Liv Riggins: Leaping Toward Language
Like many former students, alumna Liv Riggins graduated from college with a much different degree than she anticipated. The transition to English and writing studies majors was “a bit of a leap of faith,” though ultimately, Riggins explains, it was the perfect way to set up a future of working with what she loves: language.
How did your experience in CLA have an influence on your life in a way you didn’t expect?
I came to the U of M expecting to major in architecture and design but quickly found I really enjoyed working with language and writing. Transitioning from the architecture program to English and technical writing & communication felt like a bit of a leap of faith, but I found it to be the right move for me.
After graduating, I quickly found a job working in technology in the Bay Area and moved to California. That’s both a job opportunity and a relocation that I couldn’t have anticipated coming into college, but that I have been thoroughly happy with for the past two years! I felt that the multidisciplinary opportunities in the technical communication program enabled me to develop the right technical skills for my current position, on top of helping me hone my writing and editing abilities.
What was one of the defining experiences during your time as a CLA student that you still think about?
The opportunity to be involved in research as an undergrad was a defining experience. Through a research project in User Experience (UX) design led by Kastman Breuch, I was able to apply principles learned in class to real research. It was really cool to be able to work with faculty to conduct real usability testing for an online medical intervention. Additionally, the research project has since produced two published journal articles. I was happy to have the opportunity to contribute to these articles, learn about the academic publishing process firsthand, and get a shoutout as an author on them.
The UX research project also became the center for my University Honors Program thesis, a year-long project that helped me develop my ability to successfully plan, manage, and execute big projects—an ability that’s been crucial in my work since then.
If you could go back to your time in college, what advice would you give to yourself at that age?
I would say to keep working hard but worry less! There are plenty of ways to change direction if you find that you want to do something different than what you started out with. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my skills as a communicator and writer, while adding skills in more technical areas like API documentation and Salesforce administration.
What should current students understand about your profession if they are considering it for themselves?
Technical communication involves more than writing or even technical knowledge of your subject matter—there’s lots of need for effective project management, critical thinking, using research skills, asking questions to find what you need, and communicating well with others on fast-paced and frequently changing projects.
What future endeavors are you looking forward to?
I’m excited to continue expanding my knowledge of the areas I work in. As a technical writer, I am constantly learning new things and learning how to use new technologies. There’s a continuing need for documentation for internal users, system administrators, and developers, in addition to end user documentation. I’m excited to see what the future brings!