supervising other writers, and overseeing company-wide documentation policies and procedures. Many technical communicators freelance at the end of their careers as a way to maintain
some income while gradually transitioning to retirement.
Competition for freelance work is now global, and this low
barrier to entry has driven rates down significantly. In addition, there is fierce competition among freelance technical
writers/editors as print media continue to face strong pressure
from online publications. However, the increase in scientists
for whom English is a second language has opened up opportunities for technical editors to assist them. Technical communication is gaining greater acceptance as a profession and
moving into fields such as data processing, hosting, and other
Lisa M. Balbes of Balbes Consultants LLC contributed to
How I Work: Maxwell
COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST, OFFICE OF THE
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE DOW CHEMICAL
At an ACS national meeting, Maxwell Kushner-Lenhoff had the opportunity to speak with former ACS
president and Dow employee Katie Hunt at a Chemical Professionals Meet-and-Greet for students. “We
spoke about my interest in trying to find a science-related job outside of R&D, and she encouraged
me to consider Dow, although she could not off the
top of her mind recommend any specific positions,” Kushner-Lenhoff remembers.
The environment is fairly high-pressure and fast-paced. Working for a
global corporation means that we engage
with people across many different time
zones, so often, my hours do not meet
a standard 9–5, Monday to Friday work
week. Time management is key, and
can be a challenge. We try to anticipate
everything that will be required to support events and activities, but breaking
news can drive last-minute asks and
research. In those moments, it helps to
have come from an academic background
where I honed my ability to deliver on a
deadline and under pressure.
“I enjoyed the lab work,” Kushner-Lenhoff says, “but I found
that that was not my favorite part of what I was doing.”
What personal talent or trait makes
you a great fit for your job?
Thanks to a recommendation from an alumnus of his course,
Kushner-Lenhoff found a position at Dow, tackling activities
across the communications spectrum from research to writing,
public relations, and promotion, in his work as a Communications Specialist in the Office of the Chairman and CEO of The
Dow Chemical Company.
I love listening to people tell their favorite stories. Luckily, it just
so happens that those narratives very often make for the most
engaging proof points that I can incorporate into my research
What essential habit do you have now that
you wish you’d started much earlier?
Can you give us a breakdown
of how you spend your time?
Around 50% of my time is spent on research — online searches,
reading news and white papers, and engaging with experts so
that I can stay up to date on trends, analysis, and of course, all
of Dow’s diverse businesses and technologies. As to the rest,
30% of my time is writing, 10% is meetings, and 10% is miscellaneous projects.
Researching a person’s title and background before I meet
them helps me go into the room better prepared and with more
directed and poignant questions. All of these factors make for a
more productive meeting.
What’s your favorite ACS resource?
Chemical & Engineering News magazine. I try to read it every
week to find out about recent academic discoveries and what is
going on in the industry, including stories about Dow!
One of the most enjoyable parts of my role is to engage
with Dow’s internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Whether in
R&D, business, sustainability, diversity, or government affairs,
these SMEs are extremely knowledgeable and are very open
and friendly. They have proven invaluable to getting the facts
and the story right. With facts in hand, it is off to outlining and
Nader Heidari and Maxwell Kushner-Lenhoff were interviewed by Allison Proffitt, a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, TN.