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Heather Staines

Senior Consultant, Delta Think


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

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio–aka Ohio State Buckeye country, but I’ve lived in Connecticut for a number of years now. I originally came here for graduate school, where I studied military and diplomatic history, but I moved back for good (at least so far) in 2006. 

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

Since March 2021, I’ve been a Senior Consultant at Delta Think. We do a wide range of research and strategy projects for clients ranging from publishers to societies to vendors to foundations all across the research ecosystem. I’m also the Director of Community Engagement for Delta Think’s Data & Analytics Tool, a subscription offering for organizations using data to analyze output and revenue trends in the publishing industry. It’s the best organization that I’ve ever had the honor of working for.

What does a typical day in your current role look like?

My day is largely split between specific client projects and ongoing work relating to the Data & Analytics Tool. The former might entail competitive research across publisher programs, business models, or technology offerings; interviews of stakeholders from librarians to researchers to publishing staff; and building out strategies. For the DAT, I work on our free monthly “News & Views,” plan webinars, onboard new subscribers, and seek out new ways that the tool might be more useful. On top of these main responsibilities, I squeeze in as much volunteer work as is humanly possible (and then some), including mentoring (which is one of my favorite things).

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

My very first role in publishing was as a volunteer intern at Yale University Press in the late 1990s. I joined a group of interns who learned about all the different departments and functions of a press. A cool project I worked on was in finding missing authors to whom YUP owed royalties. There were only rudimentary online tools in those days, so we used old files, phone books, and the Lycos People Finder. I once got to tell a family that they would receive $10,000 in royalties from a book by one of their late parents.  

After some time at YUP, I wrote to all the university presses along the Amtrak corridor. I eventually ended up as a textbook editor at a press called Greenwood Publishing Group/Praeger Publishers, and, after just a few weeks on the job, was able to move into an open position as military history editor. Greenwood Praeger was very early (2004) in moving their book workflow to xml; and, while it was not an easy process, I could see the potential of being able to search books electronically. To work on that full-time, I needed to shift into the STM space. 

I was the first Global eProduct Manager for SpringerLink at Springer SBM. It was certainly a trial by fire, but it enabled me to learn about all the things necessary to make a platform go. (I also asked to meet colleagues in editorial and production, which surprised my own team. I felt strongly that I couldn’t understand SpringerLink without understanding the people who made it happen: “The content doesn’t fall from the sky, and end up in SpringerLink afterall.”)  I also got more involved in working with librarians at that time. Some of my ongoing lifelong passions date from that era, including work in the standards space and support for digital preservation. After Springer, I did a few tours through the startup space, both commercial and non-profit, which enabled me to work with a broader variety of publishers, platform hosts, and other technology companies. It was a twisty and turny path, but, as it turned out, perfect training to become a consultant! I knew many of the folks at Delta Think through volunteer work at SSP. When the offer came my way, I happily joined the team!

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

There are too many across scholarly communications to single out just a few, so I’ll punt and say my dissertation advisor Paul Kennedy at Yale University. When I thought about jumping ship from academia, he encouraged me to finish my degree. Then later, perhaps seeing that I enjoyed writing and editing a bit more than chasing a tenure track job, he introduced me to Charles Grench, then editorial director at YUP. That one introduction made such a huge difference in my life. I recently got to thank Paul in person at an event Yale hosted in his honor.

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

Any organization where you can volunteer will reward you in ways that you can’t even imagine. I participate in so many mentoring initiatives (informally and formally). When it comes to networking, I’m a bit of a LinkedIn zealot. I use it regularly to keep in touch with folks and make new contacts. I’ll also confess that I’m addicted to a free open annotation tool called Hypothesis (for which I used to work). I use it in all manner of online reading from work to pleasure. I call the activity page “my brain on a page,” and it’s changed the way I absorb digital content.

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

It’s tough to think about, but sometimes jobs don’t work out. Maybe there is a reorganization, or maybe your company gets acquired. Learning that your role won’t be continuing can feel like a gut punch. This has happened to me three times. I’ve kind of developed a reputation as someone who can “find another job,” so I get a lot of messages from folks in similar situations. I wish I was the job fairy and could make their pain around the uncertainty go away immediately. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. What I can do is to share some of the strategies that have helped me–strategies that others shared with me in my various times of need. Sometimes, I can make people feel better about what they are up against, by helping them to realize that there are endless possibilities before them and they have power to decide which direction to move in. If they don’t have a network of their own to turn to, I share mine with them. We are most powerful when we work together. This wasn’t something I would have fully realized until I had to see it in action. Be generous with your time and attention, and, in the event you need it, it will come back to you.

What do you wish you knew more about?


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

It will make you rich in spirit, and you’ll get the satisfaction that what you are working on is important. If you come from academia originally, it will enable you to keep your hand in a bit. Others may think that we are an industry that never changes (or does so at a glacial pace), but that’s not true. Things are always evolving, and that’s what keeps things interesting. Meet great people. Perhaps travel to some interesting places. Keep your brain working.