Home   »   Careers   »   Professional Profiles
Share +

Each month, this space will highlight the unique career path and insights of an SSP member. We hope that these brief profiles provide guidance to our early career members and those site visitors interested in the broad spectrum of scholarly communications opportunities. Please contact Phil Wallas with any questions or suggestions for future profiles.

PROFESSIONAL PROFILES:

Melanie Dolechek

Director, Publishing and Marketing

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

I grew up south of St. Louis, in rural Missouri and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Kansas State University and a Master of Science in Management from Baker University. I currently work at Allen Press, Inc. in Lawrence, Kansas, as the Director of Publishing and Marketing and live about 40 miles south of Kansas City with my husband.

Thankfully, working in marketing and publishing, there are many creative aspects to my career. However, when I’m not working, I enjoy exercising my creativity through painting, photography, design, and other artistic outlets. My family was very involved with horses when I was growing up, so that’s always been an important aspect of my life and still is today. I currently have two American Quarter horses and actively compete in extreme cowboy racing, which challenges both horse and rider to maneuver through a series of obstacles, while demonstrating horsemanship and speed.

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

As the Director of Publishing and Marketing for Allen Press, I wear two hats. My marketing responsibilities are centered on promoting the services that Allen Press offers to societies, associations and publishers. Allen Press has been in business for nearly 80 years and offers a broad spectrum of publishing services, from editorial and production to distribution and publishing management.  We are probably best known as a printer, but our services have evolved over the years and we now offer a complete author to reader solution, which is ideal and extremely convenient for small or medium-sized society/association publishers. Our marketing approach is very much based around content marketing. My team does a phenomenal job creating resources for our customers and the industry as a whole. We host an annual seminar each year in Washington DC (Allen Press Emerging Trends in Scholarly Publishing Seminar), produce six free webinars annually, publish a quarterly newsletter, and maintain two blogs. Our customers look to us for information about what is going on in the industry and providing this type of information helps us stay abreast of what’s new and changing as well.

Allen Press is unique because in addition to providing so many production services under one roof, we also have a small publishing division where we co-publish 15 scholarly society journals. Managing our publishing division is my other hat. We focus on providing an alternative publishing option for societies and associations that want a full-service solution for managing their publications, but want to maintain a high level of control and ownership of their titles. Because of this unique arrangement, we get to deal first-hand with some of the challenges our customers are facing.

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

I’m not sure I realized I was part of the publishing food chain at the time, but my first job out of college was working for an educational video distributor. It was a relatively small company, but we were the only game in town when it came to providing college students with copies of telecourses. There were a very small number of producers (aka publishers) developing telecourses and we had exclusive contracts to distribute their content to students and libraries. They would license the courses to colleges and send the students to us to get their materials (think Netflix for video textbooks). It was both interesting and discouraging to see the evolution of the telecourse go from VHS to DVD to streaming media and eventually succumb to online courses (some interesting parallels with journal publishing, perhaps). By the time I left, I was managing the entire operation and benefited tremendously from the exposure to all aspects of the business.

Purely by chance, I came to Allen Press in 2006 as the Director of Marketing, knowing little about journal publishing. In 70 years, there had never been a formal marketing department at Allen Press, so it was a very exciting opportunity regardless of the industry. Because of the need to learn about all of the company’s services in order develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and through our content marketing efforts and attending industry conferences, I was able to gain a fairly broad understanding of the publishing industry. In 2011, I took on responsibility for our Publishing Division in addition my role in Marketing.

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

This industry is very well supported when it comes to education and information and it’s no wonder being that it’s scholarly communications. There are a number of great sources; first and foremost, SSP, of course. Between and annual meeting, webinars/seminars and the Scholarly Kitchen, SSP does a great job at bringing education and information to the membership. I also look to organizations such as ALPSP and Association Media and Publishing for information and resources. Since a large percentage of our customers are membership organizations, ASAE is also really helpful for staying in touch with what is going on in the society and association world.  I’m really lucky that Allen Press puts on the Emerging Trends Seminar each year as well and always walk away invigorated with new ideas or a different perspective.

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

I think the biggest surprise is that I ended up in scholarly publishing at all, having little awareness of it when I began my career. I was also surprised at how easy it was to get involved in industry organizations. This year I have the pleasure of serving as one of the co-chairs for the SSP Annual Meeting Program Committee. It’s been a really great experience so far and the people in this industry are so friendly and welcoming.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I’m most curious to learn more about how researcher and reader behavior is changing and what will be the tipping point for how scholars are evaluated. It will be interesting to see how the future generation deals with the sheer volume of content and information presented to them and what their preferences for format and functionality will be.

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

I would probably say, the broader the knowledge of the industry you can obtain, the better. Work in as many aspects of publishing as you can, or at least get exposure in order to understand the big picture.  Be willing to accept challenges when they are presented and don’t be afraid of change, embrace it. Scholarly communications is no more or less stable than any other industry even though it seems like it is changing more rapidly. If you remain flexible and open minded, you can be successful. I’d also encourage people to look outside the industry for trends, solutions, and inspiration and to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available.