The Big Picture
Beth did an eight week internship at Storyteller as a Technical Writer Intern. Her main focus was on the documentation of their app called Storyteller which brings the functionality of Stories, like those on Instagram, to clients, allowing them to implement Stories into their own bespoke applications or on their web pages. As Beth didn’t join the company as a developer and didn’t have any experience coding for iOS, Android, or the Web, she mainly worked on documenting the Storyteller Content Management System (CMS).
“I was basically updating the documentation around how to use the CMS, so how clients would be getting their content from their local devices onto the CMS, how to edit it once it was on there, and then explaining how it would appear when users see the content on the app or web SDK.”
Beth was actually the first technical writer in the company and the first person hired to work with the development team solely on documentation.
“It was really cool actually to be the first technical writer. At first, my role and responsibilities weren’t that well-defined and it felt like we all weren’t too sure what to do with me, but after the first week we figured out how I would fit into the development process and it was really nice to be able to help lay the foundations for how the documentation process works within the development life cycle, because there weren’t really any standards around that before I joined.”
The Application Process
Rather than applying directly to a role through an external site, Beth emailed the company directly to express her interest and ask if there was any opportunity for her to join them over summer for some short work experience.
“The role didn’t really exist until I asked for it. I saw a job posting on LinkedIn for a Graduate Technical Writer at Storyteller and thought it looked like my dream job, and I was fully qualified for it aside from not being a graduate, of course, so I just emailed them with my CV and an explanation of why I want to be a technical writer and why I’d like to work for them. From there, I had a meeting with Dave, the CTO, and he offered me the chance to work over summer and then handover to the graduate who secured the original position from the job posting.”
Despite emailing to ask for summer work, Beth was still very shocked when she was actually offered it.
“I reached out not really expecting anything. I figured that nothing bad could come from just asking, and I was right, I got some very good, very enjoyable experience instead.”
Fear of Failure?
“I didn’t really have any sort of fear of failure, I was just excited and shocked that I had been offered the opportunity. I’d already done two internships before this one, one with WRIPA and one with the School of Natural Sciences [at the University of York], and I think that doing those gave me the confidence to reach out to Storyteller in the first place.”
The Learning Curve
Alongside learning where she fit in with the wider development team, Beth had to learn how to use some new technologies, namely GitHub and Jira, both of which she picked up very quickly and greatly enjoyed using.
“I love keeping things organised. Being able to track what you’re doing and see what everyone else is doing on Jira was very nice, and GitHub was relatively easy to use for the most part. I was only editing markdown files and the only commands I used were adding, committing, pushing, pulling, and branching, which was pretty simple. There were definitely issues and things I struggled with though as there always is with any sort of coding environment, but the team members were so helpful and non-judgemental that when I did make mistakes I was able to fix them and take them as learning experiences.”
Now that Beth is in her final year of study, her experience using GitHub in her internship is going to come in extremely useful as she has found out that she will be using it in her final year project.
“Boost user engagement, retention, and revenue with in‑app Stories. Our end‑to‑end platform gives you a best‑in‑class Stories experience in days with native SDKs, publishing tools, analytics, and ad support.” – Storyteller
Beth worked remotely for the duration of her internship and said the flexibility she had in her working hours was something that she very much appreciated and highly valued.
“I worked 40 hours a week and as long as I attended meetings and was available around general office hours, I could start and stop whenever was best for me. I tended to just do a 9-6 with an hour break, but some days I’d start at 7 and finish earlier, or start at 11 and finish later. I just think it’s nice to have that relaxed environment, and everyone is still working hard around that.”
Despite not directly using any physics theory in her role, Beth would say that her choice of degree still made her well-suited for the position.
“There wasn’t any physics directly involved at any point, but I think a physics background and just a general science background massively helped me to get to grips with everything fast, and just the general problem solving skills and analytical skills you get from a physics degree were really helpful. I was always trying to think of ways to make things more efficient.”
Beth would highly recommend getting work experience while you’re still in your early years of your undergraduate degree to help you narrow down your career prospects and figure out what sort of environment you like working in.
“I would say get some sort of experience as soon as you can, then you can start to figure out what you like. When I came to university I joined the Integrated MPhys degree with the intention to do a PhD but after my first internship with WRIPA I realised that actually, I don’t need to do a master’s and a PhD and discover some new bit of physics to feel like I’m contributing something. I’m quite happy working away in a small team, doing something that doesn’t touch on physics theory at all. I actually switched off the MPhys and onto the BSc so I can graduate and start working sooner.”
For anyone considering technical writing…
“You can’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they sound like super simple questions that you should know the answer to. If you’re the one writing the final explanation of how something works that clients will use to use your product then you need to be sure you know exactly what you’re writing about. I asked so many questions and people were always more than happy to help explain things.”
The Next Step
Beth is currently set on becoming a technical writer upon graduation.
“I love it. I just love learning new things and disassembling them to explain them in the simplest way possible, and that’s basically what technical writing is all about. If there’s space for me at Storyteller I’d definitely consider working there again, but I’m currently waiting to hear back from a few graduate schemes.”