How I Went From English Major to Yammer Community Manager

“What are you going to do with an English major?” my friends would tease.

“What are you going to do with ANY major?” my adviser would flash back, all beetled brow and bespectacled.

He was, of course, an English professor, but he was still correct: What you do with your studies is up to you. For I really have found that as an English major, I can do anything.


Looking for work after college, my career actually started out in finance: Processing repossession paperwork, handling checks, talking with customers, and data entry.

But I made it known high and low that I was available to do any writing or editing necessary. So I also wrote technical manuals, policies, internal newsletters, and other documents. None of this was in my job description.


Finance Part 2: Moving On Up 

Due to a split in job functionality that I won’t go into now because it is exceedingly dry, a position opened up where I would be doing some of what I was already doing, but in a different department.

I said, “Give me your words, your phrases, your jumbled sentences, yearning to be free.”

I didn’t really say it like that, but they gave it to me nonetheless. Policies, manuals, other documents—and now customer correspondence. Ah ha, the outside world!

This department also had an e-commerce website. So…


I looked up “finance guinea pig” to one-up the cat, and got this. I guess that says it all.

Marketing & IT-ish

In a promotional move I found very lucrative, they created a marketing position where I’d write the copy—and design the graphics to go with it—to populate on the website. That meant I also had to learn some HTML and what exactly goes into making a .gif do its giffiness.

HTML is comfort coding. I do give a retroactive wince to the quality of some of those .gifs (I was particularly proud of a black and white image morphing into color), but with the purpose being to catch customer attention, they kept me doing it.

I still wrote offline manuals and policies and customer letters, of course.


Marketing & IT-ish Part 2: Consolidation

The director of the actual Marketing department got sick of all the marketeers scattered around in other departments, writing our own stuff, no oversight. Oops!

So he brought everyone into his department, and there I was in Marketing for real.

My dowry was that e-commerce website. In essence, I was assigned to work with my own department almost exclusively, both in print and online. Oh, the projects we had!

And then came a new website to add to my repertoire, with a new platform: IBM WebSphere.

We had an hour’s worth of “Click here, then here” training that was highly inadequate. So I wrote the manual for that too, because I knew it was up to me.

I still remember the flurry of wireframes and copy, of key stakeholders and meetings, of global conference calls and design.

Full circle: That new website was dedicated to the financial branch of the company.


Global IT

Massive layoffs at old company! Hello, new company!

My IBM WebSphere expertise got me in to the Global IT department (I brought my manual to the interview), because the position was primarily to help build websites for teams around the world, and then train them how to manage their sites through this platform.

But this position was a contract position, so I knew that a time would come when I’d be rolled off…


Marketing & Social Media

…and rolled off I was, but now I was in a good position to decide what, exactly, I wanted to do next.

During the massive layoffs mentioned previously, Old Company bought everyone a month’s worth of outplacement services. This really dug deep. I’ve mentioned before on my blog about how being unemployed can make a person start to doubt their self-worth. It’s important to remember that the only thing you actually lost was a job. You did not lose one iota of your skills, knowledge, or experience.

So when I really sat down and looked at all that I had accomplished, I also looked at what I enjoyed doing. It was clear to me: I loved that mix of Marketing and IT. I wanted websites. I also wanted creativity. How could I get both?

I attended every free webinar about social media that I could. I checked out books from the library. I read articles. I also used LinkedIn to post what I was doing.

The head of that company’s online career resources website saw my posts on LinkedIn and got intrigued.

So there I was, back in that company, only now on the business side in Marketing. I had a website to maintain and copy to write. But I also added on the corporate social media accounts, and learned all about engaging with the public as if they’re *gasp* people and as if we were people, too!

It was a beautiful mix.


Marketing, Social Media…and Yammer!

Current company!

After the social media contract ended (the website got axed, so one thing led to another), I knew without a doubt that I wanted to continue with social media. I loved interacting with people, and giving them what they needed to get them where they wanted to go.

I rode in to the Marketing department with the intent to help fire up external social media outlets and start engaging with the audiences that were there.

As well, I had a community to play with for customers. That was the other half of my job. Mind you, we had a false start: We were using the wrong platform for our organizational culture and audience base. I can say we learned a lot about what not to do.

Then I looked into Yammer and realized that we could use this both for internal and external customers. I liked the platform and look and feel. And we were already a Microsoft shop, so why not try it?Yammer Holidays

Two thriving communities later, I’m a manager now and have been moving more fully into strategic campaigns, data, and analytics, while my direct report handles the daily social media posts and interaction.

I remain directly involved with my Yammer communities; I’d say that’s more than 50% of my job, but so are the campaigns, data, and analytics! (Being an English major, my percentages make up more than 100%.)

What I Discovered During All Of This

Looking back, I see an almost linear line from English major to Yammer Community Manager. Yet I never thought I’d end up in a position like this while I was in college or early in my career. Being in a world where I can be creative and analytical, that combines the business and IT sides of an organization, is super fun.

I also apologize to anyone I’ve ever inflicted scope-creep on.

How did you get to where you are today?

(This post is part of the Share Your Career Story summit on the Microsoft Tech Community.)

Is the English major disappearing?


“What are you going to do with an English major?”

My favorite English professor had the best answer to this. “What are you going to do with ANY major?” he’d grump, albeit with his famous twinkle in his eye.

He was a man of great discernment and humor. He was also right. Speaking personally, you can do anything you want with an English major. I’ve reinvented my career several times while still using what I learned in college.

Yet in The Decline and Fall of the English Major from, not doing what you want seems more than a mere possibility.  A new report shows that students are veering away from a major that supposedly won’t pay the bills, and not just because of parental pressure either; the humanities themselves “often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter.”

And it’s a shame. Even if you have no intention of being a writer—which is just one aspect the English major can take–learning how to articulate yourself in print, express your thoughts clearly, and comprehend what you read are still abilities surely (or sorely) valuable today. You don’t have to be an English major to learn these skills, either.

How has your major helped with your career or life in general? If you’re still in school, did you pick something other than what you wanted because you were worried about making a living?

Note: I can’t see that NYT’s headline title without thinking of this (versus the obvious).