Abigael Donahue: Technical Writer

Name: Abigael Donahue

Age: 24 years

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelor of Arts in English from Norwich University, Class of 2015

Current Location: Cambridge, MA

Current Form of Employment: Technical Writer at HubSpot

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work as a Technical Writer at HubSpot, a global marketing and sales software company. I translate complex software concepts—from operating the CRM to setting up technical integrations—into human language that users can understand and look forward to reading.  

In the tech industry, writing is very prominent. HubSpot needs people to build the software, but also people to communicate its functionality and strategy. That’s where I come in.  

On a regular day, I’ll work across departments including product, engineering, content, and technical support to stay on top of what’s happening with the software. I then use this information to plan new content or edit existing documentation to ensure that our articles accurately reflect the software’s most up-to-date functionality.

Additionally, I take on writing opportunities at HubSpot unrelated to my core role, including blog writing and editing as well as writing projects outside of work. I store all of my writing samples in my online portfolio. In a nutshell, I use my writing every day at HubSpot to communicate the functionality of and strategy behind the software.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Throughout my time as an English major in college, I always had people sarcastically tell me, “Good luck finding a job!” While thoughtful of them to share their good wishes, I didn’t need any luck. Finding a job with a B.A. in English was not an issue at all. I graduated in May 2015 and I landed my first job one month later as a Marketing/Proposal Coordinator at Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc., a civil engineering firm.  

I found the job posting online on a job board, and I applied, as I did with many other jobs. You really have to make job searching your full-time job after graduation. In total, I probably applied to over 90 positions during that one month between graduation and my first day at Hoyle, Tanner.

“I found the job posting online on a job board, and I applied, as I did with many other jobs. You really have to make job searching your full-time job after graduation. In total, I probably applied to over 90 positions during that one month between graduation and my first day at Hoyle, Tanner.”

My primary responsibility was working across different engineering teams to create content for our technical proposals. I wrote technical content, designed proposal layouts, copy edited too many pages to count, and combined content from a diverse group of contributors to produce cohesive documents that told our clients who we were and what skills we had to offer.

I also wrote for the company’s blog when I wasn’t working on proposals.

I later applied the technical content creation, writing/editing, and communication skills I built at Hoyle, Tanner to my first job at HubSpot in May 2016. I found HubSpot while I was researching marketing (I always wanted to learn as much about the industry I was working in). I applied online and interviewed for the first round two days later. I initially came on board as an Associate Technical Support Specialist, where I provided support to HubSpot users in all areas of the HubSpot software. After nine months, I was promoted to a CRM/Sales Product Specialist. While writing wasn’t my full-time job yet, I continued to write as much as I could for different content platforms until I landed the Technical Writer position in August 2017.

While my career is only a little under three years old, I have fine-tuned my writing, editing, and content creation skills while building up my technical expertise and product knowledge.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I had the privilege of doing freelance editing and research projects for one of my Norwich professors, Professor Sean Prentiss.

Not only was I a student of his for a couple writing classes, but I also worked closely with Professor Prentiss on The Chameleon, Norwich University’s literary journal. I was a member of the editorial team for three years before taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief during my senior year. I also worked with him on a grant writing project for the Vermont Humanities Council. We put the contribution toward Norwich’s PoemCampus celebration. Over the course of my time at Norwich, we worked together to highlight the importance of literary arts on a military campus.

After graduating, I had the pleasure of copy editing Professor Prentiss’s work; projects ranged from textbooks to autobiographies. He’s such a gifted writer and I’m so honored I was included in his writing process for a variety of his publications.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

During my first two years, I focused solely on immersing myself in writing and literature, the two loves of my life. By throwing myself into my academics, I started building skills that I could apply to my future career: communication, writing, research, and public speaking. I also learned how to create and defend an argument after writing an abundance of essays which all required a well-researched thesis.

“Getting a job requires you to know how to market the experience you have. As an English major, you have the skills you need to succeed in a range of industries. You just need to market those skills to specific positions.”

My junior and senior years were no exception. I continued to focus primarily on my studies and getting as much out of the curriculum as I could. Four years fly by, and that was starting to sink in as I aged out of the University. I tried to absorb as much as I could from every class I took.

However, I also started weaving in some career planning. I joined a mentorship program and chatted with my professors who had backgrounds in publishing and writing, two fields I wanted to explore post-graduation. On top of that, I worked with Norwich’s Career Center to get tips on creating a résumé and cover letter and to practice my interviewing skills.

To best prepare for a post-grad life, focus on getting good grades (they do matter, like it or not), working hard in your classes, and pursuing side projects that interest you. You can then layer in some light career planning such as interviewing and job application practice with your University’s career center. Getting a job requires you to know how to market the experience you have. As an English major, you have the skills you need to succeed in a range of industries. You just need to market those skills to specific positions.

Looking back now, I wish I didn’t stress so much about graduation. After getting a job, the rhythm of the work world becomes natural, just like college. If you’re a current college student, slow down and don’t be in a rush. It’s easy to get caught up in your own thoughts about moving on to the next big thing, constantly strategizing on how to succeed in the career you don’t have yet.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

The people who say you can’t get a job with an English degree are the ones who never tried. You can go far with a degree in English. Articulation holds more power than anyone can imagine.

Click here to visit Abigael Donahue's website! 


Posted on February 17, 2018 and filed under Technical Writing, Interview, Interviews.

Nagisa Toyooka: Supplemental Instruction Leader

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Name: Nagisa Toyooka

Age: 29

College & Majors/Minors: BA in English, University of Southern California

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Supplemental Instruction Leader at El Camino College

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for mathematics courses at El Camino College. Every academic semester, I get assigned to a different course where I attend class with my students, discuss with the professor what class material I should review during “SI sessions,” and promote and facilitate review sessions that are tailored to the specific class I’ve been assigned to. It’s an interesting position and maybe a little confusing to the students who sometimes think I’m a tutor (which I’m not because I don’t work with students one-on-one) or if they ask me about their grades (which I don’t know about because I’m not a TA). I would describe it as a combination between being a teacher, TA and a tutor. Many colleges and universities around the country use the SI program as an academic program to help students succeed in stereotypically difficult courses. 

I know that as English majors many of us get asked if we would ever teach. I was one of the skeptical ones, but being in my current position, it’s definitely the most rewarding position I’ve ever been in and it makes me rethink what I want and what I value in my long-term career goals. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Long story short, between my junior and senior year in college I realized that although I love writing and being immersed in artistic creativity, as I career I wanted to do pursue something that would continue to intellectually challenge me and be math-biology oriented. I wanted to pursue a research career in public health. 

But, instead of switching majors or staying in school for a few extra years, I decided it was better for me to graduate on time and figure out if what I thought I wanted to do was what I wanted to do with my life. Some of my first few jobs outside of college were working as a cashier at a ramen restaurant, working as an editorial intern at Tokyopop, and organizing specimens as an Implant Retrieval Lab volunteer at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children. I feel like the volunteer experience was what convinced me to follow that inkling I felt during my last years in college. 

After a few years in the workforce, I decided to go back to school to complete prerequisite courses that would help me to apply to graduate programs that interested me. I decided to complete lower-division requirements at El Camino College where I started working as a tutor at their math study center. While I worked as a tutor, I heard that the SI program was looking for new SI leaders and I applied. I’ve been a student in an SI session myself when I was a student at USC and I remember thinking that if I had the opportunity to be an SI leader, I’d want to do it, so I’m really glad I’ve been able to do this! 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

In addition to working as a SI leader, I also write for Hubpages, which is a user-generated-content website. When I was an intern at Tokyopop, I wrote an article every week on their “Learning Japanese” blog. Before that position, I wasn’t really interested in writing online or blogging because I had an image that blogging was like a diary except you write online. But the Learning Japanese blog showed me that blogs aren’t necessarily about personal stuff, but it could something informative and educational. 

This is kind of a tangent, but having an English background and being a math tutor I feel like it makes me a different kind of instructor than say, an instructor with a science-math background. I try to be mindful of how I communicate with my students, especially if they make mistakes. I’ve noticed many students have “math anxiety” which I think comes from feeling discouraged about their mathematical abilities so when I talk to my students, I make it a priority to sound encouraging even though they may totally be approaching the problem wrong! I believe I’m able to do that kind of “thoughtful” communication because of the verbal and written communication training that comes from being an English major. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I wish I could say that I worked several internships, networked like crazy and landed a prestigious position after college, but that wasn’t the case. 

I think networking is for real, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world either even if we don’t have a large professional network. I feel like networking increases the chance that our resumes get looked at and bypasses some red tape, but the probability that we actually get hired for the position is the same whether we got an interview because we know someone at the company or submitted an application online. 

I always worked throughout college and I’m sure subconsciously it has helped me develop the kind of work ethic we need to be successful after college. I feel like with me it’s the opposite—being in the real-world helped me realize things I could have done better as a student. When I went back to school, I realized the power of having relevant experience on my resume, but it’s hard for me to do internships during the academic year (because I work and go to school), but every summer I made sure I did something research-y oriented because that’s what I would ultimately like to do. 

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

I feel like the best thing about being an English major is that it doesn’t prepare you for only one type of job or one type of career. If I met someone with say, an engineering degree, I kind of have an idea of what kind of company they would want to work for or what type of career path they might lead. But having said that, I also feel like the best thing about being an English major is also what makes it the hardest thing—there’s so much you can do with it that it can be really overwhelming! If there’s any advice that I could give, I would suggest that if a student is interested in becoming an English major, I would ask them to ask themselves why they want to study it and how it fits in with the rest of their life goals.

This is another tangent, but I read somewhere online once (and I agree with this statement) that when employers are hiring nowdays, they look for really specific skills that we may or may not learn during school, so I would also suggest that along with getting an English degree to get marketable experiences and skills which they could pad their resumes with. 


Posted on February 16, 2018 and filed under Teaching, Interview, Interviews.

Cassie Viau: Marketing Manager

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Name: Cassie Viau

Age: 31

College & Majors/Minors: Plymouth State University – Bachelor of Arts in English, Writing Concentration, Business Administration Minor

Current Location: Salem, NH

Current Form of Employment: Marketing Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at a national healthcare staffing agency as the Marketing Manager. My team and I handle all of the marketing efforts for the company, including blogs, social media, digital advertising, print materials, and event planning. We have five unique divisions within the company to support, so it’s a busy job, but a ton of fun. It’s a great opportunity to do a little bit of everything in the marketing world! 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I started in the world of marketing back in 2009, when social media and blogs were just starting to become a mainstream idea for businesses. I happened across a job opening on Craigslist for a copywriter who would be comfortable using sites like Facebook and Twitter. I immediately jumped at the chance to start a job that would actually use my writing skills—I was working as a bank teller at the time and desperate to start a real career. I ended up getting hired for that position and spent the next six-and-a-half years working my way through the ranks at a small digital marketing agency. I eventually ended up as the Director of Social Media Services, managing a full team of content writers, graphic designers, and social media specialists.

In 2015, I was contacted on LinkedIn by my current company. They were looking for someone to come in and jumpstart their marketing efforts and liked my background. It ended up being an incredible opportunity for me to build a new team from the ground up and develop a marketing plan for a great company. And with my experience at a marketing agency, I was already used to balancing projects and deadlines for a range of clients. Now, my “clients” are the different divisions that we have.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

While I was working at the digital marketing agency I was deeply engrained in the world of social media—especially Twitter. Through the connections I had there, I ended up with a freelance gig writing a weekly column for a local paper all about social media. I’d explain what different social media sites were, how to use them, and help people feel more comfortable with this new world that was changing quickly. The articles I wrote there ended up leading to another freelance gig teaching local real estate agents how to manage their own marketing and social media accounts. I’d work at the digital agency during the day and then consult and write at night. I lived and breathed social media marketing 24/7, and that dedication helped me stay ahead of trends and move my career along. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

There are a few things that I did in college that helped prepare me for my post-grad life. I was actively involved in a few different English major related clubs, including Sigma Tau Delta, the honor society. I was also a mentor for incoming English majors with a few friends. Through the mentoring group, we developed a digital “writing center” for students who had quick questions about their essays and assignments. We used AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) at the time. It was one of the first times I’d hack some sort of technology to give people what they were looking for, which turned out to be really helpful in a digital marketing career.

“Adding a Business Minor to my writing degree also helped a lot.”

I was also the founding editor of a newsletter for the English department. My version was old school—a PDF I’d create in Publisher. But now that newsletter has transformed into a blog that students contribute to. It’s really exciting to see how it’s evolved with the times.

Adding a Business Minor to my writing degree also helped a lot. During the summer between sophomore and junior year, I was calling around to different publishing companies, book agents, and publications to try and find some internship experience. One of them told me that they were sick of seeing English majors with no business sense apply for jobs and completely shut me down. I immediately went back to school and added that minor to help give myself a leg up for life after graduation!

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

“Classes in journalism, social media, marketing, or even web development can really help you round out your education and make you more marketable to employers.”

Hustle! As cliché as it sounds, if you can write and work during your time at school, you’ll already have a portfolio ready to go when you graduate. That helps tremendously when you’re applying for copywriting jobs. Employers want to see that you’ve done more than just complete assignments in class. And once you are working, whether it’s in your field or not, keep writing! Take any freelance gig you can get, start your own blog, do something that keeps you writing and honing your craft.

I’d also recommend that you branch out beyond the English department. Taking a few business classes helped give me some baseline knowledge that my bosses appreciated. As fun as it was to spend hours a day reading literature and writing poetry, I’m glad I forced myself to break out into the business department as well. You don’t have to stick to business classes either. Classes in journalism, social media, marketing, or even web development can really help you round out your education and make you more marketable to employers.

You can connect with Cassie Viau on LinkedIn here!


Posted on February 4, 2018 and filed under Marketing, Interview, Interviews.

Hannah Benefield: Academic Success Coordinator

Name: Hannah Benefield

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: BA Interdisciplinary Studies (Minor in English), MA English and Creative Writing

Current Location: Lakeland, FL

Current Form of Employment: Full-time Academic Success Coordinator at Southeastern University

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Southeastern University as an Academic Success Coordinator for ACE, the learning center. In my role, I wear many hats: I hire, train, and manage the tutors for the learning center, create learning resources for our students, teach success workshops, tutor writing sessions, and function as the success coach for the wrestling team. I love every part of it!

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

When I was a few months away from graduation, I began searching for open positions at my university. I knew I loved academia and wanted to stay at Southeastern. I applied to be the Administrative Coordinator for the dean of Behavioral and Social Sciences and I got the job! I started less than a month after graduation. Even though I worked in a totally different department than my background, I learned so much about what the role of “professor” really looks like and developed administrative skills that made it possible for me to take on my current position.

I actually worked at ACE as a writing tutor in my undergrad! I still had a relationship with the Academic Success Coordinator who came before me (my former boss), so when she decided to move on, she suggested that I apply to replace her. I did and waited a few grueling months for an interview. I got the job only a few weeks before the school year began. One crazy year later, I am in love with my constantly changing and expanding job. My coworkers are dedicated, hardworking, and committed to our student’s success, which makes what I do that much more fun.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

As I mentioned, I worked as a writing tutor when I was finishing my BA which really set me up for where I am now and where I am heading. Not only did I develop my proofreading and editing skills but I also learned how to teach those skills to the students that I worked with. These skills have been invaluable as I’ve grown in my career.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Think of your long-term goal and then find ways to start developing the skills you need in order to get there. Even if you’re in a job that isn’t necessarily “in the field,” practice your skills where you’re at and learn how to market them!

I got involved in as many skill-building and career related activities as a possible! I worked as a tutor, joined a poetry group, served as an editor for the university’s literary journal, participated in open mics and other poetry reading events, freelanced as an editor, and developed relationships with my English professors. College is the best time to get involved and start to make connections and develop skills.

For me, so many good opportunities and relationships continue to come out of those experiences.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Think of your long-term goal and then find ways to start developing the skills you need in order to get there. Even if you’re in a job that isn’t necessarily “in the field,” practice your skills where you’re at and learn how to market them!

Become a perpetual student and always be looking for new resources and new ways to get better at your craft. Be strategic with your hobbies, activities, and opportunities. Just as importantly, say yes to opportunities when they arise. Then write a killer resume or CV to highlight all of the skills that your English degree and extracurriculars equipped you with!

You can follow Hannah on Pinterest and connect with her on LinkedIn.


Posted on January 26, 2018 and filed under Teaching, Teacher, English Major Stories, Interviews, Interview.

Sara Kincaid: Manager of Philanthropic Communications

Name: Sara Kincaid

Age: 33

College & Majors/Minors: University of Missouri-Kansas City; B.A. English – Creative Writing (Minor in Classics); M.A. English – Literature

Current Location: Kansas City, Missouri

Current Form of Employment: Manager of Philanthropic Communications at Children’s Mercy Kansas City

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I just started my new job in the Philanthropy department at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Children’s Mercy was founded in 1897 by two sisters who dreamed of opening a hospital that took care of all children. Children’s Mercy still lives by this creed today and turns no child away, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. There are few people in Kansas City who have not been touched in some way by this award-winning hospital, myself included.

In my role, I am responsible for helping the various parts of our department (major gifts, planned giving, donor recognition, special events, etc.) communicate with our donors, potential donors and volunteers. I write endowed report updates, content for event programs, call scripts for our donor thank-a-thon, thank-you letters and more. I also edit invitations, programs and a myriad of other content. I work across print, web and digital communication methods to help tell the story of Children’s Mercy and its patients.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I didn’t get my first full-time job until 2011. I graduated with my Master’s degree right as the recession hit (2008) and there were no jobs anywhere. It took three years of submitting resumes and cover letters with no results. In spite of this, I kept trying.

My first job was at Hallmark Cards. Yeah, that Hallmark Cards. They’re headquartered here in KC! I applied via their website and got a phone call. Their HR department is pretty traditional. They love behavioral style interviewing, just FYI. I did a phone interview first with HR. Then, I went in for a round of in-person interviews and a writing/editing/InDesign test. And then, I got the job! I worked for three years producing business-to-business sales catalogs. I got to work with every product/card line that the company produces. I had a lot of fun there.

“Every job I’ve ever interviewed for has required some sort of writing test or project, by the way. So, be prepared for that.”

Fast-forward to 2017. A former colleague from my previous job (post Hallmark, pre Children’s Mercy) reached out to me via Facebook and urged me to apply for a job with Children’s Mercy. I applied on their website and was contacted later and asked to do a writing project. (Every job I’ve ever interviewed for has required some sort of writing test or project, by the way. So, be prepared for that.)

I went in twice for a series of interviews and then was offered the job! My best advice from this experience is: you never know who’s watching. The person who urged me to apply for the job, as I mentioned, was a colleague at my last gig, but we didn’t really interact much. I think I did one or two projects for her before she left. I was surprised and flattered that she reached out!

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

My previous job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was pivotal. Switching from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector can be tough. There’s a lot of skepticism of people who make that switch. But being an alumna and having really good references helped me land the job.

"The first local bookstore that accepted my book and put it on their shelf!"

"The first local bookstore that accepted my book and put it on their shelf!"

At UMKC, I began to learn the nonprofit ropes. I wrote letters for the chancellor and the vice chancellor, produced newsletters, wrote articles, video content and event scripts, managed multiple websites, ran the alumni association’s social media and anything else they threw my way. This job is absolutely the reason why I got my current position. I learned so much about stewardship and the nonprofit style of communication. Plus, I met important colleagues who educated me and helped me prepare for my ultimate next step.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Internships were very important for me and taught me a lot about how the working world functioned. I did two internships, one in undergrad and one in grad school. The first was at a local PR firm. The second was with Andrews McMeel Publishing in their PR department. In these positions, I got my first few writing samples for my portfolio.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

I went into the “business” world and not education simply because every time I told someone what I was majoring in they’d ask me (as we’ve all heard): “Oh, so what are you going to do? Teach?” While I love educators and have great respect for them, those questions made me determined to prove that there were many things I could do.

If you’re an English major and you want to work in the “business” world, you have to be prepared to fight. I’ve had to fight hard for every job I’ve ever had. Maybe people in other fields and with other degrees feel this way too. I don’t know. But, from the writing tests to get my foot in the door, to getting opportunities once I’m there, I’ve had to fight, network, volunteer for extra projects and make my voice heard every step of the way. Often people won’t understand the things that we English majors know we bring to the table without us telling them. They think all we do is read novels all day. While that may be true in some respect, we bring our analytical skills, writing skills, a great vocabulary, passion, discourse skills and more. You have to be your own advocate and your own spokesperson out there. No one else will do it for you.

You can check out Sara's blog, Writer vs. the World, here. To learn more about Children's Mercy Kansas City, click here. You can also connect with Sara on LinkedIn.


Posted on January 26, 2018 and filed under English Major Stories, Interview, Interviews, Communications.