My Name Is Erik Johnson — This Is What I Achieve at Aha!
What is the best way to accelerate your career? Work in a high-growth company that challenges you and puts learning first. An unwavering motivation to continue improving and achieving is also key. The highest performers constantly pursue new ideas and seek to understand the experiences and motivations of the people around them. We can learn a lot from them.
Curiosity fuels growth — which is why we want to bring you personal stories of achievement from talented people. Our hope is that some of their ideas are useful and maybe even inspirational as you work to become your best.
Meet Erik Johnson — a senior knowledge base manager on the Aha! marketing team. He is an Aha! expert and super user in charge of planning, writing, and expanding Aha! support documentation. Erik lives with his family in Spokane, Washington where he enjoys local lakes and trails.
Read on to learn more about how Erik approaches his work — in his own words.
What energizes you about being a knowledge base manager?
"In every job I have had (and most recreational activities) I tend to take on the same role — I become an expert on a place and then guide people through their own experiences of that place. I worked in luxury active travel for a few years — taking people to new places. And as the head concierge in a high-touch hospitality business, it was my job to know everything about a city, understand our guests, and recommend the perfect evening.
When I switched to tech, I kept the same vision. I work well with products that change constantly and a user base that needs guidance. I love to document steps and processes."
"Maintaining a knowledge base is an exercise in empathy. I address any audience confusion and shepherd customers back on the happy path — or push them to engage further with a feature I know well and am sure they will love too."
What kinds of projects do you enjoy working on most?
"The most meaningful projects I work on are massive cross-functional go-to-market launches. Aha! launches twice a week and the knowledge base team never gets a week off — we support everything. I am proud of our ability to write clear copy very quickly, especially since getting documentation ready for big launches can often be really down to the wire.
In contrast, working through a backlog of updates is my most consistent pleasure. It is the reward I give myself for spending time on a more ambitious project."
Which recent accomplishment at Aha! are you most proud of?
"Since I joined Aha! in 2018 we have launched Aha! Ideas and Aha! Develop, released hundreds of new or updated features, and migrated our knowledge base to a completely different content management system. I noticed that while the user experience was becoming more blended, our knowledge base resources were still siloed. I spent a few months researching how best to document overlapping functionality while still catering to a single-product user. That strategic research became our suite knowledge base.
I am proud of this because I was responsible for generating it and have watched my own skills grow in the process. Rather than focusing on checking off batches of smaller tasks (which can feel very satisfying in the moment), I embraced strategic planning and forward-thinking. I can better anticipate customer needs and I feel more comfortable creating a plan — with an awareness that details may change."
What kinds of challenges have you faced and how have you solved them?
"I was used to working at startups that were unpredictable and chaotic — we would lose funding, a vendor, or even teammates overnight. Success meant working hard and long and not sweating the strategy. In one role before Aha! in the span of a year I had five titles, four salaries, and three bosses. Coming to Aha! was like moving from a backfiring jet ski to a high-performance ocean liner. We were a small team but suddenly all the work linked to strategy. There were defined processes and review cycles. I was no longer going rogue — it was an adjustment and it felt good to be part of a team working toward the same goals.
Aha! does what it plans to do and we remain bootstrapped and profitable. The system works. We still move incredibly fast. It took some time for me to find my sense of autonomy within the structure, but I got there. Now I feel free — much more free than when I was working endless days worrying that something could implode in the morning."
What is the most surprising but useful career advice someone has given you?
"My mentor in one of my active travel jobs once told me, 'Never get between a guest and something they want.' This stuck with me. If someone was struggling on a bike tour, they might not want the leader riding behind them chatting. Or if I was describing a route and I might be tempted to say, 'Today's route has my favorite climb, I love it.' But then if the guest hated the hill it reflected poorly on my recommendation. Better to say, 'Today's route has a stair-stepping 2.5 miles of climbing at an average eight percent grade. If you like that sort of riding, you are in for a treat.' Then it is just them and the hill.
When I applied that advice to tech writing, I tried to pull tone out where it was not needed. For example, while personality and energy can make content fun, people coming to a knowledge base for help do not want to play. They need clear instructions that are easy to skim. So I introduced section headers and top links into the knowledge base that did not exist before. It might be more entertaining to have jokes and asides in there — but less useful. It echoes my former mentor's advice: Do not get between the reader and something they need."
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