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An English Major in Silicon Valley

As an English major, getting a job after college can often seem like it’s next to impossible.  Attending college in the heart of Silicon Valley, many of the job opportunities are limited to the math and science majors.  Or so I thought. 

Before working for Dell this past summer, I never considered a job in the technical field.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most tech-savvy person.  Despite this, I took the chance of applying to be a technical writer for Dell.  During my interview, my future manager said something that surprised me.  She prioritized my writing and comprehension skills above any type of technical skills other applicants might have.  Weird, considering Dell is a multinational computer technology company.

As expected, most of the students who had applied for the same position were computer science majors.  However, my manager explained that while these students had technical knowledge, they didn’t have the writing skills to even submit a resume without grammatical errors.  For this reason, she narrowed down the applicants to humanities majors.  I spent so much time beating myself up over not having the right technical skills that I had forgotten the many advantages that being an English major has given me.  Even in the increasingly digitalized world we live in, writing skills are still important for getting and keeping a job.

Of course, I still got strange looks when my fellow interns learned I was not a computer science or engineering major.  Although this made it a little more difficult for me to understand, I still learned a wealth of information from the many presentations, discussions, and workshops that the Dell interns were given the opportunity to attend.  We were able to talk to important executives from different sectors of Dell’s enormous brand, learning how all the separate parts worked together to make Dell as successful as it is today. 

Luckily, I had one other fellow humanities major intern.  She worked in the training department working on PowerPoints and presentations that teach different sectors of Dell how to properly do their jobs.  As an education major hoping to become a teacher, this outside the box internship for an education major helped her gain a different perspective on the nature of teaching.   

For the both of us, a unique perspective was key to motivating our work at Dell.  As I said before, I have never been quite as graceful with technology as I am with words.  Prior to taking the internship at Dell, I was used to writing creatively, for online publications and a magazine, primarily targeted towards the younger generations.  I was used to writing about weird hangover cures and fall fashion.  Technical writing, on the other hand, required me to explain how to set up and modify router settings and interpret engineer specs.  Strangely enough, I found that technical writing requires a lot of creativity too.  Unlike writing for an audience with similar likes, dislikes, and interests as me, technical writing requires anticipating a range of different audience members, whether that be an engineer, customer, or someone in sales.  It requires turning engineer jargon, which often reads like a different language, into something understandable for both a customer and an engineer.     

In some ways, I think that I was able to learn more than some of the other interns who were computer science or engineering majors.  As an English major, I would have never had to take classes or learn about firewalls, routers, or network security. Through this internship, I was able to take online classes and virtual training to learn about network security as well as gain first-hand experience with using firewalls.  I was able to learn about a completely new field while also exercising the skills I have as an English major. 

Along with all of the new experiences and knowledge that I gained through this internship, the main thing I learned was to stop doubting myself and my major—there are opportunities out there no matter what you major in, depending on the perspective you decide to take.    

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