Technical Writer Intern
Core Server Docs
June 2021 to August 2021 (11 weeks)
During the summer of 2021, I joined the Server Docs team at MongoDB's NYC office as a technical writer intern. My team's work primarily revolved around documenting new and updated features on MongoDB's open-source server, geared towards developer audiences. In addition to my day-to-day work, I also jumped into two additional side projects that gave me the opportunity to collaborate with teams outside of just the Docs team.
Cursor Behavior — Documenting changes to cluster cursor behavior in the MongoDB Shell, based on updated timeout conditions in v5.0.
Deprecating Exclusionary Language — Updating all instances of "whitelist" in MongoDB's server docs to "allowlist" and notifying users of deprecated language.
Driver Compatibility — Reminding users to check driver compatibility before upgrading to any different version of the MongoDB server.
Projection Input Edge Cases — Testing and documenting behavior for edge case inputs in the $project aggregation operator's form table.
Sharded Cluster Sample Output — Spinning up a sharded cluster to check and update sample terminal output regarding changes to displayed configuration data.
Slow OpLog Output — Verifying changes to slow operation log messages in MongoDB 5.0 and updating the sample terminal output after testing.
Renaming Sharded Clusters — Noting ability to rename sharded collections in MongoDB 5.0 and distinguishing behavior from unsharded collections.
Given this was my first time ever writing technical documentation for
a developer audience in a corporate setting, the early portion of my
internship involved navigating the ins-and-outs of the product,
asking for guidance when needed, and keeping my mind open in trying to
find a lesson in everything I did.
With this, the first half of my internship largely revolved around ticket-based work. I was onboarded onto the team with my mentor teaching me everything I needed to know: Git, Github, Markdown, JIRA, and the rest of our "Docs-As-Code" workflow. I started with small tickets — typo fixes — that accustomed me to the team's review process. As I got more comfortable with the work and MongoDB's server, my responsibilities evolved into longer features and new v5.0 updates.
Through this rapid ramp-up of work, I quickly learned that technical writing involves much more than just writing. The role came with the additional responsibility of acting as a sort of beta tester for the engineering teams — testing out new features to properly document its behavior. On top of that, all of my written work ultimately boiled down to how we could break down a complex, technical topic in the simplest way for our end user to understand. In that way, I felt we writers played a unique role, acting simultaneously as an educator and advocate for our developer audiences, while juggling our various internal stakeholders as well.
Since I'm only 21-years old, I only have the slightest idea of what I'd actually
want to do with my long-term career. Understanding this, one of my team members, Naomi,
offered to have me jump into two tech-writing-adjacent projects that would help
me explore different types of writing within the company during my internship!
In the first project, I got to work as a sort of technical consultant for MongoDB's architecture diagrams redesign, making sure key server concepts were accurately represented. Here, I got to participate in the design iteration process, mainly trying to solve questions like: Would something that visually makes sense on its own confuse users when integrated into a larger diagram? This project helped me find some initial footing in understanding user experiences and design from an educational, rather than product, standpoint.
For my second project, I was involved directly with writing, helping my team write, edit, and reveiw new copy for our Server Docs landing page. With this project, I directly collaborated with Naomi in writing the web copy — taking part in back-and-forth reviews of each other's work. What differentiated this from my day-to-day tech writing was the way that I got to work with PMMs in balancing the educational responsibilities of the Docs with the necessity for certain marketing placements. Especially because I came from previous experience in marketing, I appreciated this new opportunity to work with the two disciplines side-by-side — figuring out what aspects of one career I may have preferred over the other.
This internship was a really refreshing experience largely due to the way
the Docs team let me hop into the team's everyday workflow, rather than keeping me restrained with
a siloed intern project. With the help of my mentor, Andrew, I felt so well equipped to be able to
just dive into my work with confidence, which in turn helped me discover my own value as a writer.
In the past, especially with my academic English literature classes, I'd continuously pour over small details about my writing style. But with technical writing focusing on accuracy and brevity, I feel I was largely able to break many of my habits of overthinking what my writing communicated. Now, as I continue school with this experience up my belt, I've become much more confident in being able to express my ideas and walk readers through my thought processes, without the need for extra, stylistic flourish.
Andrew Feierabend — Thank you for your patience and constant positive
affirmation in teaching me everything I know about technical writing
and more. I owe so much of my personal growth this summer to you for
Naomi Pentrel — I really appreciate how you were able to pull me into different projects outside of the typical docs workflow, introducing me to new people across the organization. I discovered so much about my own interests within writing, thanks to your active involvement in my intern experience.
Natalie Chwalk — I literally would not be here without you! From dispelling my fears about my first ever technical interview to always being available to answer my questions throughout the internship, I'm so grateful for all the help you've provided along the way.
The Server Docs Team — Without all your support, I would not have thrived as much as I did this summer. Thank you for the seamless onboarding experience, for teaching me about so much beyond just tech writing, and for all your investment in my success.
And everyone else that I had the pleasure of working with this summer! :)