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English Alumni Share Unexpected Careers with Students

Published on March 16, 2020

English Alumni Share Unexpected Careers with Students

Moderated by Deparment Chair Barbara Liu (right), English alumni returned to campus on March 10 to speak with students. Left to right: Korey Lewis ’13, control account manager at Pratt & Whitney; Courtney Bedocs ’10, senior solutions manager at VISA; Taylor Hammond ’13, assistant director of international admissions at Eastern; and Amanda Topping ’10, technical director at General Dynamics Electric Boat.   

English Department graduates returned to Eastern Connecticut State University’s campus on March 10 to share their experiences in the workforce and discuss how their English degree has aided them in their unexpected career paths. Alumni who participated in the panel discussion included Courtney Bedocs ’10, Taylor Hammond ’13, Korey Lewis ’13 and Amanda Topping ’10. English Department Chair Barbara Liu facilitated the conversation.

The event began with panelists explaining their career paths and discussing how they ended up working in the field they are in today. Lewis received his English degree in 2013 and recalled having a change in career goals after interning with Fox 61’s Morning Show. He was offered a full-time position upon graduation, but during his time with the station he realized the job was not what he imagined it to be. “While I was there, there was a lot of priority on entertainment — I wrote a lot of Justin Bieber pieces back then,” said Lewis.

Lewis began to look around for other options and landed a position as a project engineer with QuEST Global. He later became the program manager for the company’s Cost Avoidance & Reduction initiative with Pratt & Whitney Engines, a position that did not exist before he suggested it. In 2017 Lewis was appointed control account manager for the F135 Sustainment Program at Pratt & Whitney and also earned his MBA from the University of Connecticut with a dual concentration in International Business and Management.

Liu asked the panelists what skills and responsibilities their current jobs require of them and how their skills relate to their Eastern degree.

“The analytical skills that I learned as an English major are the biggest prize ribbon that I earned from Eastern,” said Bedocs, who graduated in 2010 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She originally planned to become a high school teacher but works today with Visa’s Global Data Products as the senior solutions manager of customer success and training.

As part of her responsibilities, Bedocs oversees training products and analyzes and adapts company data to create training materials. Bedocs said her analytical skills were complemented by the writing skills she learned at Eastern.

“The question is what story are you trying to tell? Because essentially you are a storyteller. The people we train can be executives, they can be in operations, but they are still trying to tell a story to someone else—how can you teach somebody to tell a story?” She said professional communication skills set her and other Eastern English majors apart: “Being able to effectively communicate puts you at the top and it puts you ahead of many of the people you are working with in your industry.”

Topping graduated in 2010 with a degree in English and a minor in writing. She now works at General Dynamics’ Electric Boat as a technical writer for the Columbia Class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines program (SSBNs) and says her Eastern degree is fundamental to her success.

As part of her responsibilities, Topping writes system-level manuals in collaboration with engineering and other technical departments to train sailors to operate Columbia Class submarines. Her position also requires her to conduct extensive research on the topic and understand a variety of technical terms and graphics. “I have to write and understand all of the materials that I am looking at, whether it's a hydraulic electrical fuel diagram or the construction of the ship,” said Topping, who feels her English major gave her the communication skills she needs to share highly technical information.

She said basic writing skills improve the overall quality of the technical manuals she creates. “Since I was an English major, I get asked a lot of grammatical questions that can change a sentence and the accuracy of the manual’s instructions, which is critical. It is knowing what to say and when to say it, knowing when to be technical and how much instruction to give — the skills that I have learned at Eastern simplify it,” she added.

The four panelists were asked what advice they would give to current English majors at Eastern.

“Say yes to all the opportunities on campus,” said Taylor Hammond, a 2013 graduate who double majored in English and Secondary Education. "Saying yes is what got me to Eastern to begin with and it has gotten me where I am today.”

Hammond works as a full-time assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Eastern and also works as an adjunct lecturer in the Business Administration department, teaching a variety of business management courses.

“Also get to know your faculty and professors and keep in touch after you graduate,” she added. “They are thinking of you and they want to know how you are doing. They have connections that might be able to help you.”

Written by Vania Galicia