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An Accidental Affair
2011, Q3 (October 05, 2011)
By Christina Eftekhar, Newsletter Copyeditor

Christina Eftekhar, author
Christina Eftekhar
I always knew I was destined to be a writer (even my kindergarten teacher bragged about my stories because they actually had a beginning, middle, and an end). I just didn't know how I would get there. As an avid reader, a straight-A student in English and the Humanities, I thought math and science were not in my future, which is why I never dreamed I'd end up a technical writer, researching and learning the hard sciences (including nuclear physics these days). You could say my affair with technical writing was accidental, which makes for the best kind of love story.

While discovering and hating several majors - including Hospitality Management and Physician Assistant - I conceded that I had been avoiding a major in English because, well, what can you do besides teach? While fielding these questions and tougher ones from my parents, I grew increasingly bored with the study of literature. Sure, my Bs in business classes (and a spectacular D in statistics) kept things interesting, but I knew I needed to have a plan entering my junior year.

That's when I just happened to notice the Business Writing and Technical Communication certificate, coy and shy as it tried to hide in the English department. The class offerings immediately grabbed my attention: Editing, Document Design, Grammar, and even Science Writing (which of course I avoided like a single man with ten cats).
Finally it was time to graduate, but not before working for free with a bunch of adults in an experience called The Internship.

I knew I fell in love with the discipline the day our professor had us write instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Never did I expect this Introduction to Technical Writing class could make me love and hate writing at the same time. If you've ever done this hilarious exercise, you will quickly realize the intangible value of user testing.

Finally it was time to graduate, but not before working for free with a bunch of adults in an experience called The Internship. I was somehow lucky enough to get an afternoon job on a software project underway at the IT department. Looking back, the work was simple and not really technical writing, but it certainly did not hurt my chances of getting a job.

My first "real" job after graduation was at the East Carolina University (ECU) School of Medicine. I was a glorified secretary, but I was fortunate to be able to use my technical writing skills in many ways, such as setting up a SharePoint site and teaching my department how to use it, developing and maintaining our large website, and designing marketing and advertising pieces.

I enjoyed the medical environment (much to my surprise), and was ready to get my hands in technical writing. I scoured the job listings across the state and noticed a student co-op with GlaxoSmithKline. By this time, I had passed the honeymoon stage and eased into the difficult but rewarding Technical and Professional Communication graduate program.

The co-op lasted long enough for me to graduate with my Master of Arts degree, and then I was shoved into the world, now suddenly considered a professional. I got into the exciting arena of contracting, which fit well with my desire to develop new skills and experience different subjects to write about.

Entering college, I never expected I would be doing what I'm doing today, nor have the chance to relate my story to other professionals. But when Technical Writing and I met, I knew it would be the affair of a lifetime.

I have not been disappointed.

Christina can be reached at c dot s dot eftekhar at gmail dot com. End of article.

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