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Kirsten Nelson

Marketing Technology, Class of '79

What do you do for a living and what’s it like?

I've had a variety of job titles, but they are all related to marketing technology. I got started in technology when I took a job in tech support to supplement my TA salary at Berkeley. While in the process of not writing my dissertation, I discovered the education marketing team at Apple and ran away to join them. Since then, I have worked at start-ups and large companies, specializing in new and disruptive technologies. I recently launched an AI-powered chat bot. The ability to think past what technology does and focus on who might need it, how it helps them with something they care about, and where to talk to them, is still uncommon in the tech industry. Occasionally, I describe my work as translating from technical product features to human. Other times, I describe it as storytelling, building a narrative about the people who technology helps. 

How would you describe the value of an English degree in your career/life?

I've made a living looking at technology from the perspective of people who use it, rather than people who build it. Reading novels has helped me imagine alternatives. Analysis, especially of poetry, enables me to align language to get the most impact out of the fewest words, inspiring audiences, rather than boring them with technical details. My job sometimes involves writing, but more often I use the close reading, literary analysis, and developmental editing skills I built as an English major. Most importantly, though, my degree in English, as well as my humanities education gives me a touchstone for situating technology in the larger social context of issues such as diversity, access, and equity.