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.
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.
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.