Chapter 17: Working with Engineers

This chapter discusses “how to build a successful relationship” (159) with engineers and engineering teams. It suggests making sure you understand engineers’ mindset and language. You need to be prepared to pick up some tech skills, even if you don’t come from a tech background.

Discussion Summary

As with Chapter 16: Working with Customer Support, people feel it’s important to recognise that engineers are busy, and respect their time. Find a way to work with engineering that suits them: plug in to their workflows (such as using the same ticketing system) and find the best times for them. Try to attend their review meetings - you may be able to get most of the info you need from their demos. Be aware you may be asking them about something they worked on weeks ago - don’t assume the information you need is at the front of their minds.

It helps if you can establish your own credibility. This can be through technical skills, product knowledge, quick turnaround and professionalism. Take the time to try out the product and find any informtation you can on your own. Additionally, your wide view of the product can let you make contributions to product design, or catch problems early. Tech writers are often the first users of a product or feature.

Don’t underestimate the social aspect in building communication. From playing video games together at lunch, to making sure you’re aware of any cultural expectations, put the human at the centre just as you would when writing your docs.