Heidi Braun is the managing editor of internal publications for United Church of God and her role includes serving as the editor for United News. She works at the home office in Milford, Ohio. In this interview, she talks about life lessons, going to an online university and how her work experiences helped her land the job she loves today!
What’s your Church background? Were you born and raised or did you find the Church as an adult?
I was born into the Church. My parents attended Worldwide Church of God (WWCG) until a few months after I was born. It was a time of a lot of change. They were trying to find a group that continued to teach God’s way, so they eventually found United Church of God (UCG) and have attended ever since. I grew up in the Charlotte, North Carolina, congregation and was born in Mooresville, North Carolina.
What drew you to your current field of employment?
I’ve always had a fascination with literature, reading stories and a lot of books. As an older teen, I wrote and self-published some children’s books. I knew I wanted to do something in that field. I kind of alternated between whether I wanted to do writing or editing. In my college years, I leaned more toward the editing side and got a lot of experience in helping others write.
What sort of education did you get to prepare for your career?
I went to Liberty University online and got a degree in interdisciplinary studies. It’s a bachelor of science degree that allows you to pick a couple of main areas of study and integrate them with some core required classes. For me, the two areas of study I chose were communications and English.
Tell us a little more about online university.
Online university was great. It saved a lot of money as a student. But I found I spent a lot of time online at my computer. It’s good to take breaks and pace yourself. You can tend to get very focused and since you don’t have many in-person, on-campus experiences, you have to reach out for those on your own.
I found the work itself was not significantly harder than in-person school. I did like being able to work at my own pace; however, you definitely need self-discipline. It’s extremely important for online school. I remember many, many times staying up late to meet a deadline because I didn’t plan ahead. You have to be pretty organized and plan ahead for online school, otherwise you’re going to face a lot of stress for those deadlines!
What has been your career path? How exactly did you get here?
My career path is a testament to God’s hand in my life. I didn’t always see the big picture while going through the stages. I worked in a number of jobs that didn’t fit all my initial career goals. I started out self-employed, teaching piano and later on getting into the alterations/seamstress business and selling items on Etsy. They didn’t fit my overall writing goals but were things that fascinated me. It turns out I was developing business skills all along that would help out later in my career.
Other than self-employment, I worked as an administrative assistant in an intership at a medical company. The work wasn’t directly related to what I do today, but it helped me establish some of the organizational and professional skills I needed in the workplace.
I worked in the printing department of several office supply stores. I learned a lot about printing equipment and requirements for publications—so the end process of what I do for my job now. After that, I worked for another company, where I edited online grocery listings, making sure they were in the correct categories.
Most recently, I applied for a role that opened up at the home office and now I’m the managing editor for internal publications. My role is primarily editing, proofreading and writing articles for United News, the Festival Planning Brochure, the United Youth Camps magazine and other publications sent to members. I create print layouts using InDesign and help with posting content online. I also support Ambassador Bible College by creating printed materials, and there’s even an element of photography. I’ve also helped run the teleprompter for Beyond Today. It’s fun to have a variety of different items I get to work on within my role!
Did you ever feel like you didn’t enjoy your job at any point along the way? Why? How did you deal with it?
Working for the retail office supply company was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. They were very short-staffed and I had to work 39.5 hours, so I wasn’t full time and they didn’t have to pay benefits. I was also a full-time college student.
I had to develop a thick skin because many of the customers were rude. One of my managers continually talked down to me. For the first time, I had to face a hard time about taking off for the Sabbath and Holy Days. It was the first time I was ever really challenged on it. I was scheduled for the Feast of Trumpets, even though I had asked off. It worked out because they were so short-staffed and they couldn’t afford to fire me when I didn’t show up. The pay was low there and I was passed over for promotion, which I suspect was because of the Sabbath, but all things considered, it was good for me to have that experience because I learned to stand up for myself and face situations where people were difficult to work with. I think that’s good for somebody to have at a job in customer service at one point or another in their lives. People are difficult; people are human. You’re going to get that in just about any job, even your dream job.
Does your work ever create potential conflicts with your faith? (e.g., ethical issues within the workplace regarding their work or what the company does or what the company’s values are, Sabbath conflicts, etc.)
(Laughing) No, but even in my current role, it has made me ask the question, “Where do I draw the line at volunteering to help at Sabbath services versus doing my job?” I’ve had to be very intentional about what defines work as a part of my job versus what defines volunteering at Sabbath services.
Do you have specific criteria to help make that decision?
Work emails I don’t even check on the Sabbath. Similarly, as much as I can, I keep my workspace separate from Sabbath services. I work upstairs at the home office during the work week, so I try not to even go up there on the Sabbath.
So, it’s kind of like creating a border?
What advice would you give to someone in junior high or high school about pursuing a career that’s fulfilling?
Where you are now doesn’t necessarily define where you will end up. If you get an internship in the field you’re going for, that’s great, but don’t get discouraged if it’s hard to get your foot in the door. Look for jobs that provide stepping stones to your ultimate goal. When I was working at the office supply company in the print center, the skill set I developed helped me out later. I looked for a way to stand out in the print center rather than the retail portion of the store, because it helped set me apart from other applicants when applying for the next job. Take every opportunity to learn, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to the big picture, because that skill might be helpful in the future.
Finally, I’d say, don’t sell yourself short. I spent a lot of time in retail feeling like I “owed” my company loyalty, but if you’re a hard worker and willing to learn, you’re worth a job that pays fairly and takes care of its employees.
What advice would you give to someone who might want to work in your field?
Reading is a lot more important than you think. You think editing and writing are about editing and writing, but it’s important to think about the reading aspect too. Read to get an idea for what kind of articles are published and what the tone of articles that get published is like, especially for the type of publication you’re going for, whether that’s a newspaper, a book or whatever. If you can, get practice, maybe at an internship or volunteer to get experience. Any opportunity you can get experience in would be great.
Additionally, learn some side skills that you might not think are particularly relevant but actually are for the editing field. Learn some programs like InDesign, Light Room, etc. I’ve even found that being familiar with posting blogs and writing product descriptions online have been helpful.
Any final thoughts?
A lot of people view their career path with the question, “What would I have done differently?” I definitely made some mistakes I would like to have handled differently, but I don’t think I would take back the experiences, even the negative ones, because it has helped me to come to where I am now.
Thanks so much for your time and insight, Heidi!