Our Technical Writer, Egor Abramenko, has been working for Travelpayouts for five years, and now, he is proud to be the “Chronicler of Travelpayouts.” We call him this because of his ability to write the most understandable guidance for affiliates and to document the history of our development. Egor told us about the importance of documenting every step of the company and shared his work experience. He also explained how to work in the same room with children, why he’s never had existential crisis and parts of the world that will blow you away by the beauty of nature.
- Once, I had the experience of running a language school. I was somewhat of a managing director. I would buy desks, upgrade computers, buy stationary and work on the school website.
- The gaming company, Alawar, has an office in Barnaul, Russia, where I live. In 2012, they put out a job description for a project manager with technical writing skills for the gaming industry. I responded to this job offer, and that’s how my introduction into technical writing started. In the end, I got carried away with technical writing to the extent that it became my passion.
My role in Travelpayouts
- I explain complex concepts in simple words. I write guidance for the purpose of looking out for people, targeting both newbies and experienced customers, so that they know how to work with our affiliate tools, how to adjust and how to use them. All the guidance is stored in our knowledge base, where affiliates can find information on how to upgrade their projects and make money.
- I enjoy the process of technical writing, and the gathering and structuring of information. It includes more than just manuals for affiliates. If I stumble upon anything that might be useful for us, I save it to our internal “Wiki,” and the knowledge base expands everyday. I like to collect information in advance.
- Technical writing and copywriting are as different as a developer and a user. A good technical writer should know how to write a text and have a range of the following skills:
- Technical proficiency – The ability to get to the bottom of your subject.
- Logical thinking – Write consistent texts and explain things from smaller to larger concepts.
- A brevity of statements – Don’t waste the user’s time and provide clear instructions.
- Deduction skills – Understand to whom you should ask what questions and have the ability to draw conclusions.
- Some amount of self-mockery – Don’t worry if you don’t know something. Just keep studying the subject at hand, even if you have to ask “silly” questions.
A guide for beginners
I came up with an idea of writing a guide for new webmasters in 2018. There is a lot of information dispersed on the internet. That’s why I decided to make a brief step-by-step guide for creating a website. For this very reason, I made my own project.
I didn’t reflect long on a potential subject of the project. I just took the first thing that came into my mind, which was Altai. I might have made a strategic blunder while choosing a subject, but it wasn’t my goal to make the project commercial. I wanted to show that there is nothing difficult about it. For this reason, our website has only few readers now. On the flipside, it’s the off-season for holidays on Altai.
From my own experience, I drafted a paper on creating a website, which can be useful for anyone. Our marketing team wrapped up my experience in the form of an e-book, which is available online.
I keep writing articles for the website, and if there is no natural growth of attendance towards the summer, I’ll try other promotion tools. Maybe there will be a new step-by-step guide.
- There are different stages of development of an IT company in Europe. At first, the competition is at the basic level which implies having a better product. After that, it is time for marketing, creating a good image and an attractive wrapper. At the third stage, when each company has a cool product and image, the focus shifts to the exchange and storage of information. All the knowledge should be well-structured, so that clients know how to use a product. This is the responsibility of a technical writer. For this reason, when choosing between two great products, a client will opt for the one with a clear guidance and description.
- I try to write every guide in advance. If a new tool is being developed, I do my writing beforehand. When a product is finally ready to be launched, the instruction has already been prepared, so that affiliates can use the product right away. Normally, there is no lull in my work. If I don’t have a current topic to write on, I look for the information “from inside.” And there is always room for that.
- Apart from the knowledge base, I have a Changelog. It is a list of tools and upgrades of the affiliate program. We post articles on new offerings, fixed errors and other news. We use it to communicate with affiliates, and they have a rapid source of information about Travelpayouts. It is a good idea to sign up on Changelog to follow the news.
- We use Zendesk for the knowledge base and customer support, the latter being described in detail by Anya Kalinichenko. I will not make an assessment of Zendesk as a customer support service, because I have nothing to compare it to. As for the knowledge base, it is a useful tool with all the necessary options. We had to develop a few functions ourselves (for example, a suitable design, the FAQ page or an enquiry form), but it had both pros and cons.
- The term “knowledge base” is a well-known concept for the webpage where you can find answers to your questions. Sometimes, when we communicate with affiliates, we call our knowledge base “a referral center.”
- As of now, we have 509 articles, 344 are in Russian and 164 are in English.
- The Russian and English knowledge base are almost identical as guides have been translated into English. The only exception are some specialized texts, not relevant to the English audience. For example, the subscription widget description, which is only written in Russian, or material for a specific affiliate’s website.
- I write in both Russian and English. First, I compose a text in Russian, edit it, and only then translate the guide into English. When articles in English pile up, we give them to our proofreader (this is a native speaker who is well-versed in technical questions).
- When I work on new material, I contact the team on emerging issues. For instance, in order to write on financial subjects or describe API parameters, I needed to speak with developers or our director Ivan Baidin. I try to not disturb the team unnecessarily and only contact them if I need to clarify key issues.
- Our team resorts to the affiliate knowledge base as well, in order to learn more about our tools and work terms. As for API articles, they are mostly popular among Travelpayouts and Aviasales (the Russian brand of Jetradar) developers.
- We have an internal knowledge base, which is being actively upgraded now. It works on the platform Confluence, but we explore alternative tools as well.
- The knowledge base expansion is the responsibility of more people than just me. We have a very conscientious team, and they all understand that it is better to spend a couple of minutes adding new information to the knowledge base right away, than spending hours trying to find it later. Our internal database stores all kinds of information, such as:
- Contacts of partners and important affiliates
- Internal guides
- A description of business processes
- Discussion of further plans and various tasks
- A summary of the company features for new employees
- Error analysis and solutions
- An internal database solves a range of issues that might be critical for a company, such as reducing the time of onboarding new employees, reducing the risk of data loss due to the departure of key staff and a faster response to any kind of functionality malfunction.
- For about two years, I was combining technical writing and customer support, by responding to all questions regardless of the crux of the matter. My knowledge of the affiliates’ issues helped a lot in forming the database, so you can find an answer to almost any question imaginable. Now, I only respond to complex technical questions related to the data and search API. Our support managers answer many questions on API themselves, but sometimes there are issues that require more detailed knowledge, so the team contacts me.
- Every year we all gather to celebrate the company’s birthday, and last year it was in Georgia. The event was very well-organized, and the atmosphere was so healthy, I enjoyed the celebration a lot. It would be awesome if these parties became a regular thing.
- Among all of the personality traits, the company values independence, which implies not only having self-discipline, but also being able to take the initiative for the common good. I feel that most people on our team are exactly like that.
- The communication within the company is crucial as well. If it is well-organized, you can be wherever you want and stay in touch with your colleagues as if you were in the same room.
On working remotely
- I have always been inclined to work remotely because no big IT company has an office in my native city Barnaul. A remote job, on the other hand, is a great opportunity for working for a highly prospective company and doing interesting tasks, all of which I found in Aviasales (Russian brand of Jetradar) and Travelpayouts. I joined the team five years ago, and my job is still interesting for me.
- I take great pleasure in working from home, so it is hard for me to even imagine that I would go to an office first thing in the morning where there are other workers. I have children, and they are loud sometimes, but they never interrupt my working process (thank God for headphones). I used to work in the office years ago, and I cannot recall a time when I was able to throw myself into work for the whole day and not be disturbed by anything in that environment. Here is an old photo of me. You can see that I’ve changed and have a different computer now:
- I love what I do. I enjoy writing, structuring and editing information. Meanwhile, my family and I, can pack bags at any time and hit Barcelona for a month. Altering work and holidays, nobody will even notice that I’ve changed the location! My workplace travels with me because I can take my laptop anywhere.
- I hardly experience any type of existential crisis at work. I mean the feeling when your job lacks any sense, and you want to give it up. I take pleasure in my work, and it brings me energy. I can easily work while on holidays, because my job is also my hobby. There are moments when there is not enough of feedback from the team, but mostly due to my physical remoteness from them. Anyway, it happens quite rarely.
Things I’d like to improve
- I believe that we all are on the right track. As with new offers, we become a huge affiliate network rather than just an affiliate program of one company. The only thing we lack is decentralization. I would appreciate if responsibilities were divided among several groups of people who could make a strategy of their own to increase the efficiency of the process. It just so happens that traditionally, there is a boss who gives orders to everybody within the company. However, we are moving towards decentralization right now.
- I need to improve my English, which I do, but maybe not as much as necessary. That’s the only obstacle I face in my work, and I have to ask colleagues for help in such cases.
Let’s get personal
- I graduated from the Physics and Technology faculty and defended the Candidate’s Thesis on Physics in 2010. In this photo, you can see me making bubbles back in 2010, and that’s what my thesis was mainly about.
- I am an introvert, so when the company thanks me for my job, it’s enough for me, and I continue working.
- As for traveling, I have two dreams. One is to see the atlantic coast in Portugal and the other is to visit New York.
- If one day aliens come and ask where to go to understand human nature, I will recommend visiting any megapolis, with the most beautiful one being St. Petersburg. However, I will send aliens to Altai Mountains to see the beauty of nature (ideally, the area around its highest peak called Belukha or the lake Teletskoye), for me, this place will blow your mind.
- I am a simple person, I haven’t stumbled upon any book or film that would change my life, but if you want to know my preference, it is the Soviet animation film “Wings, legs and tails.”
- Among my recently read books, I can highlight “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.
- I admire people who enjoy music in itself. For me, on the other hand, music is just a background sound at work or in a car. As for a corporate party, I would play tracks of such music groups as “Neyromonakh Feofan,” “Anacondaz,” and “Electric six.”
- In 10 years, I see myself as a happy, successful and healthy person, which is an obvious answer for an obvious question.