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Michelle Norell

Director of Sales

Michelle NorellFirst, tell us a bit about yourself (hometown, current locale, family, hobbies, community involvement?)

I’m an islander having grown up on the eastern end of Long Island doing my very best to avoid developing the accent, which can be very similar to the accents of the Jersey Shore reality show and the Sopranos. I lived for a brief period of high school in extremely rural northern Florida and then headed back up north to finish and graduate from Westhampton Beach High School in 1999. I went to college at University of Miami, which was a wonderful experience in terms of school, being exposed to such an eclectic mix of South American cultures, and the endless sunshine all year.

The place that has felt most like home for me though has been Boston. I spent 9.5 years in Boston and loved just about everyday there…except for the lingering winter days of March.  When I moved to Manhattan this past January, I found my new home. I’m still settling in and traveling quite a bit.

When I’m not working, I love, love, love going to music shows, – thankfully, there is no shortage in NY – running, yoga, discovering new neighborhoods and restaurants, reading (I’m in the middle of Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers and it’s incredible), planning personal travel (I just got back from FL and am looking forward to Paris in May), and spending time with my family and friends.

Describe some of your responsibilities, and how you or your organization fit into the scholarly communications web.

I began working at Atypon just about three months ago as Director of Sales. Atypon is a leading provider of ePublishing, access and e-commerce solutions for professional and scholarly publishers and media organizations. What this means is that Atypon hosts the platform, Literatum, on which publishers serve up their content to users, experiment with new business models, and leverage tools to increase sales revenues. One of the differentiating characteristics of the Literatum platform is that it is extremely flexible and makes it easy for non-technical users to initiate platform changes without dependence on Atypon staff. In terms of Atypon’s role within the scholarly communications web, Atypon works very closely with essential industry technologists and partners, including Google, Crossref, Orcid, COUNTER, PubMed, and others in order to ensure that our publishers are fully supported and that their business objectives are achieved. Personally, I am responsible for global sales of Atypon’s Literatum platform, am a member of the SSP Board of Directors, and have recently joined CrossRef’s CrossMark committee.

What career path led to your current position?

It was a bit of a meandering career path. Shortly after graduating from the University of Miami, I worked at a small local newspaper called Miami Today doing a few different jobs, Reporter (restaurant reviews, local business news), Calendar Editor, and Archive Manager. I soon realized that I wanted to go back to school to focus on writing and also to learn more about the business-side of the publishing industry.

What I found was surprising to me at that time – I was focused on getting a Master’s in English Literature or a graduate degree in Publishing Business, however, it seemed that every decent English Literature graduate program that I looked at was structured so that I would be required to complete a PhD program. I was not prepared to sign up for that. And there were not many graduate Publishing Business programs out there. I think at the time it was Drexel University (possibly), Pace University, one or two others, and Emerson College (where I ended up going to school).

The reason I selected Emerson was that it offered a kind of a dual degree program – Publishing (business courses – which could be tailored to books, magazines, or newspapers) and Writing (again books, magazines, newspapers and more, e.g. poetry, screenwriting, etc.) I applied to and was accepted to Emerson and made the trek up to Boston in August 2004.

After completing an internship at MIT Press and another at Perseus Books Group during my final year at Emerson, I realized I was most interested in the sales and marketing of content rather than the editorial or production tasks. I loved that I could still write in a marketing role and that it was also a very interactive role where I was able to meet new people and travel. With this in mind, I started a role at Blackwell Publishing just before it was acquired by Wiley, becoming Wiley-Blackwell. About 12 months into my role at Blackwell Publishing, I was offered a sales position at a small software company called Aries Systems, which licenses editorial and production workflow systems to scholarly publishers. Moving into sales was an enormous change for me and ultimately lead to so many more opportunities than I could have imagined within a very short period both at Aries Systems and at subsequent companies where I held sales roles.

Where do you see scholarly communications heading, and what new directions interest you most?

Scholarly communications is an exciting industry to be part of – it exists in a space where so many other fields intersect / collide, like technology, science, education, policy, and copyright. What I’ve been seeing and hearing more and more the last couple of years is the absolute commitment by publishers to create customized user experiences that tailor content to individual interests. Publishers are seeking to create these personalized user experiences in order to add value to the their content, and to support researchers by increasing ease of access and efficiencies in the user workflow.

What is most interesting to me right now is finding new ways for Atypon to collaborate with publishers to serve their user communities, eliminate information silos, and to create seamlessly connected and unique content offerings that don’t necessarily fall into the category of book or journal. Publishers have to constantly be working to create a rich user experience targeted to their user base – it’s an exciting challenge to be a partner in this ongoing effort.

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

This is an interesting question. Recently, I’ve been surprised to realize that a natural sort of shift has occurred in that I have turned the corner on the period of my career when it’s most productive to jump to a new position every couple of years to spur growth. I can see that the most obvious way forward career-wise is to stay put, build as much technical software knowledge as possible, take advantage of my access to Atypon’s extremely smart and talented staff, and become as expert as I can in selling Atypon’s Software as a Service (SaaS) platform.

Another thing that I was surprised by, and at times it’s been an obstacle in that it narrowed the number of job opportunities available to me, is learning that I really do not enjoy working from home on a regular basis. So many positions, especially in sales, are full-time work from home roles which is a ‘no go’ for me. I worked from home for two years when I was with ScholarOne – Thomson Reuters, and I would not like to repeat that experience. I work best when I can be in an office with colleagues and can ensure there is plenty of one-on-one time for collaboration and discussion.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications? What new roles or opportunities do you see emerging in the field?

When heading into the scholarly communications field, it’s really important to be prepared for change and to embrace it. This is true for many industries, but in particular scholarly communications. And generally, whether you are heading into sales or any other type of role, it’s an obvious piece of advice, but when possible only work for companies and individuals that you believe in as a whole – the product, the corporate mission, the culture. All three will have a significant impact on your experience and your ability to be successful in your job.

Michelle recently offered an SSP professional development web forum. Along with other “My Life in Publishing” posts, her video can be viewed at www.sspnet.org/careers/getting-into-publishing/professional-development-webinars/.