English Grad Makes a Mark in Tech But Is Not Giving Up Literature

Jennifer Pugh
Jennifer Pugh

When Jennifer Pugh graduated from UC Davis in 2010 with a degree in English, she knew she wanted to stay connected to the world of learning.

She applied for a customer service position at TakeLessons, a company that matched music teachers with students. The job was taking phone calls and answering questions, but the company was young and about education and music, so she was interested.

An open attitude in tech startup

"It was a tech startup, they were pulling in people with a wide range of backgrounds and we were all wearing many hats," said Pugh, a native of San Diego where she now lives and works. "There was an attitude of 'figure out what you want to do and grow.'"

It was her first job after graduation. The company now offers classes in 400 fields from fencing to physics, and Pugh is a product manager. 

Liberal arts and looking at big picture 

It’s not the kind of job people think an English major might end up with, but for Pugh it makes perfect sense.

“When you have a liberal arts degree there is a questioning nature to it, there’s not just one answer,” she said.  “It prepares you to stand back and look at the entire picture.”

She’s always loved reading, storytelling and writing; being a product manager calls on those skills.

“I craft a story about a product,” she said. “I create and maintain a product road map derived from user research, market trends and company goals and work with a team of designers and software engineers to create products that solve real problems for our users.”

Still in love with literature

For now, product management is her future.

"It's a really cool field," she said. "I love the work I get to do every day."

But she hasn’t given up English—she’s just a few months away from earning her master’s degree in British literature at San Diego State University.

(Pugh was recently featured in the Huffington Post.)

Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science