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Ann Michael

CEO, Delta Think and Past President, SSP

Ann MichaelPlease tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).

I was born and raised in New York, living in Huntington, Long Island and then Bayside, Queens, for about half of my life. Since then I’ve lived just outside of Philadelphia. Most of that time has been in Pennsylvania, except for the first few years on the New Jersey side.

I’m a proud product of the SUNY system – graduating with a BA and an MS from SUNY Stony Brook. Because I received both degrees on the same day, as part of an accelerated program, my BA was in Liberal Arts with a minor in Computer Science. My MS was in Policy Analysis and Public Management, with a core concentration in Statistics and Operations Research. I loved math (and I still do)!

Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.

In 2005 I started a consulting firm, Delta Think. At first it was just me, but after a brief break (when I left consulting for a more traditional position), it felt that it would be much more fun to build a team, than to work on my own.

In a smaller company, you tend to get involved in almost every aspect of business. From working on consulting engagements, to managing a team, to business development, and participating in the scholarly communications industry. My role is quite varied.

What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?

Before working in scholarly communications, I worked in eight different industries including banking, telecommunications, disaster recovery, strategy and management consulting, and software development.

While working as a technology consultant, I was placed at Wolters Kluwer Health as a project manager on a system implementation. One year later, they hired me as the Director of Project Management reporting in to IT. Six months later, we started a Program Office. I set up the office and became the Director of Program Management reporting to the CEO.

If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.

My five years at Wolters Kluwer (WK) was pivotal to my career development. I was there during a time when digital started to become important. It wasn’t anything yet, but everyone (well, mostly everyone) knew it would be. As you would expect at that time (around 2000), not everyone was happy about it.

When we started the Program Office we recognized that, while technology infrastructure implementation was important, content and “user facing” technologies were going to be at least equally important – and likely, more important. New capabilities were coming that would require our content-focused organization to understand the impact of technology on content and users (readers, librarians, authors, etc.). Our focus on print was deeply ingrained, not only in process, but in culture, financial assessment, resource allocation, etc.

As someone with a technology background and a deep love of team work, I moved from the Program Office to product development and lead a fantastic team focused on our nescient content innovations. We were exploring how we could integrate content into different workflows and called our initiatives Point of Care and Point of Learning.

Working on something very new in an established organization shaped my perspective on team work and on organizational change.

What tools, web sites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?

There is so much. The most important part of my career development has been engaging with people from different organizations, with different backgrounds, of various age groups, with different perspectives on common (and not-so-common) issues and opportunities. I value several industry organizations that facilitate this engagement including, SSP, ALPSP, AAP/PSP, STM, CSE, NFAIS, ASAE, UKSG, APE and others. At the end of the day I’m in it for the people I meet and I learn a ton from them.

My favorite non-industry event is SXSW Interactive. Our team attends SXSW at least every other year and we are always energized by what we see and learn there. After having spent the first half of my career in a new industry every 2 years or so, I do worry that we can get too insular if we only look at each other. SXSW is just one way to look for creative and outlying methods that other industries are using to address issues and expand their horizons.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

People never cease to amaze me – almost always in a positive way. They have no shortage of great ideas and innovative ways to approach problems and opportunities.

One thing that always surprises me, no matter how many times I see it, is that 8 out of 10 times the “resistance to change” that some groups lament is the result of their own processes, decision-making, and governance structures. Organizations often institutionalize resistance to change by putting in place processes and practices that, while intended to make the creation and delivery of content and products more efficient, inhibit innovation and growth.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Everything! There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

For someone that is generally practical, this might sound odd. I want to learn more about human decision-making and behavior and how it’s influenced by neuroscience, peer groups, social media, preconceived ideas, etc. I am a total change management geek and, whether it’s individual or group evolution, people are at the core of change.

Closer to earth, this year I’m working on learning to let go of things. I would guess that I’m not alone in this, knowing the kind of folks attracted to this industry, but I need to trust more and do less. I need to focus my time on what will benefit our team and clients the most. Part of it is learning to say “no” – which is very hard to do well.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?

Be observant, mentally flexible, patient, and empathetic, but willing to push (respectfully). What I have found in this industry is that there is space for innovation and new ideas. There is the ability to change and grow. Most of the individuals and the organizations have noble missions.  But moving forward and adapting is hard. Leading the way is even harder. Anyone interested in a career in scholarly communications is going to have balance a strong respect for the past with an unyielding desire for shaping the future.

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