Posts filed under Project Management

Anna Gibson: Business Analyst

Name: Anna Gibson

Age: 30

College & Majors/Minors: MA in Publishing & Writing, BA in English, minors in corporate communication, creative and professional writing

Current Location: Columbus, OH

Current Form of Employment: Full time

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for JPMorgan Chase as a business analyst within the Letters Administration team. I’m basically a project manager for letters that are sent out to customers.

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

My first job out of grad school was a correspondence letter editor at JPMorgan Chase, where I edited hundreds of letters and emails before they were sent to customers. I had applied to dozens of jobs in both Ohio (where I was originally from) and in Boston (where I completed my graduate program). I was looking for editorial jobs, and found the position on an online job board. I applied, and I got a call the next day for an interview, and I was hired within the following two weeks.

After a few years of editing letters and helping with internal communications, I knew I wanted to move up to a different positon. My manager was very supportive of me, and was the one who suggested I apply for an internal posting for a business analyst position. It would still be a position working within the letters world, but this time, on the back end of the letters process. I applied and got the job! I’ve now been employed as a business analyst for two years, and with the same company for five years.

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

I accepted a full-time editing internship at Wiley-Blackwell Publishing in my second year as a grad student at Emerson College. I was pretty much an assistant to the editorial assistant—they often hired interns, so we were trained as if we were going to eventually be hired and hit the ground running, so we were given immense responsibility for multiple different book projects. I didn’t realize then how useful that internship would be for the position I’m currently in. Learning to juggle multiple projects at a time, maintaining strict deadlines, leading meetings, and learning how to interact with different levels of people throughout the process made a huge difference when I started working full-time in the corporate world.

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

I had various internships throughout my college years, and I feel like they all gave me a huge step up in how to be successful in a corporate role. I was incredibly lucky to find paying internships, so I could intern full-time while I went to school full-time. It also gave me an opportunity to work with different companies in different types of writing/communications/editing roles, so I could see what the best fit was for me. I did everything from a corporate communications internship with a Fortune 500 company, to an editing internship with a small academic publisher. Each of these experiences gave me a good chance to hone my skills and find out what I wanted (or didn’t want!) in a career. 

“A professor once told me that as long as I could write well, I would always be able to find a job, and that was some of the best advice I’ve received.”

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

A professor once told me that as long as I could write well, I would always be able to find a job, and that was some of the best advice I’ve received. I have two English-major related degrees, and I have always been employed full-time. I believe that is in large part because of my ability to write and articulate clearly and professionally in any setting. I wouldn’t have gained any of those skills without an English degree that focused on writing and communication. Don’t take those skills for granted!

You can connect with Anna on LinkedIn here


Posted on June 26, 2017 and filed under Project Management, Interviews, Interview.

Tabitha Cornwell: Project Manager

Name: Tabitha Cornwell

Age: 30

College & Majors/Minors: Arizona State, BA in English; University of Phoenix, MS in Psychology

Current Location: Phoenix, AZ

Current Form of Employment: Full-time, higher ed administration

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at the University of Phoenix as a project manager of learning content. My department handles the acquisition and management of all the types of materials that may go into a course—textbooks, educational technology, internally-developed tools and multimedia, open-source or free web content, and anything else the instructional design teams throw at us. As a core (and relatively small) team in the middle of a huge institution, we maintain a working knowledge of products we currently offer, pending requests coming down the pipeline, industry norms and trends, as well as the legal and contractual obligations associated with each of these product types. It's my job to maintain close and productive relationships with our internal customers (primarily college staff) as well as external vendors and suppliers.

A typical day might involve presenting a training surrounding our processes to staff in production before going back to my desk and calling my publisher rep to find out why an eBook file isn't rendering properly. I also work with vendors to establish and maintain QC processes that ensure we're providing consistent eBook experiences for students. It's essential for me to be able to translate between academic requirements, technical specifications, and high-level snapshots expected by executives.

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

As a teenager, I volunteered for the local library system for five years, since I practically lived there anyway. That hands-on community work introduced me to the world of networking, opening doors to several jobs funded by local government grants. As president of a library branch's "teen council," I met with corporate sponsors and participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony while still in braces (and a terrible haircut, thanks Mom!). At thirteen, I was part of a group teaching senior citizens basic computer and internet skills, and by sixteen, I had revamped and updated the curriculum as the sole instructor. 

 "I'm the one in the fuchsia top looking up." -Tabitha

"I'm the one in the fuchsia top looking up." -Tabitha

With the grant extinguished, I began working for a program sponsored by the Arizona Science Center that introduced middle school and younger students to scientific concepts in hands-on workshops (think CSI lab in which one of the instructors is the culprit). Looking back, these classes were a precursor to the current STEM wave in education. 

Because my mom worked in computer networking for my school district, I was usually taking apart computers or running CAT-5 cables under desks. I dabbled in web design, taught myself some coding skills and ran a small website for a genealogical society my family belonged to. I saved every penny from these early jobs and eventually bought myself a Blue Dalmatian iMac named Spot. (Spot still lives in my home office, though his fan needs a thorough cleaning. I'm thinking about converting him into a fishtank.)

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

Despite entering with a slew of AP credits, ASU still required me to take ENG/102 as a freshman. Within the first week, I was essentially running daily tutoring sessions in the back of the class. Looking back, the professor could have been really grouchy about my co-opting her students, but instead, she referred me to the director of the on-campus Writing Center for a job. Within another semester, I was the student coordinator. In my earlier teaching work, I had realized I have a knack for analogies, and meeting students at their level of understanding. Over time, I began to realize that ability was one of my most unique, transferable skills.

A few months after I'd graduated, a friend forwarded me a few postings for admin, entry-level positions at UOP, where she worked. I immediately gravitated to one in their online tutoring center—for math (yikes!). After poring over the job description a few million times, I realized they weren't actually looking for a math expert, but someone to keep the center organized. I also guessed that fewer people might apply because of the scary "math" word in the title, and I was right—the position only had about 20 applicants. In the interviews, I pitched myself as someone who could add perspective of a student who needed math tutoring, because I'd been in that position myself. It worked! Though it was a pretty basic admin job, scheduling shifts and managing payroll for about 50 faculty tutors, I really enjoyed working with a group of intelligent, thoughtful academics coming from a wide range of experiences and industries. I'm still close with several of these awesome individuals.

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

The problem with being interested in everything is that it's impossible to settle on a major! I enjoyed my Writing Center work more than any of my classwork—in fact, when I look back, it's still my all-time favorite job. Somehow, I was too stubborn to see the obvious choice (Dear English Major would have been sooooo helpful). I found myself nearing the end of my four-year scholarship with credits all over the map and no degree in sight. I was juggling four jobs and trying to complete five courses per semester. My body couldn't take the stress, and a bad cold turned into pneumonia. I broke up with my boyfriend, moved back home, transferred campuses (and writing centers!) and met with the umpteenth (and final) advisor to review my credits. Suddenly, the answer was obvious, and those AP credits finally came in handy.

“I resisted the English major for years because it seemed like the easy way out, and because it didn’t represent a clear path to a career. No longer ignoring the obvious degree choice forced me to confront those preconceived notions, and suddenly, I was passionate about my coursework, engaged in every class discussion, and stretching my brain with every assignment.”

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

If there's one thing I wish I could go back and tell myself, it's that struggling does not equal learning, and that you don't have to fight for something in order to consider it an accomplishment. I resisted the English major for years because it seemed like the easy way out, and because it didn't represent a clear path to a career. No longer ignoring the obvious degree choice forced me to confront those preconceived notions, and suddenly, I was passionate about my coursework, engaged in every class discussion, and stretching my brain with every assignment. I developed rich relationships with my professors and am happy to say I still keep in touch with some of them.

If something doesn't come naturally to you, there's no shame in finding a better fit. Especially in creative fields, people take their own talents for granted because they've always had them, and they lack the context and experience necessary to really understand that uniqueness. It's the same reason we have such a tough time pricing freelance creative work. Remember that learning what you don't enjoy is just as important as learning what you do. The world will be hard enough on you—be kind to yourself! This strengths-focused approach has been tremendously useful in making staffing recommendations, conducting trainings, and performing interviews.

You can connect with Tabitha on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter and Instagram


Posted on February 15, 2017 and filed under Communications, Project Management, Interview, Interviews.

Rachel Tallis: Technical Writer & Project Manager

Name: Rachel Tallis

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: University of Delaware, English Major with a Concentration in Professional Writing

Current Location: Boston, MA

Current Form of Employment: Full Time Technical Writer and Project Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Sovos Compliance in Massachusetts as a Technical Writer and Project Manager.

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

I’ve had several online writing internships throughout my college career which I found through speakers in classes and e-mails from my department. However, this is my first full time job which I found by using several job hunting websites, such as Monster and LinkedIn.

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

Starting off as a Fashion Merchandising Major, I found myself in online blogging internships which really helped guide me to my current profession. My first internship was writing men’s fashion articles for Men’s Fashion by Francesco, an online magazine. This was important to my career because it showed me how to combine my love of fashion with my passion for writing.

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

“Internships are not just a great resume builder, but they’re great for self-growth as well. Try different types of internships to help you figure out what path you want to take for your profession.”

I completed three online blogging internships throughout my undergraduate career. Each of these internships provided me with knowledge of the business world and showed me how many options I had as a Professional Writing major. My English classes helped me improve on my writing, although my internships taught me how to write in AP Style, which is a common style for articles. I spent my last semester applying to jobs and was lucky enough to receive a job offer right after I graduated.

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

My advice for students with an English degree is to not take your opportunities for granted. Internships are not just a great resume builder, but they’re great for self-growth as well. Try different types of internships to help you figure out what path you want to take for your profession. My advice to graduates with an English degree is to be patient. Your first job may not be your dream job, but you will find wonderful experiences and opportunities to learn and grow.

You can check out Rachel's professional portfolio HERE, take a look at her cooking blog HERE, and connect with her on LinkedIn HERE


Posted on June 19, 2016 and filed under Technical Writing, Project Management, Blogging.

Erik Shepard: Project Management Specialist

Name: Erik Shepard

Age: 32

College & Majors/Minors: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, B.A. English/Education

Current Location: Research Triangle Park, NC

Current Form of Employment: Full-time at a non-profit.

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I am a Project Management Specialist at RTI International’s Center for Forensic Sciences.

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

I found my first job through the path of least resistance at a position I would not have minded being my “rock bottom” (with the assumption that every position that followed could have been a stepping stone to something better). I found my current job networking with contacts I made from previous positions. 

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

Intelligence Analysis was a writing-intensive position that drew on all aspects of the writing process. 

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

I learned about myself and what I liked (reflected on what I could be happy doing for the next 40 years) by experimenting with clubs, sports, discussions, exhibits, workshops, and other events outside of my typical comfort zone parameters; I met like-minded individuals (networked) in order to ensure mutually beneficial exchanges/transactions took place at future dates; I created a paper trail of successes (awards and organizations) in an effort to stack my resume to stand out from my competition. Those are three things that I did that I knew would benefit me no matter the direction my career or degree meandered.

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

Don’t look at your English Degree as restricting (to only certain occupations); look at it as a wildcard that qualifies you to bring value to any occupation/industry. 

“But Erik, how can I bring value to an Electrical Engineer?”

 “As a technical writer, of course. Who better to distill complex scientific ideas for the consumer market in the form of an instruction manual than an English major, who’s used to taking complex texts/concepts/ideas and reducing them to pertinence?” 

Additionally, once you have identified an acceptable career path, take advantage of the ample opportunities for upward mobility. As you advance down your career path from entry-level positions you can supplement your English degree with additional credentials (journalists could supplement theirs with a photography/videography certification, project managers could supplement their degrees with CAPM/PMP certifications) and that will ensure you continue to grow as a professional and your career will not stagnate. 

You can connect with Erik on LinkedIn here


Posted on June 7, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Project Management.