Technical Writer: A Day in the Life of Martin Rauscher

Published: 2023-10-17 Updated: 2023-10-16
Subject: Content creation

Communicating complex technical content in comprehensible language—this is how a technical writer's job is typically described. But this profession offers much more than just writing. Martin Rauscher, a technical writer at GROB, a mid-sized machine manufacturer in the Allgäu region of Germany, gives us an insight into his varied day-to-day work.

8 am

When I arrive at the office, I have three chat messages from colleagues waiting for me. No sooner has my status turned green in Teams than I get a call. As first-level support for SCHEMA ST4, I help my colleagues out when they have questions about the software. Our entire team in technical documentation is currently made up of around 120 people, both internally and externally. We work on project teams that are dedicated to specific customers. My department is the only one that works across the board to support projects and take care of higher-level tasks. A few of my colleagues studied technical writing, but a majority changed careers after previously working as electricians or mechanics in the workshop, that is, in our production department. They in particular are simply used to starting work at 6 am. So I'm already late when I get here at 8 or 8:30 am. Prior to changing roles within the company two or three years ago, I also worked as a conventional technical writer on one of the project teams.

8:15 am

I answer the first questions before checking my emails, which usually also have questions about ST4 or concepts that we want to implement going forwards. In many cases, I also receive inquiries from other departments about technical documentation. I've been at GROB for 11 years, so people in the company just know me. I usually help people via Teams as many of my colleagues work from home. Or I stop by and see them in our open-plan office and we look at their problem together. They are always really grateful, because they wouldn't have been able to keep working otherwise. Support tasks take up almost all my time in the morning.

When I used to work as a technical writer on the project team I would spend the first hour or two of the day on organizational tasks, prepare for meetings, and then use the rest of the time before lunch doing research. We're not building toasters—these are highly complex systems. Our craft in technical documentation at GROB consists of a combination of maintenance plans and operating instructions. And all the information that goes into them has to be collected first, whether from colleagues in the workshop, the designers, or the suppliers.

11 am

Our ST4 working group gets together for a meeting with selected users from the project teams. The discussion focuses on various technical aspects. What workflows do we want to develop in the software? How can we optimize the layout? Which other program components of ST4 could we introduce? This is one of two fixed meetings every week. We also meet as the “Working Philosophy in ST4” working group on Fridays. Our machines are becoming more complex all the time, and ST4 is incredibly helpful in this regard. We used to work in Word and compiled the instructions manually at the end as a PDF. That was a ton of work. The process is much simpler with ST4, but our colleagues also need to be able to use these technologies, of course. And that's where we think about ways of making it as simple as possible for them with training sessions, templates, and so on. We also want to make sure everyone is working with them in a consistent way.

11:55 am

Our department is on lunch break from 11:55 to 12:25. GROB has a very specific schedule for this. The company is so big that if everyone headed for the break room at 12 noon, it would simply explode. We definitely talk about work while we're eating but also about various things in our lives outside work. When I'm in the lunch room I also run into people from other departments who I don't see very often and we catch up.

12:25 pm

Back at my desk, and I have another few minutes to take a breather. Up next at 12:45 is the shopfloor, which some other companies might call a jour fixe. We have a 15-minute phone call as a team and talk about the latest things that are happening.

1 pm

I use the afternoon to write instructions of a general nature. Some of the components in our machines are always the same. One example is the motor spindle, the key component in our cutting machines. It's basically a large electric motor that is highly complex and runs at a high rpm. Because this component can be used on such a universal basis, we write the instructions here in the support team. Things also quiet down a bit in the office in the early afternoon. I bought some noise cancelling headphones to help me concentrate better on writing. And I discovered a great feature on Teams called focus time, which uses a strict approach to schedule in blocks of free time on the calendar so my colleagues can see that I'm busy. This gives me time to work on writing instructions in a focused way. Some other people prefer to work at home, but that's not me. I know what I'm like, and if I'm at home my daughter is there and then I see the housework that needs to be done...

3 pm

During the last hour or so before the end of work, I always choose a task that I can still complete the same day. It's not possible to complete a really big manual in a single day, of course. When I used to work on the project team, I would maybe get all the images ready for a manual, for example, or finish writing a certain section. These days I usually review texts by technical writers during this time. They often pass what they have written on to us. There are quite a few of us on my team who did a degree in this area and are very familiar with the editorial aspects, and we have also gained a lot of technical knowledge. So we're very capable of checking over both sides of things here.

4 pm

End of the day! I managed to finish all of my tasks for today. I almost always go home in a good mood, simply because I really get to help out my colleagues every day and also get positive feedback as a result. And I really do find it easy to leave work “at work.” This is when I look forward to seeing my family and spending time with my wife and young daughter.

Transcript: Kerstin Smirr

Personal profile:

Martin Rauscher is from the Lake Constance region and decided to study technical writing in Karlsruhe after taking his school-leaving exam. After receiving his degree, he started his professional career at GROB, a machine manufacturer in Mindelheim in Germany's Allgäu region, where he has now worked for 11 years. The mid-sized company specializes in cutting technology and the manufacture of universal and special machines. GROB started working in the electric mobility segment in 2016 and now manufactures machines and plants for producing electric drives and batteries as well.

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