My path to STEM was not a conventional one. When I went to university, I majored in English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology, and I took many extracurricular studio art classes. After my Bachelor’s degree, I went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. As I looked to the future, I knew I didn’t want to teach college – so obvious career options for someone with a graduate degree in poetry were rather limited and seemingly unpoetic – but I knew, and challenged myself, to find another way to apply my liberal arts background and begin building my career.
While I was in the MFA program, one of my professors had a brother-in-law who needed a part time Technical Writer at his company. At the time, I was facing eviction (I was a terrible waitress, truly) and in desperate need for work. I took the job with almost no computer experience beyond using the internet and typing up a Word document.
It was a difficult 6 months. Every day I went to work terrified that I would get fired. But after a while, I became confident in my abilities and and in my capacity to learn and communicate highly technical concepts. The company I worked for built communication systems for mass transit, such as Long Island Railroad. Most of my job consisted of writing 1,000+ page user manuals for the communication system operators. This not only included creating the content, but physically printing and binding 60 hard copies for each system when it shipped. Our secretary recorded the canned announcements for the Long Island Railroad station – so if you are ever in Long Island using the train, hers is the voice you will hear over the intercom.
After graduation, I moved on to become a Defense Contractor Technical Writer for the the Navy and the Marines. I also worked for a large funeral home company and at a Coast Guard shipyard. I was lucky enough to land a management consulting contract at the National Finance Center, housed at the NASA Assembly Center, and I was Project Manager for a transportation software project in Denver in 2007. Recently, I have transitioned roles from a Technical Writer to a Senior Cyber Security Architect. I make sure our software is secure and in compliance with our company’s security guidelines, and I measure and control our risks. I interact with Architects, Developers. Business Analysts and Engineers daily to make our software product better and stronger (and safe from hackers).
The moral of the story is: don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed with a Liberal Arts degree! Life is what you make it, and if you have the will and the determination, you can do anything you set your mind to. And yes, I still write poetry. ?
Kelly G., Baker Hughes, a GE Company