Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.


When downsizing is uplifting

June 2, 2011
by Paul Miller

Downsizing for most people can be a foreboding problem. However, when Jodi Peterson (B.A. '86, M.A. '89) decided to downsize her own career eight years ago, she made what turned out to be a very gratifying choice.

Launching pad

As an undergraduate English major at CSU, Jodi Peterson learned that, while writing fiction and literary criticism didn't pay much, there was such a thing as technical writing. “I could apply my skills to explaining how to use computers, and that paid really well,” she says.

While finishing her master’s in Communication Development (a cross-disciplinary technical journalism/English degree), she secured a summer internship at Hewlett-Packard writing computer users' guides, which became a full-time job after she graduated. She spent the next 15 years there as “a tiny cog in an 80,000-person global corporation,” which was fine – until her personal life started going south. At age 39, she decided it was time to make some major changes, and thus began her own downsizing.

Satisfaction (almost) guaranteed

She took a leave from HP in 2004 and explored options in media, hoping to combine her writing and editing skills with her interest in environmental issues. “I did a three-month internship at High Country News, a nonprofit newsmagazine that covers environment and natural resources in the American West,” she says. “Instead of writing computer guides that I had no idea if anyone ever read, I helped produce a biweekly magazine for 23,000 passionate and loyal subscribers. The close connection to readers has been incredibly rewarding.”

HCN eventually offered Peterson a full-time editing job, and she's never looked back – last summer, she became the publication's managing editor.

Small town, big rewards

The magazine is based in the small town of Paonia in western Colorado, and that was just one of several considerable lifestyle changes for Peterson. “Suddenly I was making about one-third the salary I'd been used to, and instead of being in a bustling city, I found myself in a tiny town of 1,500. I had to get used to a much simpler life, shopping in thrift stores and making meals at home.

“I have other friends here who are also corporate refugees, and we just laugh when we remember that high-spending lifestyle – which none of us misses at all, frankly.”

Peterson credits science-writing and magazine journalism courses at CSU for helping her land a job at High Country News. And she has good advice for aspiring wordsmiths: “Pick a field you're passionate about; go after a job you really want to have. Work should be something that gives you satisfaction and pride, not just a paycheck.”