Technical writers need to structure content methodically: Fawn Damitio

Fawn Damitio works as a Senior Director at Juniper Networks. We are excited to feature her interview.

Give us an intro about yourself.

I’m Senior Director of Juniper Network’s Technical Education and Documentation team. I’m also the executive director of Juniper Marketing’s Rising Leader program. This program develops top-notch talent so that they can reach their potential.

Fawn Damito

How did you start your career in technical writing and what made you choose to be a technical writer years back?

I have a degree in Journalism and started out in public relations, but the role wasn’t a fit for me. I went back to school to get a Master’s Degree in English and applied over the summer for an internship at Cisco Systems.

At the end of the internship, they offered me a full-time position. I really enjoy learning about technology and working in the lab and I also love writing, so technical writing was a pretty natural fit.

What were the challenges you faced during the early phase of your career?

I remember facing writer’s block. I thought everything had to be perfect. I also felt I had to know every nuance of technology before writing about it. I came to my manager at the time and asked how to start. She said “just start writing.” I followed her advice and things began to flow.

I also had a writing background in journalism and fiction and technical writing is a different skill set. Thankfully, I had a great editor and manager who coached me on simplifying my language and methodically checking my work.

Without the help of many different more senior professionals early on, I would not be where I am today. I cannot emphasize enough how critical great training is for those new to the field. It can literally make or break their career. I’m fortunate to have worked for companies that invested in me.

How did you get an opportunity to work for Juniper Networks?

I knew people from Cisco who had gone to Juniper. They referred me when I applied for a writing role. For the interview itself, I studied a lot. I knew Juniper’s technical bar for hiring was very high. This extra effort is what put me over the top when competing with a lot of other candidates who were also well-qualified.

5. Share a few words about your experience at Juniper Networks.

It has been an amazing experience so far. Our field is heading in an exciting direction. Being able to innovate and set the vision for a large group in a big company has been exhilarating. 

I’m also fortunate to have had many wonderful mentors and managers at Juniper. I’ve also been honored to be chosen for, and to have greatly grown through, two leadership development programs at Juniper (spearheaded by Mike Marcellin, our CMO, and Hillary Weingast, our VP Deputy General Counsel).

The best part of my work though is a talented, kind, and insightful team that makes coming to work a joy. Every day I’m grateful for them. 

6. What document management software do you like and why? Share a few words about other software systems you recommend as someone managing a huge team.

We recently moved to Bluestream as our CCMS and Oxygen as our authoring platform. Oxygen is a great WYSIWIG, but XML isn’t for everyone. 

Which software you ultimately should use really depends on the team, your growth trajectory, and what you are writing about. Creating content about IKEA furniture is totally different from creating content about complex networking topologies. 

In terms of what I enjoy authoring in, I really like Google docs or Markdown. They are both so simple and so easy to collaborate on, but the problem is they don’t scale nor do they have the same level of features as a proper CCMS/DITA set-up. Lately, I’ve been thinking that the best authoring environment would be some combination of both. Camtasia is a great software for creating videos. 

7. What impact has AI done to technical writers?

So far, I’ve not seen much of an impact. However, this will change quickly over the next few years. People are getting used to being able to find what they need when they need it. We need AI to provide this service. This is why being methodical about structuring content is so important. A great outside-in feature taxonomy is also critical.

Ultimately, planning for the longer term will enable teams to provide great search, chat bots (that actually work), and personalization. Those who are not planning for these things now will be left behind. 

8. We would like to learn about your family and hobbies.

I have two wonderful kids. I also teach yoga and meditate regularly. I actually lead a weekly mindfulness group at Juniper. 

9.How can people reach you?

Feel free to reach out via Linked In. https://www.linkedin.com/in/fawn-damitio/

Good luck Fawn Damitio.

I welcome technical writers to have a look at Knowledge Base Software.

Venkat

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