DigitalOcean’s community website provides thousands of tutorials on a wide variety of cloud topics and couldn’t exist without the exceptional writers who contribute articles. We spoke with Alex Garnett, Senior Technical Writer II, about what it’s like to write for community. Alex recently reached a 100-tutorial milestone.
Q: What does a Technical Writer do?
Alex: Technical writers, in a general sense, take technical or new and exciting tools and write about them in a way that makes them usable by a broader audience. Broader can mean a lot of things. It can mean a very wide audience, all developers everywhere. At DigitalOcean, we get to go out and write about just about anything. We are always looking for new concepts, new fun things, or new cool cloud technologies to write about.
Q: How did you get into this field of work?
Alex: I started as a digital archivist. I worked with cultural heritage materials, which sometimes would be older software or analog media—audio and video. There is a great community of people who work with audio/visual preservation and do a lot of work with open source tooling. They try to use tools that everyone can access, and I got into this line of work that way. You’re always looking for ways to make a small improvement to existing open source tools for working on a server with all different kinds of media. It was a fun career path.
Q: What does a typical day look like?
Alex: I’ll try and make this interesting. I start my day with some tea. There’s a bakery down the road from me that will sell frozen croissants, and I like to keep those at home and make them in the mornings. I might exercise a bit and then settle in for my day of work. I don’t do my best writing in the morning, so I try to spend that time doing research, providing feedback to my teammates, having meetings, or doing other task-oriented things. Around lunchtime, I will try to get outside to clear my head, usually going for a bike ride. I do my best writing in the afternoon, so I keep that time free to focus on writing. When I want to focus and crank out a piece, I’ll take my laptop to the couch and sit down with an afternoon coffee.
Q: How do you stay productive throughout the day?
Alex: I try to get up and move around frequently. A change of scenery helps me think differently, so even in my apartment, I will move around throughout the day. I come up with my best ideas sometimes when I’m away from my desk when I’m not trying to think about work, so I write down those thoughts in the notes app on my phone. The right amount of caffeine also helps.
Q: Is there anything special you do to take breaks throughout the day?
Alex: I like to take bike rides or take my motorcycle for a lap around downtown. I also like to play with my cats, Leo and Sophie.
Q: What do you enjoy about being a Technical Writer?
Alex: I like being able to cover a lot of popular, useful, modern, and technical content. It’s really hard to find a job where staying on top of what’s popular and interesting is the job. Usually, you have to do your job and then try to keep up with new ideas on top of it. I like making content more accessible to more people and writing about complex topics in a way that more people can understand and use.
Q: What keeps the job fun?
Alex: The team. The culture at DigitalOcean is amazing, and I love the team. It’s great to work at a company that knows what it wants to do. DigitalOcean’s commitment to simplicity for developers comes through in everything we do, and I enjoy that mission.
Q: Any advice for someone who may be interested in becoming a technical writer?
Alex: I have to plug the Recurse center. They are a New York-based organization that I went to when I was considering a career transition. They pitch it as a career retreat for programmers. Besides that, focus on clarity and breadth in your topics. You can also try out the Write for DO program!
Q: You recently made a 100-tutorial milestone. What drives you to learn and write about new technologies?
Alex: I didn’t write 100 pieces from scratch; some of that is updating and expanding on existing content. I think the hobbyist element is really helpful for me. I have several raspberry pi’s here, and I just enjoy thinking about this stuff.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
Alex: I like to travel. I’ve visited 40 of the 50 states in the United States and want to make it to all 50. I like film and photography, and I recently started shooting some drone photography which is pretty fun. I also train in Krav Maga.
Q: I also hear you’re a fan of kitsch. Do you have any recent kitschy anecdotes or possessions that you’d like to share with us?
Alex: Yes. I just got this Amtrak bumper sticker from the 1970s oil crisis. It says, “Amtrak Relieves Gas Pains,” and I just can’t believe someone thought this would be something people would want on their cars. I had to have this. I like kitschy old advertising and have a lot of things like this around my house.
Interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at DigitalOcean? Check out a list of benefits and open positions on our careers page.