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Jennifer Pesanelli

Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Director of Publications at FASEB

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

I grew up in Salina, Kansas, and attended college at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. I graduated from the William Allen White School of Journalism but my specific course of study was advertising. I currently live in Rockville, Maryland, with my husband Eric, 12 year-old son Eli, and our sweet beagle Peach.

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

After graduation, I worked in the advertising department for a county newspaper in Alabama. My primary responsibility was advertising sales, but it was a very small operation, so I had the opportunity to be involved in the production of the newspaper as well. After being in Alabama for a year and a half, I moved back to Lawrence, Kansas, and went to work at Allen Press as an advertising sales representative in the Allen Marketing & Management division. It was there that I was introduced to scholarly publishing as I worked on journals such as the Journal of Vascular Technology, the American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery, Veterinary Pathology, Sleep, and a great little (the physical trim size was small) journal called Cactus and Succulent Journal. Granted, my newspaper experience was limited, but I LOVED working on journals. The editors, society staff, and publications staff were so professional and respectful. Even though I wasn’t contributing scientifically, I felt like my work for the journals was very much appreciated.

In early 1997, I applied with and was hired by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in Bethesda, Maryland, as the advertising assistant for a program called FASEB AdNet. At that time, AdNet provided advertising sales and services for about 30 journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and all of the journals of the American Physiological Society. My responsibilities included coordinating the production of the ads with the society journal staff, their print and online vendors, and the advertisers.

The FASEB Journal had just launched online with HighWire Press. There were no staff positions in the FASEB Office of Publications to support many of the initiatives with the online journal, so I was lucky enough and interested enough, to expand my role and work directly on the journal. I’ve been hooked ever since!

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

Twenty years later, I’m still at FASEB, but my position has continued to evolve. I was promoted to the Director of Publications in 2005. A couple of years later, I took on the membership department, then business development, IT, and others. Now I’m the Deputy Executive Director for Operations but still very much involved with the Office of Publications. While FASEB has its own programs, we also work with a number of scientific societies in support of their efforts. In that regard, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many other journals, both society published and commercially published, and with a wide range of vendors in the scholarly publishing community.

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

I have had the good fortune to work with many wonderful people over the course of my career, but one in particular stands out as a key person in my career development. Nancy Rodnan, Director of Publications at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), was my boss at FASEB for several years. She gave me the opportunity to learn about all aspects of publishing even if it was outside of the scope of my position, gently “forced” me into public speaking to develop my confidence, and taught me a great deal about leadership along the way. Nancy knew I was passionate about publishing and supported my pursuit of the Publications Specialist Certificate (now a Master’s program) through George Washington University. Beyond continued professional development, she always encouraged me to take on new challenges. For all of her support and guidance, I will forever be grateful.

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

The Scholarly Kitchen is a must read for me. I read the blog posts as well as the comments and enjoy the different perspectives. It is informative and frequently entertaining. I also rely on the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and BoardSource as excellent resources for information on leading non-profit organizations. I also love attending sessions at conferences where a speaker will inspire me and, during the course of their presentation, recommend a book for further information on a subject. I’ll immediately make a note in my phone and often get the book while still on the conference “high.” I’ve read some great books that have influenced my career thanks to these recommendations.

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

It took me a while to realize how political non-profit organizations could be and learning how to navigate some of the politics has been challenging. As staff, you may think you have a fabulous idea, or even just a very practical one, but if you need committee or board approval, you have to know how to work that idea through the proper channels and accept that you won’t always get the buy-in you need. However, committees and boards turn-over, and if you are persistent and it is good, your idea may eventually come to fruition!

What do you wish you knew more about?

Everything. I’m always excited to learn new things –technologies, applications, processes, etc. even in areas that are completely new to me.

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

There are so many interesting and exciting aspects to scholarly communications. Be willing to try new things and never be afraid to ask questions.