totally replacing a site based on the proprietary software ColdFusion. Prior to that I had had some experience with Zope and Plone, also open-source and very powerful, but at the same time a sysadmin nightmare.

    Based on first-hand experience I feel the use of open-source wiki and and other web-based CMS applications is now moving beyond its infancy and into full adolescence. Companies are now realizing the additional value and cost savings these tools can provide. I predict we will see a continued move away from expensive proprietary software applications and systems like SharePoint, Documentum and ColdFusion, for not only full blown content management but also especially targeted for smaller team and project-oriented communications such as blogs, wikis and forums.

    Concerning the job description and having a degree in both EE and CS I would venture a guess that their desired Bachelors degree CS requirement captures their additional skill requirement, “Understanding of software development life cycle” (Industry acronym = SDLC) and is what they may have been targeting, as a CS professional would have this knowledge and experience. This is one I would have applied for, had it not been in California. Most technical writers would be a good fit as a typical SDLC is quite similar if not identical to our document production and content management processes, but especially those with a background in software development and/or IT.

    For current technical communicators interested in these types of positions, they still remain mostly as ‘internal opportunities’, not often posted as they are very hard for HR and hiring managers to ‘pin down’ with a title and salary offering. For now networking and using tools like LinkedIn may prove the most useful in finding them, eventually I feel they will become much more of a common occurrence, just as the new content strategist has, another positive move for technical writers and communicators to consider. For those on-site already I highly recommend searching internally for such opportunities, letting managers and supervisors know of your interest in it.

    Cheers,

    Patrick

  • Pingback: Technical writers, web writers, jobs, and employers | just write click

  • Leave a Reply