Liberal Arts Leader Elizabeth Goldman, Director of Marketing, InfinityQS, Chantilly, VA
Thanks to having majored in English, Elizabeth Goldman is now the Director of Marketing at InfinityQS, a software company just outside Washington, D.C.
But that wasn’t a career objective she’d had in mind when she was in school. In fact, like many liberal arts majors, she had no particular objective, and career events weren’t particularly helpful. “I knew, being an English major, that recruiters didn’t come on campus to University of Virginia to recruit for that. They weren’t looking for me.” She began to realize any path from English to employment was going to require ingenuity and exploration, so she decided to pursue an internship and landed one—at a TV news bureau.
The only job requirement she’d been sure of until then was “whatever job had to have a lot of writing,” and this one did. But the writing, she found, was “rather boring, just sticking to the facts,” no interpretation, limited opportunities for expression. So broadcast journalism wasn’t “it” after all. Back to the internship drawing board.
Her next internship was in Public Relations working with high tech clients, writing press releases, meeting media contacts and getting know the business end of technology companies.
“I really enjoyed that environment!” A PR firm, she discovered, worked with many companies at once and, while she liked the business, she began to think she’d rather align herself with just one company, to work on their behalf exclusively. A short series of interesting jobs followed—including one in Organizational Communication at Freddie Mac’s huge (3,000 people) Information Technology division—and today Elizabeth heads up the marketing function at InfinityQS, a company specializing in quality control software for manufacturing. Elizabeth and her department oversee Infinity QS’s branding and PR, generate new contacts, manage trade shows and events and more.
How did majoring in English prepare her for marketing work and for leadership in marketing?
“When you’re an English major, you read a lot of books and write a lot of essays. Your purpose is to persuade your reader of something. You take complex works of literature and write about them in a way that’s compelling, interesting and persuasive. Now I distill complex software, explain it, persuade readers to want to know more.”
She says, too, that the ability to develop and articulate a message is something else she learned in her undergraduate education. Knowing your message in business communication is the same as knowing your thesis. It’s also helpful in meetings when you try to speak to a key point or two.
“In a meeting, you can’t go on and on. You have to say things with a point.” (Might be one reason business meetings have reputations as long drawn out wastes of time—not enough English majors in there keeping the discussion pithy.)
Elizabeth’s advice to students: Pursue internships. Discover what it’s like in a business environment and how what you know can be applied there. (Oh, by the way, look for internships offered through other universities, just to broaden your prospects.)
Internships can help you discover what you really want. “You have the education. But more important is knowing how you’re going to convince someone how that education is going to help them (the company).” Internships can help you better understand how to make the connection.