Kathleen Fischer is a communications professional with over 15 years of experience. Fischer graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in Professional Writing, honing her skills as a communications strategist. In her current role at the professional services firm EY, Fischer is a manager of an executive communications and employee engagement team. She also contributes to the development of new workflows. Her responses to our interview questions, below, highlight the importance of well-rounded communication skills and social media engagement.
Q: Describe your current role and your daily professional tasks and responsibilities
A: I’m an Assistant Director of Communications & Engagement for the Americas Financial Services Organization within EY. I oversee two communications professionals and report to the Communications & Engagement Leader, who reports to the Chief Communications Officer for EY Americas.
I provide executive communications support for the managing partners, ranging from writing and editing emails to drafting and producing video webcasts. I’m constantly looking for ways to leverage metrics to influence change and form best practices in how we communicate. At EY, change happens quickly, creating new opportunities for communications professionals. For example, with the recent announcement of EY’s commitment to be carbon neutral by the end of 2020, I joined a workstream focused on the change management and communications to help our people support sustainability.
In addition, I am in constant communication with my direct reports, providing them guidance and coaching as needed (I learn plenty from them too!).
Q: What made you realize that writing was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
A: I always wanted to write. I never wanted to do anything else. I just didn’t realize how many possible career paths exist for someone who’s passionate about communications until I got into college.
Q: Talk about a book, mentor, or experience that helps shape who you are as a writing professional.
A: I had a lot of jobs and internships in college and graduate school that exposed me to the wide variety of potential career paths for someone interested in writing. In particular, the summer before I graduated I had a pretty informal internship at a marketing company that gave me exposure to leadership. I was very challenged by the project, which required me to do research and create a report that would be submitted to the FCC. It was energizing (and a little scary!) to work on something real – that the CEO would eventually review my report and it could really impact the company’s future. I also realized that the key to effective communication in the workplace is getting a message across clearly and concisely – and that’s actually paramount to perfect grammar!
Q: In your role/industry, how important is collaboration? With whom do you collaborate?
A: Throughout my writing career, I have had great teammates who help my creative juices flow. But I also work closely with subject matter experts and stakeholders, where our knowledge and strengths are completely different. It’s a great feeling when we can collaborate on a project and produce a piece of work that neither party could’ve done on our own.
Q: What advice would you give to a professional writer interested in a career like yours?
A: Get real-world work experience! It’s eye-opening to take what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it. You will probably also be very surprised at the wide variety of career possibilities for professional writers!
On a related note, LinkedIn is a great tool, no matter where you are in your career. Connect with friends and colleagues, but also follow thought leaders, companies that interest you, communications experts, etc. Start your day by spending a couple of minutes on LinkedIn to help you stay on top of the latest news that’s influencing your professional life. (By the way, I got my current job and my previous job through LinkedIn!)
Q: What do you look for when assessing potential new hires?
A: First, do your homework. Come with thoughtful questions. Bring samples of your work and be able to explain why you picked these samples. Beyond the interview, we want a well-rounded communicator, not just someone who’s awesome at writing. I want to see someone who’s passionate and excited about writing for sure, but a candidate who can also show a comfort with or interest in technology and metrics is important to this field.
Thank you to Kathleen Fischer for sharing her professional writing journey with us.
To learn more about the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies, visit sps.nyu.edu/mspw