Elizabeth Hughes: Words, Beer and Combat Simulation

Sometimes the path to an interesting career is circuitous and a little rocky. An example is this month’s Featured Geek Elizabeth Hughes, a defense industry publications manager at ACME Worldwide Enterprises in Albuquerque. In another life Elizabeth, now in her 30s, aspired to write about the runways that feature clothes, not jets.

After graduating Hughes was sure she’d be writing about fashion but that didn’t work out so well. She dove into technology writing – specifically about semiconductors and combat simulation. Her liberal arts background still comes in handy though. She also writes a travel column for The Alibi, Albuquerque’s alt weekly, and squeezes in time to blog about two favorite subjects: beer and hiking.

How did you get from writing about color trends to  semiconductors and combat simulation?

I discovered there were only so many things I had to say about bags and shoes. Fashion writing gigs were also hard to come by so I ended up working in banking as a contracts assistant. I managed terms and conditions and did state-by-state contract localization for national engagements. Then I landed a gig managing datasheets for GSI Technology (a semiconductor manufacturer) in Austin. From there, I made the move to New Mexico.

That’s still quite a change

I’ve worked with some great bosses and engineers who’ve been very patient and have given me excellent opportunities to dig in to technical content and understand the “why” of a product. The elements of engineering keep me interested and engaged.

So what do you do, exactly?

We make high-fidelity motion seats for fighter jets and helicopters, and also weapons emulator systems. Anything that gets delivered to the government requires a lot of reports and manuals. I’m the only tech writer here, so basically I write everything including specs and process improvement, in addition to end-user documentation.

But how does a writer fit in with a bunch of military tech nerds?

At my second interview I begged them to shoot a very loud, very realistic machine gun emulator that fires inert dummy rounds for training purposes. It was really cool. I’ve also been suckered into sitting in the motion seats during factory testing. They strap you in and shake you around for what seems like an eternity. Now I know not to do that one after lunch. I get to play with everything too. When engineers miss deadlines, there’s nothing like firing a replica MK19 to blow off steam.

Now about your hiking: You’ve been to some spectacular places. Are there any spots you’d care to share?

Because I write the travel column, I’m running off every weekend to write about something, but my favorite New Mexico adventure is White Sands National Monument. Camping out there under a full moon is like being in another world.

This summer I did a backpacking trip through the Narrows at Zion National Park. The hike is down the canyon via the river bed. Miles and miles of slipping and sliding across rocks with a heavy pack on, but the rock formations in the canyons are like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

Let’s talk about beer. Any treats that beer mavens should be on the lookout for?

Albuquerque is a hot bed of micro breweries. New ones are opening all the time and the established ones just get better and better. Two of my local faves are Marble Brewery’s Double White and Il Vicino Canteen’s Chocolate Cherry Stout.  Il Vicino just took medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

Dixie BelleI was charmed by your email avatar.  She’s got quite the quizzical expression on her face.

That’s my awesome rescue pit Dixie Belle. I recently added a stray pug named Boo Radley to my family as well.

Want to be a Featured Geek? Tell us why you’re hot. And Geeky. There’s no swag involved, but we’ll share your virtuosity with the world, post pictures and links, and give your parents yet another reason to brag. Just send an email to editor@dice.com (with “Featured Geek” in the subject line.

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