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Why Ten Forward Values Technical Documentation

Published September 12, 2018

At Ten Forward Consulting, we believe technical documentation is critical for establishing an inclusive company culture and growing better developers.

As an Apprentice Ruby on Rails Developer, I come across processes that I don't understand every day. Writing down terminal commands or software installation steps while providing context helps me as I build my development skills. It gives me an idea of what I'm working with, and how to make software do what I want. 

The more I write things down, the more tools I have to execute my code, set up my development environment, and fix pesky Rails errors. 

Since I started at Ten Forward, I've created a twelve-page document full of commands that I refer to (and share with my teammates!). 

Technical documentation creates a sense of community

Photo courtesy of WOC in Tech ChatAfter we hired our newest intern Kate Powers (who is awesome), I realized that the tips and tricks I wrote down could be re-structured to be easily read and followed by others. 

This realization led me to really appreciate technical documentation and how we use it to build a strong community at Ten Forward. 

Technical documentation prevents information siloing within lead developers so that other developers - or even non-technical team members - can get a better understanding of a certain project or process. 

In addition to sharing knowledge between team members, technical documentation also provides an opportunity for everyone to contribute, provide solutions, and to generate feedback on existing processes. 

After I gave a talk about technical documentation at our weekly all-hands meeting, I received great feedback from my team about how we'd like to create more documentation regarding certain processes and software so that anyone could understand how it works. 

Technical documentation provides a safety net

Say you made a mistake, like accidentally deleting all of the files off of your computer with the dreaded and powerful git clean command. At the very least, having steps written down to get the software set up on your computer can mitigate time lost.

If you haven't guessed already, this happened to me right before I left for the Write Speak Code 2018 Conference in New York.

It was stressful and I felt silly, but I learned a lot and got my computer up and running in no time. 

I generally try to turn any mistake into an opportunity to grow and to be prepared; in this case, I wrote a personal incident report and gave myself some feedback on where I went wrong, what I could do to avoid this in the future, and how to backup my files should this ever happen again. My personal technical documentation helped me pick myself up after wiping my development environment clean, and could probably help someone else if they should ever repeat my mistake in the future. 

Technical documentation builds confidence

Starting a new trade takes persistence, humility, and belief in yourself. I've learned to be OK with being confused and needing to ask for help. Technical documentation helps speed up the learning process up for me and for others, ultimately saving time and money. 

I'm happy to take abstract ideas and translate them into English so that I or my teammates can use them successfully in the future, and I believe my teammates feel the same. Creating technical documentation ultimately builds upon our skillsets and our confidence as developers, regardless of our level of experience. 

Final thoughts

If you're reading this blog post and are thinking of all the processes that you can nail down with technical documentation, or are thinking of the ways technical documentation has helped your company succeed, I've done my job. 

After I gave my talk at our internal meeting last month, our QA analyst Kate Mahoney and intern Kate Powers championed a documentation brainstorming session, and continue to rock out documenting some of the more complicated processes of our content management system, The Bridge

It's great to be part of this team, and even better to see our knowledge base grow. 

Author details

Victoria Guerrero

(Former junior developer)