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Flex Fridays: Amruta Ranade Vlogs about Tech Writing

Flex Fridays: Amruta Ranade Vlogs About Tech Writing
Perhaps the best-known benefits at Cockroach Labs is our Flex Friday policy. Cockroach Labs uses Flex Fridays as a way to provide our employees with balance. While it is interpreted differently by each department, we’re excited to share what some employees work on during these days.
Amruta Ranade is a Senior Technical Writer on our Education team. While in the office, you can find her documenting our Managed Service Offering; outside the office, you can find her creating Youtube videos.

Flex Fridays are a dedicated time to focus on my side-quests which include learning and experimenting with different ways of communicating technical information and then finding ways of incorporating them into my documentation tasks.

My ongoing Flex Friday project is making YouTube videos about tech writing and life in tech. 

I was an avid YouTube fan even before I started my channel. I used to binge-watch videos by The Curious Engineer, vlogbrothers, and Charli Marie. As a technical writer, I was fascinated by the way they used the medium to convey complex topics in an entertaining way. I started making my own amateurish tech videos and received tremendous encouragement from my fellow Roachers. This motivated me to keep going with the project which has now developed into a creatively satisfying hobby that’s potentially helpful to others.

Some of my favorite video projects:

Database Security Concepts

This is a 3-minute explainer video about database security topics, namely authentication, authorization, encryption, and audit logging. I made this video when I was working on the CockroachDB security docs and realized that these topics are important yet intimidating even for experienced engineers. I wanted to find an easily-digestible and entertaining way to educate our audience about the different aspects of database security. 

Conceptualizing and story-boarding the video was the most difficult part of the process, whereas creating the animations was the most fun part.

Tech Experiment: My Plan and Process of Building an App

This video gives a behind-the-scenes look at my process of learning a new tech stack. As technical writers, we are often told that we should constantly work on our tech skills, but there isn’t enough guidance on how to go about it. One of my goals for the channel is to be transparent about how messy the tech learning process is and share how I decide what to learn and find the right resources to learn it. 

Since I am not a software engineer, working on this series makes my imposter syndrome worse. However, I take solace in the fact that being transparent about my struggles with learning new tech encourages other non-engineer technical writers to tackle unfamiliar tech stacks.

Writing Experiment: I tried (tech) writing like Kate Cavanaugh

In this video, I tried the writing routine of my favorite authortuber (an author who makes YouTube videos). This is my favorite video so far. It helped me break out of my writing rut and pushed me to the limits of my video-making capabilities. I hadn’t done a day-long vlog before and found it to be tiring but extremely fun. I look forward to another writing experiment vlog next quarter.

In short, Flex Fridays allow me to indulge my creativity and stay engaged in my job without burning out. Beyond that, they also help me develop my personal brand as a credible voice in the tech community.

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