Featured Tech Communicator: Kylee Gray - Unison

September 2021

A headshot of Kylee smiling - she has short, curly brown hair and is wearing glasses, earrings, and a pounamu carving necklace

In May this year, Kylee Gray, a technical communicator with Unison in Hawkes Bay, came along to our Wellington branch event. Kylee was delighted to find other members (including the presenter) that she could compare notes with over tools and experiences they share. And we were delighted to have such a keen and interesting member turn up - a perfect candidate for this column! Megan Bennett caught up with Kylee to find out more.

Give us a quick rundown of what Unison does.

Unison is the fifth largest electricity distributor in New Zealand. We supply electricity across the Hawke’s Bay, Rotorua and Taupo regions to over 114,000 consumers. Unison achieves this through the provision, operation and long-term management of its electricity distribution infrastructure, including overhead lines, underground cables, transformers and substations.

Are you the only technical communicator or are you part of a team? How much collaborating or autonomy do you have in your role?

I am part of the Networks Standards team, which comprises three technical communicators led by the Asset Management Standards Manager. The documents we produce are checked to ensure they meet Company standards by a Technical Documentation Specialist.

The Network Standards team work together to identify ways we can support our Subject Matter Experts (SME) through the document lifecycle, improve our written content and develop a consistent and efficient approach.

What content do you produce?

In March 2018, Unison became the first New Zealand company to be certified to ISO 55001, the global benchmark for asset management capability. Our team specialises in compiling and maintaining the documentation associated with the lifecycle management of our assets such as their acquisition, operation, maintenance and disposal.

We produce controlled documentation in the form of policies, strategies and frameworks, procedures, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and task instructions, and any training documentation to support its initial roll out.

We also assist in the annual production of the Regulatory Asset Management Plan (RAMP) which is a requirement of the Commerce Commission.

Can you tell us about a rewarding project you've been involved in lately?

In June 2021 I worked with my Subject Matter Expert to complete a re-write of an Inspection Standard. Implementation required the training of our Field Inspection Surveyors across all regions. I was responsible for the development of the training materials and facilitating the full day workshop, partnering with the SME. It was an insightful experience that will have a long-lasting impact on how I write and structure documentation in the future to support its users.

Do you work with subject matter experts?

I work directly with Subject Matter Experts to determine the scope of the document, audience, and its use. In addition, I collaborate with SME and internal stakeholders to set deadlines, coordinate workshops to gather information and consult with peer reviewers, ultimately driving the development of the documentation from the outset.

How much focus does your team put on using plain language?

Our team of technical writers are not subject matter experts and I feel this works in our favour. I have the privilege of working closely with electrical engineers who are experts in their field, and for a business that nurtures a culturally diverse workforce, employing people from across the globe. You can imagine the ease at which content can get lost in translation!

We focus on writing content for our audience. Our stakeholders often provide valuable feedback to ensure we incorporate terms that are commonly used in the industry and workplace. We also have a vigorous peer review process that involves key users of the document, to ensure they understand the content. However, there are times where technical jargon and terms are unavoidable, and this is where we utilise an enterprise-wide glossary.

What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?

I love the fact that I am constantly learning from and communicating with such clever people across the organisation about complex and interesting topics!

You're a technical communicator in Hawkes Bay - are there any difficulties being based outside of the main cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch?

Most definitely! Recently I attended a networking event in Wellington and was able to meet other members of the TechCommNZ community. It was valuable to hear their experiences implementing new technology, software and what processes they utilised in their organisation.

We would love to share our experiences and learn from other organisations how they capture knowledge, produce and manage content and navigate some of the challenges we face, but our location restricts the ability for us to attend networking events.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a technical communicator?

My best advice is to learn by reflecting on your experiences. Whenever you are involved in writing or updating a document, carry out a debrief with everyone who was involved. Ask everyone, what went well, how it could have been done better and if you achieved your objective? Implement change, do some self-directed learning and challenge yourself to improve!

Thanks, Kylee!