The English Department concluded the 2014-2015 Alumni Speakers Series with a panel featuring English alumni entrepreneurs. Students gathered to hear panelists Amy Pedersen, Ashley Bright, and Shane Rodgers speak about how their English major equipped them to start a business.
After graduating in 2005, Pedersen spent two years in the Peace Corps and then returned to the U.S., seeking independence. She began writing resumes for a Fortune 500 company while freelancing, surviving two rounds of layoffs when the bottom fell out of the market. After three years, she decided to start freelancing full-time. Pedersen, who now crafts resumes for executives in Silicon Valley and around the globe, encouraged students to think broadly and creatively about what to do with their English major.
“It’s afforded me a lot of flexibility,” she said. “I can work anywhere and almost any time.”
Shane Rodgers ’96 graduated with a degree in geology and English literature with a view to work at an environmental consulting firm, but he found himself drawn to the restaurant business. When presented with the challenge of turning an unused property into a restaurant, Rogers and a friend decided to take the leap. The restaurant, called Shane’s Deli, has now been a beloved sandwich spot for thirteen years.
“As someone who’s self-employed, you’re constantly trying to boil things down to their core and say, ‘this is how we’re going to attack this’,” Rogers concluded. “If there’s any takeaway from my lit degree, it’s the ability to think critically.”
Ashley Bright graduated in 2010 and began looking for work in the midst of a recession. She took an unpaid internship in public relations and event planning that became a full-time job. After two years working an entry-level job at a well-established, traditional PR firm, she realized that her young age would be a barrier to moving up the corporate ladder. Bright now owns Bright Bulb Co., providing public relations and digital marketing for bestselling authors, in-demand speakers, and management firms.
Bright also explained how her English degree has given her business the edge: “In today’s marketplace, telling a story is essential. That’s something I do for my clients: make sure they have a strong story for their product or their service.”
After sharing their stories, the panelists answered students’ questions about pursuing entrepreneurship with an English major.
“It’s surprising to see how your degree comes back to you later,” said Bright.
Pedersen encouraged students to use their skills boldly. “Take the leap,” she said. “It was worth it.”