Business Communication & Web Writing Instructor Geraldine Eliot shares her personal journey into the tech sector that has spanned two continents.
How did you get into tech?
My journey into the tech sector has had some twists and turns. In many ways I tumbled into it, as I’ve followed a path of both writing and teaching since early on. I was exposed to computers at a young age (DOS, floppy disks, and the like) and was captivated by the Internet when it arrived (long story, but I was a definite pioneer of Internet dating in the 90s…). Largely what led me to where I am now has been the desire to do what I love, while simultaneously earning money for it.
I’d say my career started while completing my BA in Cultural and Literary Studies, Honours in Creative Writing, and my MA in English at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, where I’m originally from. During my studies, I took web design and media classes, taught in English lit and media, and was the Arts Editor for the UCT newspaper. I was always writing — whether freelancing for online or print media, creative writing, or journalistic articles — and became fascinated by online content development and media production.
Things were less linear after that. I spent what was supposed to be a year’s work and travel in Vancouver, but after a period back in South Africa, where I worked as a web writer and editor for an online travel guide, I ended up emigrating to Canada. While working for the travel guide, I learned to work with content management systems and was exposed to Search Engine Optimization from its humble beginnings. Although it was a departure from my previous teaching, when I returned to Canada, I took a job at BCIT teaching Business and Technical Communication.
Writing has always been my first love, so I left full-time teaching to look for a writing job. My timing was terrible as this was when the economy tanked in 2008. I struggled to find a job but was picking up web content writing contracts through word of mouth, so I decided to start my content development and editing business, Meerkat Communications, in early 2009 and returned to teaching Part-Time Studies at BCIT. I teach Writing for the Web and run the industry projects in our Technical Writing program as well as communications classes, now solely online.
What does a typical work day look like?
I’ve worked for a large range of companies, from cutting edge tech agencies to non-profits and everything in between. I’d say there’s no such thing as a typical work day for me. I might be juggling giving a corporate training workshop, my online teaching, connecting with a client, liaising with graphic designers, or (my favourite part) writing. I do web copy, social media, white papers, newsletters, instructional design, podcasts, etc., as well as print media copy, so there’s always something new for me to do.
What do you like best about working in the tech sector?
My favourite part of the tech sector is how it forces me to remain adaptable. Things change so quickly, which means I have to try and stay a step ahead, but there are always new opportunities to explore, new software to learn, and a myriad ways to grow.
There are many paths to entering the tech sector – whether more traditional or, as in my case – more unconventional. Women and girls remain underrepresented in STEM fields, but it’s a space that needs our voices and capabilities, and one that we can make a huge difference in.