I'm a Technical Writer at HubSpot, a global software company. I can code, troubleshoot software, and communicate complex technical functionality to customers and internal stakeholders. I have no formal technical training or background. Instead, I have a B.A. in English.
I used to think technology was “taking over.” I hated seeing people glued to their laptops or mobile devices. I was always the pen-and-paper person, at my happiest with a book (still am, to this day!).
Not surprisingly, I studied English in college, graduating from Norwich University in 2015. Majoring in English was both an easy and hard decision for me. During my high school days, I blew through classic novels—from Dickens to Austen and everything in between—as though they were comic books. I wrote stories and drew pictures since I learned how to grip one of those thick Crayola crayons when I was little. I loved to read and write.
The hard part was wrapping my head around the value of an English degree in a technical world. With all the hype around STEM, who’d hire a writer like me? Luckily, I put my doubts aside and decided to pursue what I loved in college. I spent four wonderful years reading a variety of novels, writing essays, and researching major literary events throughout history.
English Majors in the Work World
My first job after graduation was in the marketing department at Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc., a civil engineering firm. After about a year, I joined HubSpot’s tech support team in May 2016. After nine months, I was promoted to a CRM/Sales Product Specialist. I continue to troubleshoot the HubSpot software in addition to writing and editing for various blogs and other content platforms. I then became a Technical Writer at HubSpot in August 2017, where I currently work across content, engineering, and product departments to write documentation that make our software understandable and easy to use.
English Majors are a GREAT Fit for Tech
I’m not the only English major working in tech at HubSpot. I could see a lot of English majors taking the same path as me. The tech industry needs people who can fulfill three important business needs, which happen to be areas that English majors excel in:
1. Clear Communication
An English major is a master communicator. We’ve spent years reading material, processing that information, and then articulating our thoughts in essays, often with a well-formatted thesis that defends an argument.
I knew I wouldn’t get a job as a literary analysis writer or a Dickens reader (though I’m sure those exist somewhere). But I take the communication skills I built from reading and writing and apply them to the tech industry.
Writing bridges the gap between human and machine, making technology accessible to everyone by adding a human element to man-made creations. In my interaction with users and internal stakeholders, in addition to my published writing on various blogs, I’m making technology attainable. A human voice takes the artificiality out of software and helps people connect with it.
2. Research and Analytical Abilities
Working in the tech field requires an incredible amount of research. There’s rarely a cut-and-dry answer or solution when you’re working with software. You need to dig into different tools, use your resources, and craft easy-to-understand language for users.
When you’re writing in the tech industry, you’re building trust with your audience. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re creating accurate information that readers can rely on. I take the guesswork out of the equation for my readers. I do the research, analyze my findings, and share it with others. When my writing reaches either a customer, blog reader, or an internal employee, they already know the research has been done and my words hold truth.
Creativity exists in the tech field. In fact, it’s crucial. There are so many great minds at work building and maintaining the software, and there are also equally great minds adding a touch of creativity to share that software with the world.
Consider this: If a user is faced with a confusing software interface, they’re either going to a) give up and use something else or b) turn to help documentation. If the help documentation is as equally confusing as the user interface, then no matter how well-programmed the software is, the company won’t last. Software needs to be attainable to the techies and to the not-so-techies. If only engineers and programmers understand it, then there’s never going to be a strong customer base.
This is where creativity steps in. Creativity is something we can all relate to on a human level. Technical writers, product designers, marketers, and a variety of other departments play a role in making software easy to use, attractive to look at, and applicable to everyday life.
The tech industry needs diverse thinkers with diverse skill sets. That includes English majors. We excel at the three skills above in addition to a vast array of other skills.
There's a constant debate surrounding STEM and how it’s seen as a more valuable path than the arts. However, the arts and STEM fields shouldn't fight each other. Instead, the two areas fit together seamlessly, connected by English majors like me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigael Donahue is a technical writer at HubSpot, a global software company. With a passion for writing, she is on a mission to make the technical world more human, one word at a time. Click here to view Abigael's website!