Interview #7: Maisha Maurant

  • Years editing: 20
  • Job title: Chief corporate editor at Health Alliance Plan of Michigan
    (last editing role)
  • Location: Michigan

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your last editing job?
My last full-time editing role was chief corporate editor at Health Alliance Plan (HAP). I had previously worked with HAP’s vice president of marketing and community outreach. He encouraged me to apply. It was a great opportunity for me to move into a management role while being a hands-on editor. I looked forward to developing other writers and editors. It was a new function for the company, so it was also exciting to be responsible for implementing it. 

What other positions have you held?
Most recently, I was manager of culture and engagement at Beaumont Health, the largest health system in Michigan. Because of the impact of COVID-19, my position was eliminated in April.

I started out as a newspaper journalist. I left journalism to work in community development at  Focus: HOPE, a civil rights organization. After that, I was a project manager on the philanthropy team at the communications firm Williams Group, public affairs and events associate at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, communication coordinator at the Michigan Community Service Commission, and senior communications specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

In addition to being chief corporate editor at HAP, I was also the manager of communication and creative services. I led a team of writers, graphic artists, and strategists. We worked on external marketing communications as well as internal communications. The latter included supporting corporatewide culture, engagement, and continuous improvement initiatives.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that were important in your jobs?
When I first joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, I knew very little about the healthcare industry. I had to get up to speed quickly.

At HAP, I learned a lot more about developing online content from working with our social media team. I also had a great opportunity to build skills in user interface and user experience design when I led the content teams for our website and intranet redesign projects. 

Because I was also responsible for internal communications, my team worked collaboratively with the Human Resources Team. That work included a focus on workplace culture and employee engagement. 

Together, all these experiences have also made me a better leader, facilitator, and educator. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use the online version of the AP Stylebook the most. I love the Ask the Editor feature. It’s likely that someone has already asked the question you have. I also consult Grammar Girl, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Grammarly

Conscious Style Guide is another important resource I use. You’ll find style guides and articles that cover a wide spectrum of topics that include age, ability/disability, gender/sex/sexuality, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, and plain language. The Conscious Style Guide is a great technical resource, but the other great value it provides is discussion of how language evolves and why conscious language matters. 

And, when I was working in healthcare, I found that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a robust tool kit of plain language resources. Communicators have a critical responsibility to help individuals understand and navigate the healthcare system, so it’s encouraging that the CDC takes it so seriously. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How did you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I was fortunate to collaborate with a great team of editors with diverse backgrounds. We learned a lot from each other, whether it was in a formal editorial meeting or just a stand-up conversation. As a result, we all contributed to evolving our style guide and editing approach. 

I remember there being a discussion about if we should capitalize “Deaf” in a publication. It turned out that someone on our team had worked at an organization that supports the Deaf community. He shared his insight from that experience and also did some additional research. It led to us capitalizing Deaf when discussing the community and including that in our style guide.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors? 
I am a member of ACES: The Society for Editing, and I’m on its Executive Committee. It is a great community of all types of editors. Our members work at newspapers, magazines, book publishers, corporations, colleges and universities, and other types of institutions. They also own freelance businesses. We learn a lot from each other. 

Editors of Color is another fantastic means of connecting with other editors.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I think it’s extremely important to promote and share your expertise. This can be done by educating internal audiences, presenting at conferences, or consulting for individuals and organizations that can benefit from editing support.  

Networking is critical to an editor’s growth and development — and not just from a business standpoint. It helps us become better editors to engage with others who are passionate about this craft and adept at it. I highly recommend either joining an organization that supports editors or simply participating in events and activities with other editors. I’ve benefited so much from learning from editors, particularly those whose work is different from my own. 

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
My primary tip is to explain your editing approach. I have had great success in getting support from non-editors when I’ve taken the time to talk about the edits or style choices I’ve made. It gives them a chance to learn, ask questions, and provide feedback. And once you start to do that, these colleagues often become your advocates with others in the organization. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse was your office? Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing? 
In my department at HAP, our team was diverse in race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and work experience. 

I think that recruitment and career advancement are key areas that greatly affect whether a team is diverse. Those in a position to hire and promote for editing positions should consider candidates who may not reflect the status quo. It is also important to have a diverse leadership team. They are in positions to ensure that diversity and inclusion are values inherent to all aspects of the organization. It’s also key that the environment supports team members having a voice and holding each other accountable for living up to those values. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I have really enjoyed being a member of the Executive Committee of ACES. I’ve had the opportunity to work on initiatives that support our members and contribute to the field of editing. 

One example is the launch of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2018. I currently chair the committee. It’s been great to work with the ACES leadership team and our members to ensure our programs, training, conference, and other activities reflect and support the diversity of our membership. 

I’m also proud that ACES continually creates new opportunities to promote the expertise of the editors in our organization. 

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I love movies and books. When theatres were open, I went to the movies almost every weekend. I also read a lot across a variety of genres. I completed a master’s degree last year, so my reading was devoted to school for quite some time. I have a backlog of books and TV shows to catch up on. That’s the only upside to recent events: I now have more time to get through the list. Lol.

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