In May 2005, Christina and I both landed in London to spend 3 weeks with a cohort of East Carolina University students studying abroad. Afterwards, we didn’t see each other for quite some time. Then I ran into her at a SIGDOC (Special Interest Group on Design of Communication) conference in fall 2013. I was in my second and final year of the East Carolina University Technical and Professional Communication Master’s Degree program and had just joined the Society for Technical Communication Carolina Chapter in the Triangle.
As it turned out, Christina also lived in the same area and was only in Greenville for the conference. Eventually, I got involved in STC, as a volunteer and joined the Administrative Council, where I’ve served on the Board with Christina for the past two years. It’s been incredible to reconnect, get to know her better in this next phase of our lives, and really see her evolve as both a leader and much more.
So, of course, I asked if she’d be willing to share my story in this weekly blog series, Women & the Ways We Work. Story 18. And a powerful one at that. No surprise.
- Christina, we met when we were finishing up undergrad, but never really discussed our long-term goals. What did you want to be when you “grew up” and how has that evolved?
I wanted to be a lot of things growing up, but I always came back to writing and publishing. In high school, I wanted to work as a magazine editor. In college, I always had dreams of working for a book publishing house, but majoring in English didn’t feel “practical,” and I had visions of living in a cardboard box surrounded by books and dashed dreams. So, in college, I tried to major in more of a “sure thing,” but my first love of literature and writing kept calling my name. By junior year I had discovered that technical writing was a career, and combined reading, writing, and technology. l officially declared English as my major and never looked back.
- Good way of going about that exploration! I’ve seen how driven and devoted to your career you are. It’s so impressive and such a great example, especially for working women. What do you do in your “day job” and why have you chosen that?
My official title is Lead Technical Editor. I spend my days editing end-user guides and other technical content. I also troubleshoot our authoring and publishing tools, write internal procedures, manage our website search improvement projects, and, more recently, work to build bridges with technical support to reduce duplicate content.
- That’s really interesting. How happy have you been with your choices in life?
I’m a strong believer in having no regrets. I’m the sum of all my experiences and choices. The mistakes I made early on have led me to where I am now, and I can’t be unhappy with that. I think many people romanticize what could have been, and I try not to fall into that trap. It only leads to unhappiness.
- You’re full of brilliance. What are your best sources for learning?
While I love higher education, most of my post-graduate learning has been through informal means. I spend a lot of time reading websites and blogs. Conferences are a great way to meet the influencers I read daily. Of course I do attend webinars and meetings offered by the Society for Technical Communication, whose members and volunteers offer a plethora of knowledge. I also love TED talks!
- Couldn’t agree more. Sometimes you really have to be a driver in carving out your own education. What advantages, barriers, and motivators for women have you observed?
I have noticed that no matter how smart a woman is, she is always judged on her appearance first. I’ve been overweight my entire life, so I am not stranger to judgement, and I have had to compensate in other ways. It saddens me that women can continue to be reduced and minimized (even by other women) because they don’t meet a beauty standard. While I have done well for myself, I can’t help but feel that I would have had even more career and social opportunities if I met appearance expectations as well.
- Really valid points there to judgments and how they impact our direction. I’m sorry you’ve dealt with that. What is your passion and why is it important to you?
I have a passion for mentoring and guiding the next generation of writers. I love helping graduates find their first jobs and navigate the circus of the working world. I had a mentor when I was first starting out, and I owe my career to her. I only want to pay it forward.
- I know how involved you are, but what do you devote your time to outside of “work?”
Up until recently, I spent a great deal of time volunteering with the Society for Technical Communication, serving as the president of our local chapter for the past two years. Outside of my “day job,” I write and edit resumes and cover letters and write on a freelance basis when I can. I also love traveling and enjoying local art galleries. I recently had a son, so now I spent a lot of my time with him.
- As I’ve gotten to know you better, I’ve noticed your wisdom. How do you feel most inspired?
I’m inspired by other professional women who dominate in their fields. They make me want to be a better person and employee.
- What causes and organizations are you most passionate about?
I’ve been a devoted volunteer of STC for 10 years, so a lot of my passion lies there. I am also passionate about SAFE Haven for Cats, a no-kill shelter in Raleigh, NC, and I am a staunch supporter of public television and radio.
- I’ve seen you as such an involved leader, but who do you look up to?
I’ve always looked up to my brother, as most little sisters do. Professionally, I look up to my managers who give me the counsel and autonomy to improve.
- It’s good that you recognize there’s room for improvement in all of us. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?
There has been a lot of trauma in my family over the last 10 years, and most people would agree that families can be very challenging. I have persisted, and, for me, things get better with time. Professionally, I am always seeking a challenge to keep my skills sharp. Perhaps the biggest challenge was having to learn a complicated tool in a short amount of time in order to not lose a very lucrative account for my employer. I’m happy to say I learned it quickly and that helped me secure my next job (and a substantial pay raise!).
- Best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
Best: You can’t please everyone, so be yourself and do your best.
Worst: Don’t negotiate on salary; it’s unattractive (said by a man).
Thanks for reading Christina’s story. Share in the comments how it impacted you or share it on social media. Check out next week’s weekly post on Women & the Ways We Work. Missed the others? Take a look at my blog to read the others. Know someone you think should be featured? Can I help you or your organization with a storytelling project? Contact me and let’s chat.