Vice President, Publishing Operations, Cell Press
Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).
I grew up in Fairfield, CT and then moved to Worcester, MA to attend school at Holy Cross. I formed life-long friendships there and figured out that MA was my future. After graduation, I moved to Boston with my college roommates, and I’ve been here ever since!
I studied English and literature at Holy Cross, with a focus on writing. I also had a strong interest in sociology, so although my school didn’t have an official minor in it, I sort of designed my own program of classes so that I could explore it. I knew I would end up pursuing a career in one or the other between publishing/writing and sociology.
Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.
In my current role, I oversee the production, editorial operations, and art teams for a growing portfolio of journals in the life, physical, and medical sciences. I also focus on workflow optimization as well as strategic direction across Cell Press.
I have built my career at Cell Press, which has undergone tremendous growth and change over my years here. I’ve seen us transition from small and boutique to a global and diverse all-science publisher. We are also part of the larger organization of Elsevier, which gives us access to a wide network of resources and expertise and provides many interesting opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?
I started as a copyeditor and loved the hands-on nature of that role. I spent my time applying stylistic and grammatical edits to scientific manuscripts and interacting with authors to polish their work into final products. From there, I took on a variety of different production roles and ended up as the Managing Editor of Cell for about 8 years. That role gave me the breadth and depth of experience that I would need to eventually manage our production team and then our growing publishing operations department. Although I sometimes miss the hands-on nature of my production-focused roles, I love thinking more broadly across the whole portfolio and interacting with so many different people to get things done.
If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.
There was a time in my career when I had a dual role managing a set of journals and also overseeing our production department. My manager at the time was a wonderful guide and mentor to me, and he gave me the gift of his straightforward feedback that if I wanted to grow and advance, I needed to choose and focus on my departmental role more fully. He knew that I loved journal management, but retaining that work meant that I couldn’t give my full attention and effort to production strategy and organization, and I was thus at a critical crossroads. It was a challenging truth to digest at the time because my journal role kept me very grounded and motivated, but this ended up being the wake-up call I needed and was the springboard for my significant evolution over the years that followed. I’m very grateful!
What tools, web sites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career
It took me some time to discover how critical and useful industry organizations can be, so I’m happy to see so many engaged early-career professionals in SSP and other similar organizations. Once I discovered SSP, it showed me that a strong and diverse network is one of the best “tools” you can have in this industry. It’s how you learn about different organizations and functions, discuss the most pressing issues, and gain perspectives from the many fascinating corners of scholarly publishing. I also make a point of setting goals for myself around reading industry blogs and newsletters weekly to ensure that I stay up to date.
What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?
One of my biggest challenges was trying to find the balance between being a strong and steadfast leader and also not being so stoic that people don’t get to know me. A few years into my management career, I took part in a program that allowed me to do a 360 review, and it was one of the best and most formative things I’ve ever done. A theme in the feedback was that people wanted to know me more as a person, and it was eye opening. I had always assumed that you had to have a strict line between the personal and the professional to do a good job, and once I learned that it was OK for me to open up a bit (and I could do so while still remaining professional), management became a very different and more satisfying experience for me (and I hope I also got better at it!).
What do you wish you knew more about?
It’s tempting to say everything because even the things I feel like I know a lot about are always changing, and you can never really finish learning. But to be more specific, one thing I wish I knew more about is how to truly help people to cope professionally during difficult personal circumstances (and we’ve certainly all had plenty of those in the last few years). Some people really lock in at work as a way to channel their energy and have constructive distractions, and others struggle to focus and concentrate in the work environment. But in either case, the demands of our jobs don’t stop. Although I’ve certainly learned a lot over these unique years, achieving the right balance among support, understanding, and work expectations is an ongoing and dynamic challenge for me.
What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?
This is a wide and exciting industry, and there’s so much more to do in it than you are probably envisioning. The variety of roles, functions, and organizations far exceeds what I expected, and that means the development opportunities are massive. If you take the time to build a network and expose yourself to different people and organizations, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what you’re good at and what you really love.