April (Stolzman) Miller '94
I have to admit that I didn't know what I would do with my English major when I started Saint Mary's. I knew that professions like teaching and novel writing had little promise of big bucks, but I just knew that being an English major was something I wanted to do.
I stumbled upon technical writing while I was junior at Saint Mary's, by assisting another writer with a software documentation project. When the project ended shortly after I graduated, I had a difficult time finding a full-time position in technical writing or any other field that would utilize my English skills. Companies wanted someone with more experience than I had. So, I went through the back door, by joining a small software company as a telemarketer/administrative assistant. I knew I had the possibility of using my writing skills with them because during my interview the president of the company said, "Cool, someone who can proofread our stuff!"
As the only writer in a company full of engineers I was a valued asset. Soon I was off the phones and working on the software's help system and user manual. Now, 10 years later, I work as a freelance "Information Designer" out of my home, creating online and printed user instructions for software and web-based companies around the world.
Technical writing, as a profession, was still very much in its infancy when I was at Saint Mary's, so there were no specific classes offered on the subject. However, all the analytical thinking and essay writing that I did for my classes taught me how to write a concise, well-ordered document. My training as a writing tutor (thank you, Brother Ron Gallagher!) taught me how to critique a piece of writing and help anyone I work with, whether in Marketing, Sales, or Engineering, produce a better document. I would say that the greatest benefit that I gained from the English major was the interactive, seminar-style nature of the classes. I learned to express myself in a reasoned, intelligent manner, which is a necessity when you are collaborating with a software development team.
On a pragmatic note, I should mention that technical writing pays very well, and writers with experience and connections have the added perk of being able to go freelance and "be their own boss." Like any other writer, I would still like to become famous for writing The Great American Novel some day. In the meanwhile, technical writing will pay the bills until I get that novel finished.
April's home on the web is www.aprilmillerinfodesign.com