101: How My English Degree Prepared Me For Tech

Somewhere in a box of mementos I still have a caricature drawing that an artist made at a fair when I was about seven or eight. My enormous eyes and exaggerated smile are plastered on a huge face attached to tiny arms, one of which is holding a book. A caption in a speech bubble in cartoony handwriting exclaims, “My book! I write!” And so this goofy drawing marked the beginning of a trajectory that I would follow for years. I entered writing contests, started a novel about tornadoes, and polished my spelling and grammar skills like a pro. I read Little Women constantly and thought of myself as a modern Jo March. Through high school I read as much as I could and learned how to write persuasive essays with the fervor of a seasoned debater.

Armed with my educational arsenal, I started classes at DePauw University with plans to major in journalism and fulfill the prophecy mapped out by that caricature artist so many years before. Plans change, and I left DePauw with a degree in English and History and headed to graduate school to sharpen my skills researching and writing about colonial America.

When I finished school, I applied my writing skills to a career in museums developing projects and writing educational curriculum for youth programs. Later I would write web copy and grant proposals for small museums. All of these experiences built a foundation for my current job writing marketing proposals with the RFP team at Salesforce. Over the past year and a half, I’ve immersed myself in the ins and outs of our software and spend my days answering questions from current and potential clients who’d like to learn more about what our technology can do for them. I work with account executives to make sure we’re pitching the right product solutions to help our clients achieve their goals. It wasn’t easy at first, and at my desk I keep a scratch sheet of some of the technical terms I had to google on day one as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

I didn’t expect to ever work in tech, but looking back, I made a few side trips on my journey that helped point me in that direction. In high school I wrote computer programs that would play songs like Yankee Doodle. As a history student, I learned how to use GIS programming to map historical sites. At a small museum, I built a new website when we didn’t have the funds to hire someone to do it.

I love writing and probably always will, but it’s exciting to work in a field as fast-paced and ever-changing as technology. If I could give caricature me some tips for the future, it would be to keep learning, constantly explore curiosities, and fearlessly try new things. An English major seems like a far reach to a career in tech, but I’d like to think that if Jo March were written into a modern day heroine, even she would find her way to a happy career with the technology company of her dreams.

Carrie Birge is a former museum professional turned tech worker who spends her free time exploring the great state of Indiana, volunteering, enjoying the outdoors, and raising two mediocre cats. She is a featured columnist in the #1 ranked fan-run hockey paper in the NHL and an avid karaoke singer. In retrospect, she’s probably more of an Amy March than a Jo March.