Yearbook: Real-world training

Written by Emily Egeland

Despite not going into a field related to journalism and print media, my experience on the yearbook staff, including a year as editor-in-chief, at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md., has helped me succeed in my career as a software engineer. Just as I would edit and write copy then, now I edit code through code reviews and write using code.

So if you are wondering how yearbook might help you in an unrelated workplace in a few years, here are just a few big ways yearbook is still with me today.

Working on a product

There are few opportunities in high school where you create a product that will eventually be used and seen by the majority of the school, let alone the world. Gearing the yearbook toward its target audience is one goal of the editors. Thinking in the perspective of the customer is a skill I use daily to decide how someone will use the feature I work on and what use cases I need to find. With yearbook, the goals and standards are created by the yearbook team, following the needs of the student body, just as a software feature is designed with the needs of the customer in mind.

Cooperation and management

There aren’t many times in school where the group of people you work with will be the same for a full year. In the real world, your day-to-day job is working with the same people for months or years. In yearbook at my school and in my job, individuals have roles that they specialize in to contribute to the final product.

The copy writers, editors, photographers and designers all need to communicate to make the yearbook turn out well. In my workplace, we have developers, testers, product managers, managers, designers and high-ups who all need to communicate to make a final product. The experience of working on a consistent team and leading as an editor definitely helped me achieve the confidence, negotiation skills and ability to work on a team that sustained me from school projects to, years later, work meetings.

Sense of design

In yearbook, especially as an editor, effort was focused on where to place images, deciding what fonts to use, and how to achieve overall consistent design. In the computing industry, techniques like these are important in designing an app or webpage. Human-computer interaction is much like finding the right place to put a headline in a spread.

While there are differences between print design and digital design, the basic concepts are similar enough. When a new feature needs a button, it needs to be easily discoverable and in a position the user would think to find it. This is just like looking at a page and expecting to find a caption next to a picture explaining what is going on. It’s different worlds, but still the same concept.

In high school, I thought only of the fun experience of working on a yearbook when I signed up. I never would have thought it could have such an impact on how I work in my career now. From design, to management, to a finished product, all the experiences of working on the yearbook can help in any field you look at; you just may not know it yet.

Emily Egeland

Emily Egeland was one of four editors-in-chief of the 2008 Leaves yearbook at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md. She worked on the staff for two years, and the 2008 book earned NSPA All-American and CSPA Gold Circle awards. In 2013, Egeland graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Computer Science from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. Currently she is a software development engineer in test for Microsoft.