- Dernie Hashemzadeh

Term : November, 2015
Department : Business and Management
Program : Technical Writing & Communication

Dernie Hashemzadeh started her career as a coder at Accenture, where she eventually transitioned into user training and documentation, skills she later applied as a consultant for a small Bay Area firm. When her supervisor recommended she take a marketing course, she enrolled at UCSC Extension, where she discovered the Technical Writing and Communications certificate program. She was able to apply skills learned in class to her work managing projects and communicating with technical teams—which helped her decide to pursue the certificate in 2013. Since completing the certificate, Hashemzadeh has gone on to a career in product management at Salesforce.

What attracted you to technical writing?

At the time I wanted to become a business analyst, and I wanted to learn how to best build my documentation skills. I started taking some courses, and they were immediately impactful. I was working at a consulting firm, where I would work with customers in a project management or business analyst role; there was a lot of emphasis on communication. I was in charge of creating technical training guides, prototypes and mockups. One of the benefits of the program was that it was very hands-on. A lot of the homework assignments focused on very real, very specific projects, and they provided guidance on best practices that you could apply at work. That was really awesome. I realized after taking just a few classes that I should finish the whole program.

Which courses stood out to you?

“Writing Successful Instructions, Procedures and Policies” was really helpful. Even though I took it five years ago, I use those skills to this day when creating documentation. “Grammar and Style for Technical Communicators” helped me to be clearer in my writing. “Developing Technical Information From Plan to Completion” was one of the best classes; it was very direct in telling us what we should or shouldn’t do, which I liked because I could immediately put it to use. “Usability Testing Documentation” was really interesting; the exercises showed us how to develop a plan for testing usability.        

I still use the skills I learned at Extension, and I really liked the feedback. I appreciated the fact that we were allowed to do assignments based on the work we were doing at the time, which was really helpful. For example, if I was working on a project at work, and it was in the development phase, I learned that I’d have to create user guides down the line, so I was able to start looking ahead and planning for the next phase. That was really helpful.

How do you apply these technical writing skills to your work today?

As a product manager at Salesforce, I help our internal sales teams and different business units within sales, with their technology needs. I work with my stakeholders and technical team to develop solutions. I have to write project kickoff documentation and use cases—both of which I learned how to do in my classes. A lot of the skills I learned at Extension were very applicable to the work I do and have helped me a lot in my career.

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