The idea of going into your parents’ line of work seems kind of archaic these days. Unless maybe you’re the villain in a superhero movie. Which is why I was a little shocked to realize, while talking with a family friend several years ago, that I had gone into a field that is essentially a blend of the work my mother and father did.
I was trying to explain Content Strategy to Bruce, a man who had known my parents since they were all in college together, and I described it as “some parts like an editor and some parts like a database programmer.” He responded, “Well, then it sounds like the job you were born to do.” I was probably just trying to put it in terms that I knew he would understand, but it didn’t even occur to me that I was describing my work in terms of my father and mother’s life-long careers.
When I was in grade school, my mother, Ceil Silver, was a Systems Administrator for Sperry Univac. She trained and supported clients like NBC and SUNY Stony Brook on how to use giant mainframes. I had no idea what this meant, at the time, but I was playing with punchcards at a time when most kids had never heard of computers. Plus, I was watching my mom work in a male-dominated field and succeeding at it.
Later, we were one of the first families I knew of to have a personal computer in their home, and my mom became a database developer. She built custom applications in FoxPro for clients who used them for billing, course registration, and running other important aspects of their businesses. She went to user group meetings and conferences, became a Microsoft MVP, and wrote articles on FoxPro Tips. She didn’t talk about her work that much, but she was undeniably an expert in her field.
My dad, Jay Lovinger, was working as a journalist when he discovered his true calling as an editor. He landed a job at a new magazine called Inside Sports, eventually becoming the second in command before the magazine folded.
He worked at People magazine. He started a Sunday magazine for the Washington Post. He was the editor of Life Magazine for about a year. He’s worked at Sports Illustrated and ESPN. He’s won Emmy awards for online video stories that were ostensibly about sports, but really about people, challenge and triumph. If you’re a fan of sports journalism, he’s probably worked with your favorite writers, and he has a reputation for being one of the best long-form editors in the business.
None of this was consciously part of my decision to go into the field of digital content strategy, a field that didn’t even exist when I started my professional life. But I have always loved words, content and communication, and I have always been comfortable with computers and intrigued by the role they play in the way we create, share and find information.
I guess it’s just a good thing my parents weren’t underwater pirates, or I could have ended up like Black Manta.