Lisa Kemp is a partner relationship manager at Ontario Systems in Muncie. She graduated from the Ball State English Department in 1990. In this post, she discusses her work and how it connects to her studies in the department.

How would you describe your job?

I am currently a partner relationship manager with product management responsibilities at Ontario Systems, LLC in Muncie, IN. My job involves managing the day-to-day partnership activities for more than thirty partners. Most of these partners provide data services to our mutual customers. I also manage the product that provides our customers access to these services.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

My days are far from typical. My most stressful days involve acting as a liaison between our partner and our own support team when one or more of our mutual customers experience issues with a service. Other days I juggle writing user stories (requirements) for software enhancements, managing the product through all aspects of the product development and rollout of new product features and services, communications with partners, influencing our partners to support our annual user conference and facilitating that portion of the event, and much more.

How did your English major affect your career path?

I graduated with a B.S. in English, Secondary Education, but after graduation, I had no firm plans to pursue a teaching career. Now, with Ball State’s immersive learning initiatives and opportunities for students to dive into real-life career simulations early in their degree work, I would have realized sooner that I did not want to teach and would have pursued a different concentration with my English degree. Early in my career, I was a technical writer and later managed that team.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

In every position I have held, I have used my English education. Most positions involve writing skills and communications skills, valuable to anyone in any position. I have gravitated toward opportunities to use those skills. Analytical thinking skills have helped me in projects where I need to analyze financials, industry trends, and data that will help influence decisions. I can scarcely think of any aspect of any position where my English background has not proven useful.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

I had a couple classes that had a great impact on me because of the professors’ passion for the topics. Those included any classes I took with Dr. Koontz including my favorite, Black Literature. I enjoyed a film literature class and a linguistics class with Dr. Sidney Greenbaum. While not in the English department, I enjoyed my folk dance class with Ya’akov Eden. Even though some might balk at general studies courses, they can be very fun and memorable.

What advice would you give current English majors?

I have four major areas of advice for current English majors:

  1. Hone your writing skills so that you can write in any way (not only academic) to any audience (for example, technical, beginner, or child).
  2. Force yourself out of your comfort zone. A lot of English majors like to hunker down with a good book or the keyboard and not speak outside of our friend group. If something makes you feel uncomfortable or gives you butterflies, practice it and put yourself in situations where you do it so that you can overcome your fears (or at least lessen them).
  3. Participate in extracurricular activities. Go to Ball State sporting events (there are hundreds!). Join a club (again, hundreds!). Grow your leadership skills by taking on an office in a club or organization.
  4. Network. Make eye contact. Smile. Shake hands. Learn people’s names. Talk to your classmates and professors. Get to know people. Keep in touch with them after your time at Ball State.