MS in Professional Writing (MSPW) alum, Christinne Govereau, is currently a Technical Editor for the US Energy Information Administration. In this role, Christinne reviews public-facing and internal deliverables before publication online, including technical documents, news articles, and reports on energy-related topics such as market trends, statistical and data analysis, and projections. Learn more about her experiences below.
Q: Tell us about your Technical Editor role.
A: The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a sub-agency of the US Department of Energy, and our mission is to help people understand energy. I review our public-facing and internal products before publication online. These products include technical documents, news articles, and reports on energy-related topics such as market trends, statistical and data analysis, and projections. A number of our reports are often used as source material by national and international news organizations.
In addition, I review congressional testimony, press releases, social media posts, video scripts, news stories, infographics, and data visualizations to meet agency writing, style, and branding requirements. As part of my editor role, I also facilitate discussions with authors and senior leadership about language choice and help provide solutions. When I am not editing, I manage the agency writing training program, which includes developing and teaching writing classes to EIA technical experts.
One of my pet projects is managing the agency style guide. Last year, we released a major overhaul of the guide to align it more closely with best practices in communications, plain writing, and the energy industry.
Q: What made you realize that writing was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
A: I actually always believed I was going to teach British Literature. I’m a hopeless Brit Lit junkie. In 2009, just as I was considering graduate school, I received a job offer from the IRS as an administrative assistant in the Legislative Affairs office. I made the difficult decision to put grad school off and take the full-time job in Washington, DC. As luck would have it, the branch I worked in handled congressional inquiries, so it was essentially a communications office (only, with Congress). After working there for a year and demonstrating my writing skills, I was asked to apply for one of the editing positions, and the rest is history! My editing career began, and in truth, I believe nothing is a mistake. I am very happy with the path my career has taken and 11 years later, I finally enrolled in graduate school– with the MS in Professional Writing program.
Q: Talk about how the MSPW helped shape who you are as a writing professional. Any specific mentors, books, or experiences that stand out?
A: When I started in the MSPW, I had 11 years of editing work under my belt. I didn’t really need a graduate degree for career progression, but I wanted to learn more about emerging communication trends and best practices in a digital environment. My undergraduate program didn’t offer any digital communications courses. The MSPW at NYU School of Professional Studies seemed like the perfect fit– and it was! The classes on digital communications really enhanced my ability to work with infographics and social media, and my employer was thrilled with my new skills and insights.
Q: In your role and industry, how important is collaboration? With whom do you collaborate?
A: Many of our products have a number of writers, some as many as a dozen for one report. For example, forecasts, such as the Annual Energy Outlook, cover the projected costs of several different fuel types (such as, fuels for electricity generation, fuels for vehicles, and fuels for home heating and cooling). This requires an analyst for each fuel type. One of my roles is to make those reports sound like one voice—the agency voice. In addition, I frequently work with the other editors on staff by asking one of them to edit a document and then pass it to me for a second look. We typically do a two- or three-editor review on high-profile reports because we don’t have time to look at any product more than once. I work in a high-volume, fast-paced environment, and having that second set of eyes from another editor is a terrific safety net.
Q: What do you look for in assessing potential new hires?
A: I look for strong writing skills, grammar knowledge, familiarity with style manuals, and solid plain writing skills. During the first interview, I give an editing test to assess these skills. When a candidate is called back for a second interview, they must take a second editing test. I am not interested in whether or not they know anything about the content (energy) as much as the skills I outlined above. I can teach a good editor the content, but the reverse is much more difficult to do. So, don’t be discouraged from applying to a position because you don’t know anything about the content. Writing skills are often the most important factor.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: Anyone who is interested in a federal career as a writer, whether it be a speechwriter, social media manager, or other communications specialist, should become proficient in plain writing. The pathways program on the federal government hiring site, usajobs.gov, is a great resource for both paid and unpaid internships in a federal agency. I have worked with interns through this program, and it’s a great way to get some experience.
Thank you to Christinne Govereau 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