My Winthrop Experience

Name: Catherine Zende '12
Residence: Greenville, S.C.
Degree: Science communication
Occupation: Information developer

Catherine Zende '12 believes it's so important for women to get involved in the technical field, not just for diversity, but for the huge impact it can have on our lives.

"Many of our everyday experiences and devices are shaped by technical professionals who design, test and build solutions," said the Greenville, South Carolina, resident. "When there aren't women involved in these processes, many things that affect women can be unaccounted for, and many good ideas about how to build a better world are not pursued."

Zende points to the discoveries and creations of legendary women like Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, Shirley Jackson, Jane Goodall and Katherine Johnson — "just to name a few!"

"Many young women who might initially be interested in STEM-related fields get discouraged by not seeing female industry leaders," she added. "Women who join technical fields can serve as inspiration for future generations of scientists, inventors and builders."

As the daughter of an English teacher and an electrical engineer, Zende knew she wanted a major that combined her interest in the STEM fields with her aptitude for writing.

Enter Winthrop University's communications and technical writing offerings.

"Winthrop stood out because no other school had a program quite like it," she said. "In addition, Winthrop had a reputation as being a school that deeply cares about students. With small class sizes and a walkable campus, it seemed like a great fit."

Zende dove right in, exploring all the university had to offer. She appreciated the way her science communications focus combined science, computer technology, journalism and writing. The WRIT 366 course in technical communication stands out the most for her. A core class for technical communicators, it shows the many ways people in that field can work in the business world, too.

"[Instructor of English] Marilyn Montgomery was a great inspiration to me because of her personal experience as a technical writer," she said. "She validated that my dreams and aspirations had real-world applicability. Since I was graduating at a time when the job market was competitive, I was unsure if I could use my degree as intended. She showed me that technical communication can be flexible and applied to a variety of industries."

Zende also served as science and technology editor for The Johnsonian, Winthrop's student-run weekly newspaper. On the weekends, she mentored her former high school robotics team in Mauldin, and still leads them to competitions to this day.

She currently works as an information developer for Infor, a tech company that builds business applications with scientific insights, delivered as a cloud service. Each day, she works with software engineers to learn about and document enhancements for Infor's software product, Enterprise Asset Management. She previously worked as a project administrative assistant at aeSolutions, a process safety engineering company.

"Writing user guides and documentation may not sound thrilling to most, but this was what I had imagined myself doing while in college," she said. "The task of taking complex, software engineering information and condensing and rewriting it for general audiences is challenging and rewarding. The software product that I work on is used in hospital systems, manufacturing, transportation, and many other industries."