Sandra Darkwah is a technical writer at DoubleVerify, a company that authenticates the quality and effectiveness of digital media for its client businesses. After graduating pre-med with a degree in English, Sandra ultimately chose to apply her skills to a career in technical writing. Her ability to grasp technical information and convey it to a non-specialist audience is an asset in her current role. In her interview below, Sandra comments on the significance of mentors in professional development, and the positive outcomes that can result from taking a chance on a career that resonates with your interests.
Q: Describe your current role and your daily professional tasks and responsibilities.
A: I currently work as a technical writer for DoubleVerify, a digital media authentication company. Authentication is a process enabling the validation of user identities or of the origin and integrity of data in order to reduce fraud. My role involves writing product glossaries, how-to guides, and other client-facing documentation for the products and features that our company creates. This means working closely with the Product Department to understand any new updates or product releases.
Q: Talk about a mentor, book, or experience that helped shape who you are as a writing professional.
A: I’ve been lucky enough to have three great mentors in my professional writing journey. Two were wonderful professors that I had in college, Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen & Dr. Miriam Kotzin. Both women were published authors who not only encouraged my love of literature and writing, but were also great resources in navigating the possibilities of writing professionally. The third mentor was Geri Outwater, who was the outgoing technical writer at my first job at Rockwell Collins. I had absolutely no idea how to write about trains or which resources to use to craft the massive engineering manuals that were needed. Geri patiently gave me a crash course on how to do this work. My biggest thanks to these three amazing women!
Q: In your role and industry, how important is collaboration? With whom do you collaborate?
A: Technical writing is an interesting mix of collaboration and solo work. My process always begins with a collaboration between myself, project managers, and engineers. They provide the bulk of the information that I usually need to craft documentation by explaining the more technical aspects of a new product or release. Depending on the documentation, I may also work with account managers, client services, or the marketing department to get a better understanding of tone or client concerns.
From that point, the solo part of technical writing begins, which involves me essentially translating what they’ve told me into plain speech while still maintaining the essence of a product’s function or process. At DoubleVerify, we have an established review process where all involved parties give notes or request changes. Once these have been incorporated or addressed, the documentation is published.
Q: What advice would you give to a professional writer interested in a career like yours?
A: I would encourage them to give technical writing a chance! It may not be the most well-known career path, but it’s a great way to learn more about different technologies. I’m constantly researching or sitting in meetings with people who are so knowledgeable of systems and processes that I would probably never learn about otherwise. So if you are someone who enjoys tech and learning new things, this is a great career.
Q: What do you look for in assessing potential new hires?
A: I look for someone who is organized (time management is so important!) and can work independently, but can also be a team player when it’s needed. As mentioned above, technical writing is both a collaborative and solo job, so the ideal candidate would be someone who can navigate both. I would also look for someone who is genuinely curious and asks a lot of questions. You have to be interested in the things you write about in order to convey information in a way that offers solutions or answers questions, instead of raising them.
Thank you to Sandra Darkwah for sharing her professional writing journey with us.
To learn more about the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies, visit sps.nyu.edu/mspw