Editor: Melissa Vagi Company: CDM Smith # of years in editing: 14 years
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
Following undergrad, I taught English in Mexico for six months, then returned to the states where I got a job as a paralegal. In that role, I worked for the senior partner who treated me as a "mini attorney." I conducted research, wrote legal documents, and edited attorneys' documents. I fed my curious mind and enhanced my research and writing skills. Five years later, I went to grad school for journalism. I was drawn to the editing side of writing and focused my education and career goals on technical editing. While in grad school I worked as a resume writer and proofreader, progressing my editorial roles each year. For the past six years I've been a technical editor in the architect-engineer industry. My previous technical editor roles include working for a science education company, a federal agency, and a healthcare company. I love being an editor because I learn new information daily. It is the perfect fit for my curious mind and passion for learning.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
Technical editing in the sciences. I use my creativity to help technical writers refine their communication, in writing and visually. I use my logic to absorb complex information and refine it so that all readers understand.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
I'm an early bird, so my day starts before the sun is up. I have a 10-year-old daughter, so working for a couple hours before she wakes is ideal. I start by making a to-do list, then reading and responding to emails. Once my daughter is off to school, I tackle my editing assignments. When I have long documents, I do take breaks, but exercise in the evening and weekends. I live in Colorado, and being outdoors is highly important. I use an electronic calendar to manage time, color coding the tasks and setting reminders. I work remotely from my home office.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
The varied content I edit. I edit scientific reports, proposals, marketing collateral, and business communication.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
Unreasonable deadlines for long documents. I work with the writer to explain the level of effort needed to properly edit the document and work with the writer to properly schedule editorial reviews. Generally, I am able to accommodate the writer's schedule, but don't want to create a habit of last-minute requests.
What are you currently working on?
Updating my company's style guide, which I revamped a year ago. It was dated and not aligned to current writing and editing standards. Editing reports, proposals, and marketing materials. Enhancing my grant writing and copy writing skill set through online education programs.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Research job ads for the editing jobs you want. Plan your career path and education so that you are marketable. Take editing opportunities that grow your skill. Explore industries you may not think you'd like, as those industries can open doors you don't expect. Continuously grow your mind, skills, and knowledge base. READ actively/critically.