Ryan: Welcome to 10 Minute Tech Comm. This is Ryan Weber at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I would love to welcome today’s guest.
Sara: Hello, everyone. My name is Sara. I’m a technical writer and I’m also a translation lead at Omada, a cybersecurity company that offers identity governance solutions. I live in Madrid, Spain, with my husband, my lovely dog, and I love learning new things, reading a lot of books, nature, and practicing yoga.
Ryan: I invited Sarah Sanchez on the podcast because she’s taking on an ambitious project, which is to make technical communication more popular and more well-known in her country of Spain. She found several years ago when she discovered technical communication that there weren’t many resources in Spain and not much awareness in Spain about technical communication. So she’s working on organizing and spreading the word and I wanted to talk with her about this project. I also put some links in the show notes if you’re interested in the resources and community that she’s working on and following her progress. (See https://meetcontent.github.io/ for more information on Sara’s work!)
Ryan: I am really excited to have you with us today, Sarah, to talk about technical communication in your life and in Spain because this is a really interesting topic. I saw you posting a bit about this on LinkedIn. Let’s just start with you. You are a technical writer and a translator. Can you tell me a little bit about your own professional journey to where you got today?
Sara: Sure. So as you say, the position that I am having right now is technical writer, and I am also leading the translation project. But if we want to talk about my journey and how I ended up in this position, we will go back 10 years ago. And when I needed to choose which degree I wanted to do when I finished high school. So I remember having a passion for communicating, writing, languages, and so on. So I choose the degree that fits better to that at that time, which was translation. So I studied a degree in English and German translation, and then I did a master degree in translation and new technologies.
So basically my entire career, I work as a technical translator, but at some point I started looking for a job and came across a position that caught my attention, which was the technical writer role, and I had never heard of it before, so I did some research to find the educational requirements for being a technical writer, also what the duties will be. And what I found is that the role of technical writer varied from company to company. It was very shocking for me to see that in Spain, it was very different between companies. So I’m speaking from experience and I could be wrong. Someone could have a different opinion. But many companies use the role of technical communicator in relationship with marketing, while others are focusing on internal documentation among developers. So you can imagine that it left me quite confused.
Some technical writer positions that I looked was very technical, and others looked like a copywriter role. So I remember there was only one open position in Spain at that time, and the requirements and job description were very different from what a company outside Spain described. So I went through some interviews until Omada, my covering company, contacted me, and they were establishing themselves in Spain and I joined them two years ago. It was through this experience seeing how Omada, a Danish company that wanted to grow, to expand to Spain, struggled to find technical profiles. There seems to be only software engineers, I decided to take the leap and join them. And now I’m leading this translation project and also working as a technical writer. And that’s basically my career and how I ended up being a technical writer.
Ryan: That’s pretty common, is that people haven’t heard of technical communication and they’re like, Oh, I didn’t know that this career was here. When you got your position, you said there’s a lot of different kinds of technical writers in Spain. What do your duties at this company? What kinds of things do you do?
Sara: In my current company right now, what I am doing is internal and external documentation. We have an online documentation, online help documentation for customers, so they can check technical and non-technical documentation of our product. But we also maintain the internal documentation for developers, so any API documentation and so on. And yeah, that’s basically what we are doing right now as a technical writer in my company.
But as I say here in Spain, what I found most when I was looking for that role, it was more oriented to marketing maybe or writing articles, not so much so technical. That was quite confused.
Ryan: I wanted to ask you a lot about that because you’re in Spain. You said this is a field that is still finding its footing. Or like you said, it might mean something slightly different in Spain than it does in other countries. What is the state of tech writing in Spain right now, would you say?
Sara: I’m pretty sure that you will find someone who has been a better perspective on how the situation is right now in Spain. I’ve only been in this role for two years. I’m still pretty mature about the situation, but I can talk from my perspective, my point of view when I started this role. So the thing from my experience is that people don’t know this could be an option for their career. If they wanted to do something related with technology or engineering in Spain, they ended up doing software engineering or computing engineering. So I know that some technical writers in Spain, they study very different things. So you can find people from software engineering, journalism, people with English studies background as me or marketing background. So as I said, as I started Omada, I didn’t know what a technical writer was, never heard about technical writers or technical communication before or have known anybody who does it. So I recall myself doing a lot of research about what did I need, what were the studies and skills that I needed to have? And I found literally nothing. So the current status, answering your question, Ryan, I think that technical writer or technical communication is not very well known among people. Even people with technical backgrounds will not be able to tell you what this is about because it’s not popular to have this role in a company. And it was shocking that we don’t have this in Spain since apparently Spain is one of the main producer of technology in Europe and the world.
So it got me thinking about two possible options here, and one possible explanation for this is the lack of awareness and appreciation of technical communication in Spain. So, for example, recently I was in a conference in Poland, and I saw that they have a big community, they share knowledge, and the position seems very valuable for companies and customers. And I start wondering, “Why do we not have something similar in Spain?” And I think it’s because some companies may think that technical documentation is unnecessary spend, rated an unvaluable investment in customer satisfaction. The second possible option is the lack of a specific academic training in technical writing and technical communication at university. So most of the professional in this area have acquired their skill by self studying like me or by working. So I was very lucky at Omada because it has great people working there and I learned a lot from them and I’m still learning from them. So it’s very lucky.
Ryan: Great. So you said a lot of people don’t recognize that there aren’t a lot of academic programs. I know that your goal is to help raise awareness of this field in your country. So how do you think tech comm would benefit Spain? What is your pitch for making it broader and better known in your country?
Sara: It’s simple. I want to help people, as you say, who want to start this journey and make it accessible and visible to the market and give technical communication the value that it deserves. So make technical communication visible to everyone. Give the people the chance to understand what this is about, why technical communication is important, and how can they achieve it, especially in Spain, which, as I have said, is one of the main producers of technology in Europe. And it was something that happened to me in the past, not finding a community or any information about the technical communication. So I would have appreciate having that information at that time. So I don’t know how this could benefit Spain, but considering it’s one of the countries which produce technology, I guess having people and companies who understand this, that technical communication is important and start giving the value on technical communication could also be much beneficial for them too. So yes, make it accessible to everyone and give it the value that you deserve. That would be my main goal with the technical communication here in Spain.
Ryan: It sounds like one of the things you want is to help people find more easily the resources that you didn’t have when you started on this journey. Is that right?
Sara: Exactly. So, for example, I remember that when I tried to see if there are any courses, any guides, any books that I could read, anything that could give me the chance to know and understand what technical communication is, what is the goal of this role, it would be very helpful for me to have this information, because I remember also talking to my friends and telling them, this is what I’m doing. This is my position, and they don’t even get it. They don’t understand what I was doing. So it was shocking. And I really did a lot of research on the internet. I found some people here in Spain that trying to create a community, but they didn’t achieve it. So now I’m really in close contact with them. And we’re trying to do that step by step. But we are trying to tell people, hey, here we are. This is valuable for your company. You need to start invest on technical communication because it’s going to be very valuable for your customers. You are going to achieve more satisfaction and people are going to be very grateful for that.
Ryan: Great. And one of the things you’ve done is you recently launched a newsletter. Can you tell us a little bit more about the newsletter and what it contains and what you want to accomplish with it?
Sara: Sure. So to be honest, Ryan, I started the newsletter as an experiment to see what the reaction it could generate among my content in Spain and LinkedIn. So the thing is that I spoke with some people in Poland in this conference that I joined last month, and I was talking with them about starting a community here in Spain. How can I start in there? and asking for some advice. And they suggest creating a newsletter could be an option, so I can reach more people who is interested in this area. So I wanted to focus on how to make more visible technical communication in Spain, and that’s what I am trying to do, share information that could be relevant and try to reach more and more people and start like a community. So maybe in the future, maybe do some meetups, share knowledge between us and create some conference. Who knows?
Ryan: The STC, does it have a branch in Spain? Is there any presence for Society of Technical Communication?
Sara: Not yet.
Ryan: Okay, okay.
Sara: You go to Portugal, they have it. In France, they have it. They have it all Europe, but not in Spain. And it’s the main producer of technology. So that was very, very so key that people are not investing in technical communication and they don’t see the value of that.
Ryan: What kinds of content does your newsletter have in it?
Sara: Well, right now I’m doing an experiment. But what I really want to do is to start from scratch, just start from explaining what this role is about, what technical communication is. And my goal is to go further and explain how you can achieve to have this technical communication. What courses you need to take? What skills do you need to have? Any books that could be useful for that? And maybe do some meet up together with the people and try to share knowledge between companies here in Spain and go to university to tell them the people hey, this exists. This is something that you can do in your future. Technology is not all about software engineering. You can do a lot of more things here.
Ryan: Fabulous. Well, good luck. I know communities like this take a long time to grow, so it’s a great project. And good luck, Sarah, and thanks for joining us today.
Sara: Thank you very much, Ryan.