Becky Harris Sullivan is a Renaissance woman.
The newest full-time Dragonfly has worked as a technical writer in areas as varied as international development, import taxes, agricultural economics, politics, and human rights, putting her skills to good use for employers ranging from a World Bank watchdog group to the International Food Policy Research Institute. In college she studied foreign languages, art history, politics and international relations. In her free time she enjoys photography, sketching, and painting. And, the pièce de résistance, she studied Egyptian belly dancing for about three years, even putting her stage fright aside long enough to participate in a public performance.
So, how’s that sudoku puzzle you’ve been working on for a week coming along?
Becky grew up in Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. It was there, during her junior year of high school, that her English teacher encouraged her to develop her writing talent. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, then moved to Boulder, where she worked for political campaigns and a nonprofit health clinic. She then earned her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a program that sent her to Bologna, Italy—where she met her husband—and then Washington, D.C.
Writing about hunger, the environment, and more
She found a job working for a World Bank watchdog group, writing about lending policies, the organization’s energy lending portfolio, information disclosure policies, and social and environmental sustainability. She also worked at a nonprofit publishing house that focused on environmental publications, and she took on politics as well. “I was part of a group called Foreign Policy Professionals for Obama, and I was part of the Obama-Biden transition team back in 2008. That was a real highlight,” she said. Most recently, she worked for the food policy organization, writing on issues of hunger and poverty, agricultural economics, tariffs, and import taxes.
Becky’s plan was to stay in D.C. for about a year, so she was equal parts surprised and horrified to discover she was still there a decade later. She told her husband, “We are going to die in Washington, D.C., if we don’t leave just for a few years.” He agreed, and they moved to Boulder in 2015, but not before spending six glorious weeks traveling around Greece, her favorite spot. While they settled in and began enjoying the slower pace and outdoorsy activities in Colorado, Becky worked as a freelancer before applying for a full-time writing position with Dragonfly. (Spoiler: She got the job.)
“Writing just kind of found me”
Of course, her talents aren’t limited to writing. In addition to dabbling in art, she’s played the violin since age 7 and enjoys a variety of music. “Writing is similar to music—it has this kind of rhythmic quality to it,” she said. “When you’re working the pieces there’s a rhythm to it just like there would be to a piece of music. And you can hear it when you’ve written something that you feel good about.”
What she doesn’t feel good about are her writing pet peeves: wordiness (she’s looking at you, Charles I-Get-Paid-By-The-Word Dickens) and misuse of words. “One place I worked, they used the word ‘engender’ to mean ‘make gender sensitive,’” she said. “Every time, I just wanted to scream, ‘That doesn’t even mean that!’”
Needless to say, there will only be economy of writing and accurate word use in Becky’s work for Dragonfly. She’s eager to use the talent she’s been honing since that high school English class to serve our varied clients.
“I guess writing just kind of found me and that’s kind of been the mainstay,” she said. “I’ve written in a wide range of topics, but me being a writer has always kind of been the central connecting point.”
— by Kathryn Flynn, a copywriter and technical editor with Dragonfly