Kristen Forscher '18
Kristen Forscher graduated in 2018 with a B.A. in English, a minor in IT, and a Professional Writing and Technical Communication (PWTC) certificate. The summer before her senior year, Kristen interned for Rocket Software, where she now works full-time as a technical editor. View her LinkedIn profile to learn more or to connect with her.
"My college experience was a bit of an academic roller coaster. I started off studying both English and math—it was weird for sure. I like to read and write, so English made sense. I like to figure out how things worked, so math seemed like the place for me… until my next course was Abstract Algebra and I decided I didn’t want to be a math teacher. I was in this scary place: I’m not sure if I want to go down the pure mathematics concentration and it’s too late to start any other concentration, I don’t want to be a teacher (in math or English), and I want to make money. In a bit of a panic, I visited my advisor. She was as unsure as I was, until she saw that I had taken a few computer sciences as a part of my math requirement. She told me that these were probably the hardest requirements of the IT minor, so why not just tack that on? I appreciated her faith in me, but this was not doable if I wanted to graduate with my peers. So, I dropped my math studies, and took on the IT minor. Once I had paired English and IT, I could not stop hearing about PWTC and its amazing “get a job right out of college” rate. I met with Professor Toomey and Solberg in the last days of my junior year. I wanted to make sure I could complete the program in my final year, which seemed crazy, but they were very encouraging.
The summer before starting the PWTC program, I was lucky enough to land an internship at Rocket Software in Waltham, MA. I didn’t have any PWTC skills yet, but the program was already coming in handy, as my interviewer was a fellow alum of the program (Angela Simonelli). I went into the internship with the critical thinking skills of my math background, but once I returned to UMass in the fall and was enrolled in PWTC, I could see the applications of my internship in the courses and vice versa.
The internship led to a full-time position as a technical editor. I basically have the same role as a technical writer, except I work with preexisting documentation. I say that they are basically the same role because much of the content ends up being totally rewritten (much like my essays in college the day before they were due). I also update documentation to meet new writing standards or include new features of products and minimize documentation to be as clear and precise as possible. This second effort is a new project at Rocket and I am so thrilled to be a part of it.
Now that I am working full time at Rocket Software, I can say a few things with certainty. PWTC does not teach you everything that you need for the technical world (that would be impossible), but it sets a very strong foundation for learning. The software that I work with every day is more complicated than I had previously thought possible. However, the research skills that I learned from both the English major and PWTC have made every challenge a little less daunting. Thanks to the program, I know how to write for an audience—my job now is to find out what exactly that audience knows and more importantly, what they don’t know. I also get to do a lot of user testing, following exactly what existing doc says, finding easier ways to get a job done, and even suggesting changes to the user interface.
I am grateful for Professor Toomey and Solberg’s dedication to the program—they have found a way to make professional and technical writing creative, fun, and comedic. And even though I am less than a year out of college, I can already feel the support in the circle of fellow alumni."
Profile by Anna Quattrini, Undergraduate PWTC T.A.