Name: Erin Windheim (formerly Erin Reilly. I got married in July of 2014)
College & Majors/Minors: I graduated Suma Cum Laude from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO with a degree in English - Creative Writing
Current Location: I currently live in Denver, CO.
Current Form of Employment: I am a Clerical Support Specialist IV, Quality Assurance
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center (RMPDC) as a Clerical Support Specialist IV for the Quality Assurance Department. I basically ensure that our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Work Instructions (WIs) and forms are up-to-date and compliant with FDA and client regulations. We are frequently audited by our clients and the FDA, so I help ensure that we are audit prepared at all times. Day-to-day tasks usually involve a lot of moving around getting signatures, printing things off, sending out electronic trainings, and updating our SOPs and WIs.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I graduated from college in May of 2009 right at the beginning of the Recession, so you can imagine how difficult it was to find a job, especially a job where I could put my English degree to good use. I must have sent out hundreds of cover letters and resumes with little to no response. While I was trying to find something professional, I worked at the gift shop at the Denver Zoo. Nothing special. Just your typical retail type job. At that time I was looking for a job in publishing, and it looked like most of the good ones were located in Boston or New York. So, after working in retail for a year or so and enduring constant hounding from my parents about getting a better job, I decided to move to Massachusetts in 2010. I moved in with my step-mom's parents for a time while I searched the internet for a good writing-related job.
After a couple of months, I got a job as a proofreader for a software development company in Billerica, MA called M&R Consultants Corporation. I think I found them through Monster.com. I mostly proofread storyboards and e-Learning sites for a multitude of companies, including Papa John's and Pearson. The company was pretty small with about 8-12 employees. Not a bad job, but because it was so small, there wasn't a lot of opportunities for advancement, so I moved on after two and a half years. I worked for a time as a post-production assistant for a small production company called Award Productions. It mostly involved editing video files that were used in math programs for Pearson. I did that until the project ended, and I was laid off. Shortly after that, I moved back to Colorado with my then-fiancé.
Once I moved back to Colorado, I worked as a Quality Assurance Specialist for a small e-Learning development company in Centennial, CO called Tipping Point Solutions. I found their ad on Craigslist. They needed someone to help out with a major project for the US Army, and they appeared to be impressed by my editing skills and eye for detail. Unfortunately, I was a contractor for this company, which was really small, so once the major project was over, I was in danger of losing my job. So, I started looking around on Monster.com and found an ad for a Clerical Support Specialist at RMPDC. Thankfully, I was hired right before I was due to lose my job at Tipping Point Solutions.
My current job started out as a temp-to-hire position, so I worked as a contractor for a few months before being taken on as a full-time hourly employee. It took some time to learn the ropes, but I've been here a little over a year, and I've learned a lot and connected with my fellow employees. I enjoy doing something that I know is important and beneficial to the company as a whole.
Since I have always worked for small companies, transitioning to a large corporation was a huge adjustment. Lots of rules and standards and regulations. Lots of departments for various things, like Human Resources and IT. It's all very exciting, and for the first time, I actually feel like I was getting somewhere in my career. To me, this is what being successful looks like, even if it took me until I was 28 to find it.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I don't have another writing-related job exactly, but I did work as a writing tutor for a semester my senior year of college. I really enjoyed being able to use my writing skills to help other students succeed and grow as writers. Occasionally, I would get a student who would ask me to write their paper for them, but that was rare. Most students truly wanted to learn to be better writers and get better grades on their papers. If nothing else, this job taught me how much I truly enjoy writing and editing... even if it made me a complete nerd.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I've wanted to be a writer since I was 12 years old, so I started taking classes to prepare for that at an early age. I actually took keyboarding in high school because I knew it would be beneficial for a writing career. People often see how fast I can type and tell me that they really wish they had taken keyboarding in school. Anyway... I took as many writing related classes in college as I could. Majoring in English-Writing was certainly helpful in that regard. One of the papers I wrote for a composition class earned me an award from the Writing Department, which was awesome. I also took several creative writing classes that helped me overcome my fear of critique while teaching me different writing techniques and styles. Everything I learned in these writing classes has helped me grow and change as a writer, and I have used a lot of the skills I learned in my own poetry and stories that I write in my free time.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
If you have a dream to earn an English degree, go after it. Even if you have family and friends who insist you won't make any money or you'll never get a job, do it anyway. You'll be much happier pursuing a major you love than suffering through a major you hate because you want to live in a fancy house and drive a fancy car. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or scientist or a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer, so that is what I got my degree in, and while I may not have gotten into publishing, I am very happy that I pursued the degree I did. It was fun, it was rewarding, and I learned so much about writing and about myself. So, don't give up. Don't get discouraged. English is awesome, and if you want to pursue that, more power to you!