I recently finished my undergraduate degrees in Biology and English (‘18), followed by an MS degree in Bioengineering (‘19) from Stanford. Currently, I am working within the Product Development department at Genentech, a biotech company based in South SF. While it may seem that my background in biology led me to this current role, my manager actually selected me over other applicants because of my English degree. In my first week at the job, when I would forget to mention my BA in English during introductions, my manager would make a point of mentioning it to coworkers.
Within my role, I can confidently say I make as much use of my BA in English as I do of my BS/MS (if not more!). Day-to-day, I develop highly technical guidance documents to make concrete strategy recommendations for Genentech’s product portfolio. Without the efficient reading and writing skills honed through courses in English, my work would probably take ~3x as long daily. At Genentech, I also conduct multiple cross-functional interviews and meetings every day. Within this context, I recognize that my English degree has strengthened my ability to be an agile communicator across groups with different perspectives and priorities. These skills have helped me achieve success in projects where purely technical expertise would not have sufficed.
Beyond these examples of how I use my background in English within my current job, I’d also like to share some personal thoughts on the worth of pursuing an English degree. My peers, professors, and coursework within the English department collectively played the most pivotal role in my personal growth during college. Whether discussing Baldwin’s essays, Anne Carson’s poetry, or Chekhov’s short stories, the dynamism of discussions I experienced in my English classes helped me develop a diversity of perspectives, a degree of empathy, and an ability to listen and speak attentively that I carry with me through all of my personal and professional interactions. I think this is the strongest argument I can give for pursuing an English degree, as those skills are what I’m most grateful for gaining amongst all of my educational experiences.