During Engineering Clinic her senior year, Julia Goldstein ’88 took on most of the report writing while her teammates did the coding. While studying materials science at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, she honed her writing skills. As a process development engineer in the semiconductor packaging industry, Julia wrote quarterly reports and articles for trade magazines. So, in 2001, she decided to shift to professional writing. Now with her own communications company, she’s been published in trade and business journals and has written about everything from stormwater management and 3D printing to transportation and sustainability.
Describe your Harvey Mudd experience.
I found out about Mudd at a college fair. I liked that it wasn’t purely a tech school but had a focus on the humanities. I was leaning toward liberal arts schools with a major in the sciences, so Harvey Mudd seemed like the right blend. I came in as a physics major but realized that wasn’t a good fit for me and switched to engineering. I took a materials science class my junior year. I had never heard of materials science, but that course was fantastic. I got so excited about the whole idea that you could tailor materials to have specific properties, like improved strength, by adding specific elements or subjecting the materials to precise heat treatment.
How did your engineering work lead to a writing career?
I was doing contract work as a technical consultant, and I was starting to take on more of a project management role for one of my clients. My kids were 2 and 4 at the time. My youngest wouldn’t nap at preschool, so I had to start picking him up at noon, which prevented me from spending more time on-site for this project. I started thinking about other options, and I realized I had always been the engineer who did the writing. I discovered that Advanced Packaging Magazine was looking for a technical editor. That job came with flexible hours, and it was something I could do at home. Most of the people who read the magazine had no idea that the publication’s Silicon Valley office was in my dining room.
You now have your own company, JLFG Communications. What do you write about?
I call it technical marketing communications. I help businesses and government agencies tell their stories through blog posts, articles, case studies, reports and white papers. I also blog about materials and sustainability on my website. I’m planning to launch an online course teaching marketing writing to small and midsize manufacturing businesses. There is often a disconnect between engineering and marketing, and I want to bridge that gap and help companies create more effective content in-house.
You also wrote a book, Material Value, published in 2019. What is it about and why do you think it’s important?
In Material Value, I look specifically at two classes of engineered materials: plastics and metals. I focus on these because they are so prevalent in society and because of the incredible amount of waste and sometimes toxic exposure that occurs from building products out of these materials. In the book, I discuss the challenges facing the manufacturing world, how manufacturers can make choices that are less wasteful and less harmful to people and the environment, and the role of individuals, agencies and governments in improving the use and reuse of materials. The book also has interviews with business leaders who really care about sustainability.
What do you want people to do after reading your book?
I hope that readers will develop a new appreciation for the environmental impact of the products they buy. If they decide to keep their cell phone longer before upgrading or reduce their reliance on disposable items, that’s a win. For those working at a manufacturing or technology company, I want them to look at their employer’s website. Is there a sustainability or social responsibility page and, if so, does the company act on its promises? If the message is lacking, there is an opportunity to push for changes in company policy.
What are your next projects?
I’ve written another book, geared toward a consumer audience and dealing with all the confusion surrounding recycling and composting. I’m planning to launch Rethink the Bins in November 2020. I lead workshops and webinars on recycling, so there’s interest in this topic, and it’s great to have the opportunity to educate people. I recognize that smarter recycling is not going to alleviate climate change, that there are many other things that need to happen. But this is a small piece of it, and if people can learn a few best practices, maybe we can make recycling work.