Name: Ayesha Gallion
College & Majors/Minors: Morgan State University (English with Journalism Concentration/Minor in Secondary Education); Rutgers University (English with Concentration in Women and Gender Studies)
Current Location: North Brunswick, New Jersey
Current Form of Employment: Plastics Manufacturing Industry, Corporate Communications
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I am the senior communications editor at Inteplast Group, the largest integrated plastics manufacturer in North America. I work out of its headquarters in Livingston, New Jersey.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My very first job as it relates to being an English major was as a reporter for the West Orange Chronicle, one of several local newspapers owned by Worrall Newspapers, which covered several towns in Northern New Jersey. The salary wasn't that great but the experiences were priceless! I really learned how to interface with all kinds of people. I interviewed politicians, actors, authors, and so many others – veterans, former Olympians – it was amazing what I encountered in that small town in the surrounding areas. As the sole reporter for the Chronicle I wrote between six to nine stories per week ranging from council and board of education meetings to cute little features on town murals and or personality profiles.
I found my current position after being in education for almost 10 years after leaving publishing. I had a passion for learning about various industries but I wanted to apply my editorial and communications skills and knew that it might be a challenge to find such a fit. Design – industrial, interior, and construction, as was technology, were all on my list. Inteplast manufactures plastics for a host of industries, including all that were on my list, plus foodservice, janitorial and sanitation, grocery, and medical.
My experience reporting on design and lighting industries, plus my knowledge of WordPress and some public relations know-how were all assets that landed me the position. Also, I think my outlook on how to relate to a variety of people in different positions (C-suite, machine operators, engineers, marketing, etc.) as well as from different backgrounds (ethnicity, religion, race, etc.) made the vacancy and culture an excellent fit for me.
I would grant some of this credit to being an educator at a magnet high school for the arts. I developed compassion, patience, and the ability to clarify complex concepts to many amazingly talented students who required, at times, unorthodox engagement of text and writing exercises. Adult colleagues in other industries are not that much different from eager and curious teens. Both demographics often value feeling listened to and respected versus patronized and ignored.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
My experience as the associate editor of Home Lighting & Accessories magazine is one that I will always cherish. I worked with a small team of brilliant editors and writers who not only knew how to take a trade show by storm but also how to objectively self-edit. They taught me how to edit my work and that of others, the latter particularly through the art of “suggestion,” which disarms writers who may be a bit thin-skinned about having their work critiqued.
I learned, especially from our editor in chief, Linda Longo, who later founded enLIGHTenment magazine, how to deal with a variety of personalities in the world of sales and manufacturing. Not to mention, I loved going to the shows in Dallas, High Point, and New York. I remember reporting on Swarovski couture lighting, meeting interior designer Tom Redd who was with Oscar de la Renta at the time, and interviewing so many talented people in the design industry all while immensely enjoying the company of my colleagues.
Linda was so supportive of my editorial ideas. I remember once trying to get an interview with Lenny Kravitz about a chandelier he had designed. Although Linda probably knew his publicist wouldn't grant the interview, she let me at least try. She was the kind of editor who helped me learn to trust my own instincts as well as seek improvement in my editorial execution of content and fact-checking.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I learned how to push the envelope just a bit so that an audience is privy to more information and to share that information in a way that is engaging. I got those experiences mainly from sharing writing or analysis in literature or journalism classes. I especially was able to spread my wings while working as an intern fact-checker at the Baltimore City Paper under Mike Brodie, who was my editor.
I remember choosing to highlight an Old Dirty Bastard show that was coming to Charm City and writing a witty blurb to go along with his quintessential wacky braid out promotional photo. I was able to present information in a way that I found engaging and in a manner I knew others might appreciate it. I learned there the beginnings of crafting my voice for media purposes. There were perks, too. I also was able to get free tickets to see “Wilde,” the biopic about Oscar Wilde. As a 19-year-old, I was mesmerized seeing his life and along with Bosie's drama king antics brought to life on the big screen.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Don't be afraid to be proud of being multifaceted and talented in a variety of areas. I find that with many of my friends who were English majors they are amazing in anything they decide to do! They can elevate the educational standards in struggling schools, write copy for news anchors, become news anchors, pitch exciting stories to publications, or launch media outlets that change the way people process information about everything from law to gender studies.
No English major should opt to stay in a “safe” career because he or she fears that not having a technical background will hinder possibilities for success. I believe some of society's most critical thinkers and fastest learners have studied literature, communications, and educational theory under the umbrella of the English major. The best communicator is often the best at comprehension – as English majors it gives us a huge advantage in an array of industries.
There is so much that we are able to comprehend and deconstruct in ways that a linear thinker would have a difficult time digesting or projecting. Also, do eventually make it a point to dip your toe into technical or financial industries if you feel that there's also a part of you that would excel in manufacturing or sales, for instance.