From the everyday life of a Technical Editor

Which specific skills you can use to shine in Technical Editing.

From the everyday life of a Technical Editor

Everyday (real life) Projects; they do exist. You've been working for a certain customer for a really long time. You've known and understood the documented product for ages; you even know how your contact person likes his coffee and – more importantly – when it's time to get him on the phone to discuss a few specific issues. All the data has already been entered, you've organized the Content Management System yourself, and the deadline is still a long way off...

Not gonna happen! When we're working, things simply get busy – and this is a good thing! Working for a service provider like kothes requires one thing above all else: staying flexible – and curious. Where else can you get to know new technology on a daily basis, test programs, support customers during projects that come up on short notice, sort data and simply dissect everything? Well, the latter usually only applies to the CAD model ;-)

The products we document are the first to provide variety. From railway technology to medical devices and plant engineering to household goods and even barbecues – there's always something new to discover. Of course, there are also product lines for which we make long-term updates for the software and for other feature changes. This is where your colleagues can become real experts on the details and even the history of an entire company. But the initial meetings with new customers are also exciting. If you ask in a friendly manner, you usually learn interesting background information about materials, their company history and even entire product lines.

It also makes a difference whether the product is still in development or is already sitting finished in the assembly hall. Changes to a component rarely result in changes to just one chapter in the documentation... The key here is to keep a cool head and maintain an overview of everything, if not everything has been clarified yet. Structured work and a modularized approach to technical documentation help when things get really complex.

Customer contact is an important aspect throughout, which has been unfortunately (but only partially) hampered by the Coronavirus pandemic. How we're adapting to this still new situation can be read about here in the blog article by my colleague, Stefanie Langmann.

Don't forget: There are also different Content Management Systems. We focus on customer requirements: whether it's with COSIMA, TIM-RS or SCHEMA ST4, for example – we work with all of them. We receive thorough training – right at the beginning of our time at kothes, but we also receive additional training in our normal everyday technical editorial work. This creates solid basic knowledge in all of the common Content Management Systems and the insight that some things work "kind of" similarly. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the shortcuts! Especially as a newcomer, you have to dig a little deeper and find out which functions for various CMSes differ from each other. For all the little questions in-between, the support of the kothes team is invaluable. FrameMaker displays an error that not even the support team knows how to assess? Just ask your kothes team members via the internal chat. Often, someone can be found who already knows the solution, or at least a work-around.

The same applies to graphics creation in Adobe Illustrator and Corel DESIGNER. Although many of us have a clear favourite for graphics creation tools, we can appreciate the other programs as well. Can position numbers or callouts be better integrated here or there? Most of the time it's a matter of personal preference and practice, as to which one suits you better. Here, too, we benefit from our internal network: Our Technical Illustrators are more than happy to help with problems involving tricky images and special requests, or they can tackle complicated illustrations altogether.

And then it's still a matter of keeping up-to-date when it comes to the prescribed standards! This is where bookworms have a clear advantage, because digging into the language of these texts requires a good deal of detective work and having a keen eye for detail. Our experts provide active support with their impressive knowledge.

With so much variety, sooner or later you'll leave your comfort zone or wonder to yourself how a structured document is supposed to emerge from all the details and from all of the different requirements.

And then what? Don't panic! If you really don't know what to do, you have over 160 co-workers who can help you. If you can't find anything helpful in our internal knowledge portal I'm sure someone next door can answer it for you. It's not just the Technical Editors who are connected; the Translation Management and Graphics departments; Quality Management, Sales and Marketing, IT Development and IT Consulting are also all reliable contacts. They'll help you keep an open mind and aid in questioning your own point of view. In this way, many small details can emerge to form a whole.

So then: let's get to work!

Miriam Lieb
Blog post Miriam Lieb
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