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Brett Rubinstein

Chief Commercial Officer at GeoScienceWorld


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

I grew up in the NYC suburbs: mostly Long Island with a few years in New Jersey. I have a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Following school I spent ten years in Manhattan and Brooklyn, six years in Bristol in the UK, and since January 2019, we live in/outside of Philadelphia.

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

I was working as a temp in New York City, jumping from assignment to assignment. One assignment was for a company I never heard of called Elsevier. I got the job, working sales support for the Cell Press advertising team. The work was unremarkably dull but I really enjoyed the people I worked with.

I later learned that my team—you know, the people I liked so much—tried to have me fired in my first week. Thankfully they failed, and eventually that role led to a marketing role at Cell Press, then a sales gig at Springer and then various management gigs at Springer, IOP Publishing and now GSW.

The running thread through my various roles and companies is the same: it’s people. In all of the jobs I’ve had in publishing, I’ve worked with some really great people…people I’ve learned from, people I’ve admired, people I just thought were hilarious. It’s easy to like people who work hard, and I’ve found people like that everywhere I’ve been.

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

I’m the Chief Commercial Officer at GeoScienceWorld. My team and I are responsible for our commercial activities across our library sales (journals and ebooks), relationships with our publishers, and our Open Access business.

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

After I first started managing people I walked into my boss’ office for my annual review. Well, I didn’t really walk so much as I strutted: my team was doing well, the customers were happy, and our numbers were good. So I just figured this would be a brief chat, I’d modestly parry some compliments, fake a few laughs and then we’d grab between five and eight drinks, depending on all the usual variables.

To my surprise, the meeting did not go well. My boss pointed out that I’d been doing so much of the work myself that I wasn’t doing my job. He explained that now my job was to get results through other people. He was right.

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

One of the most useful ways to think about career development isn’t in the parlance of org charts or titles, but by deconstructing the components: what skills or knowledge do I need to be more effective in this area I like working in? What problems do I find interesting? Are there other problems I’d like to work on? People I’d like to work with?

Get into roles and organizations which match the answers to these questions and the “career development” part will take care of itself. (Note: in my experience, the answers to these questions change every few years.)

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

That the decisions of scientific publishers are rarely made in a scientific manner.

What do you wish you knew more about?


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

Spend some time trying to understand why you’re interested in scholarly communication, what is it about the industry that motivates you. This is going to tell you more about how you’re wired than anything else. And it’s probably not going to be easy. But if you can do that, and you have a clear idea of your own motivation, then it will be very easy to focus on the right areas.