From Ph.D. in Life Sciences to Technical Documentation in MedTech – Evelyn Susanto

Evelyn Susanto PhD Life Sciences

When it comes to the Healthcare and Life Sciences sector, accuracy in every aspect, every detail of the product is paramount. Concise, accurate, and high-quality product information makes products easy to use and install, which is especially vital in the industry where each decision might save lives. Evelyn Susanto works as an information engineer for Cytiva (former GE Healthcare) through Sigma Technology Information in Stockholm. Before writing technical documentation, she has researched the area of Life Sciences during her Ph.D. practice.

Evelyn, why did you choose to pursue a Ph.D. in Life Sciences?

Since the time I was a little girl, I have always been fascinated by human biology and how our bodies can cope with things happening within themselves as well as their environment. When I started learning biology and human health, my interest has grown even stronger. I got genuinely interested in learning about cancer. Apart from being an awful disease, cancer is, from the scientific point of view, a real riddle – it is interactive, unique from patient to patient, and challenging to treat. That’s what motivated me to start my Ph.D. in Life Sciences – a way for me to acquire skills to research cancer biology. It has been a fantastic experience working in the lab and searching for insight, but after a while, I have decided to try working in a practical field.

How come that you have chosen a path of a technical writer?

I wanted to find another, faster way to contribute to healthcare and see the result of my work. That’s how I got into technical documentation and met Sigma Technology about two years ago. The client I am working for now provides customizable bioprocess equipment to pharma companies that offer treatment. If I can help others to use the equipment efficiently and safely, then I am contributing as well.

Tell us about your role as an information engineer for a Life Sciences company. What value does high-quality technical information bring to our customers?

During my research time, I had to learn how to use chromatography equipment from a Life Sciences company, and I had to rely a lot on the provided technical documentation. This experience has taught me about the importance of good technical documentation – it allows us to perform things fast and effectively, which, in return, influences our perception of the company and its products.

In my daily work, I interact with project managers, engineers, regulatory compliance engineers, and others to understand the project scope and product customization. I then use the information to prepare the appropriate documentation. For me, it is a great experience to see how different aspects come together to create a product. An information engineer creates way more than only user instructions. When you create technical documentation, you need to consider not only the technical aspects but also others such as regulatory, marketing, and practical aspects.

Good technical information enables users, corresponds to their expectations, and helps them prepare to get most of the product experience.

What challenges does a technical writer for the Life Sciences industry face?

The challenges or opportunities, depending on how you look at them, are several.

First, you need to have an adequate understanding of the product(s) you are writing about. When you work on the documentation, you gather data that comes from different functions. Sometimes this data is way more profound than what users need, or sometimes, it’s the opposite, there’s not enough data provided. You need to understand the purpose of the product(s), how to use the product(s), to be able to translate the different information into an appropriate yet user-friendly documentation.

Another challenge is to have a good content management system. A good content management system (for example, using DITA) helps you reuse and repurpose the existing information.

Even though all bigger Life Sciences and MedTech companies have a dedicated regulatory department, as a technical writer, you need to know the applicable regulatory requirements for the products to prepare all required information.

How did your project change during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Our client is actively working with different projects that aim to provide vaccines and possible treatments for the coronavirus. For us, there has been an increased demand for various products and, correspondingly, technical documentation. It is intense, but we also feel encouraged to contribute to the efforts to combat COVID-19.

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