Women at Google: Meet Nicola Yap

For Women’s History Month, we’re profiling some of the powerful, dynamic and creative Canadian women at Google.

How would you describe your job at a dinner party to people who don’t work in tech?
I like to call myself an information untangler, but my official title is Technical Writer! Technical writers create documentation to clearly explain complex or technical information. A few examples of this are hardware manuals, instructions for medical equipment, or help for online banking software. At Google, I write documentation for software developers and other IT professionals who use Google Cloud software.

Was there something specific that pushed you toward your career in tech?
At an early age, my dad introduced me to computers, and it instantly fueled a passion for exploring and problem solving. When I started taking tech writing courses, I quickly realized it was a good fit for me. Instead of doing a summer internship in translation, my professor suggested that I try one in tech writing. While it was a new territory, I ended up loving it. It was so positive that I ended up staying part-time with the company as an intern for two more semesters, while I finished my degree and the rest of the technical writing program. My real-world experience cemented my decision to stay in tech writing.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The projects I work on span multiple product teams, and support both internal and external users which means there are a lot of stakeholders. To ensure customers are successful with our products, I collaborate across these teams so that we can work together to resolve inconsistencies, ambiguity, and differences in view.

What is your favourite part of the job?
I love technology, and I love to teach. Technical writing has combined my two loves, and challenges me every day to simplify technology and complex systems to make them easy to understand, and fun to use.

What is your secret power that makes you successful?
My desire to constantly seek more. I’m always looking for ways to make new connections between people and ideas so that we can build great things together.

What advice would you give to women pursuing a career in technology?
Consider everything you can bring to the table and not just the specific subjects you learned in school.

I remember being frustrated with a programming class in high school and being disheartened because it didn’t match the joy I felt exploring my computer at home. So I never considered software as a career path. Then in university, I stumbled across technical writing when I saw that it was a requirement for my translation degree. Discovering the tech writing program was a turning point for me, and helped me realize that there are so many different ways to contribute to technology that you may not have considered. Asking questions and exploring can lead to a career path you may not have known exists!

What inspires you in your career?
I am truly inspired by the amazing people I get to work with every day. And I’m excited about the many opportunities we have to help reach and mentor the next generation considering careers in tech.

Is there someone that inspires you?
Two things come to mind when you ask this question. The first is my cousin. Simply put, she’s one of those people that is always positive and open to new experiences. She goes outside of her comfort zone, tries new things, and is open to learning. I love to think of her as someone who never lost the curiosity we all have as a child and that’s an amazing quality. Her openness and way of thinking inspires me.

The second thing is an experience. In 2012, I had some personal things going on, I was in a role that I was frustrated with and I really needed inspiration. At the same time, my husband had friends that were looking at starting a PyCon conference in Canada. I joined the board for the inaugural conference. At a time when I really needed to be inspired and needed an outlet, the enthusiasm and dedication of the PyCon Canada organizers got me excited again. It gave me strength and I was enthusiastic about building something to support the developer community in Canada.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of!
I’m passionate about helping people to work productively and be at their best. When you join Google and go through orientation, many of the roles offer role-specific training. However, technical writers didn’t have this personalized experience. Each team did their own writer onboarding, which created an inconsistent experience and longer ramp up times for some writers. I saw an opportunity in my first few months to make a change. I gathered some like-minded colleagues and we developed training that we now deliver to incoming writers.