Three years ago I had the good fortune to join the company sponsoring the world's most popular open source rich text editor project.

At the time I didn't know a thing about WYSIWYG editors. Or for that matter much about HTML or CSS. I remember instantiating the editor for the first time and thinking, "wow, this is magic." In truth, I still kinda feel that way.

Yet within 3 months of start I had a better grasp of the product and the product's value to market than any of the non-engineering staff. Without exception. How did I do it? By re-writing the developer documentation*.

The benefits of writing docs – or doing a similar technical task – are numerous for both employee and company.

Three ways to expedite onboarding

  1. She will get up to speed with the core product technically extremely quickly.
  2. She will need to play around with the product to confirm that what she wrote actually works, obtaining hands-on experience in the process.
  3. She will encounter issues requiring a conversation with the engineering or product team. Technology marketers must be able to speak geek.

This is especially true for product marketers. You must understand your customer's needs intimately. You must also deeply understand the product's technical features and benefits to create revenue generating value proposition.

The onboarding benefits of getting new hires to write docs, technical whitepapers, etc, are numerous. Increased execution speed, product familiarity and cross-department team engagement are only three of the benefits.

* I wrote all general reference docs except the API documentation, which was and still is the domain of the engineering team.