Editorial Operations Manager, Cell Press
Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).
I was born and grew up in Cambridge, MA. I went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester and graduated in 2007 with an English degree before moving back to the Cambridge area, where I’ve been living ever since.
Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.
I work for Cell Press, a scientific publishing company owned by Elsevier. We publish 15 primary research journals, 15 reviews journals, and 4 (soon to be 8!) society journals. My role at Cell Press is Editorial Operations Manager. This means that I oversee our team of Journal Associates, who provide primary support for our research journals during the editorial and peer review processes. Additionally, I’m our company’s local administrator for our Editorial Manager sites, so I’m heavily involved in crafting, updating, and streamlining our editorial workflows.
What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?
Cell Press was actually the first place I worked out of school, and it was a really lucky break that led to the job. I originally arrived at Cell Press on a short-term contract assignment. A member of their Editorial Assistant team was on vacation for a couple of weeks and they needed help covering that absence. Things went well and I was about to wrap up my assignment, but on the last day another member of the department unexpectedly gave her notice. Right place, right time! They asked me to extend my assignment until they could hire a full-time replacement, which I happily agreed to, and ultimately they offered the full-time position to me. Six months after officially joining Cell Press, I was promoted within my role, and then a year later I was given the opportunity to manage my team when my boss left. Since then my role has evolved within Cell Press, but I was definitely lucky to get my foot in the door. I truly think that everyone I’ve hired has had a stronger resume than I did coming into the position. My father’s favorite saying is “Better lucky than good.” While I hope I’m lucky and good, there’s some truth to that – you never quite know when you’re going to get an opportunity, and it’s not always a direct correlation between ability and opportunity.
If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.
A big part of my role at Cell Press has been serving as the local administrator for our submission systems over the years. However, this was another moment that happened almost by accident. My role didn’t originally include that responsibility. Instead, this was something done by a senior member of our production department. However, I had been assisting him in some projects to update our workflows and had worked pretty closely with the system. Because of that, when he left Cell Press, he asked me to take over as the admin for the system. I agreed, thinking that this would be a relatively limited part of my job. A few years later, it’s become one of the things I’m most identifiable for within our company, and it’s given me a chance to get involved with any number of projects I wouldn’t have otherwise been participating in.
What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?
I think the biggest surprise for me early on was how much work it was to manage people. When I took on the role managing my department, I was 24 and had never managed anyone before in my life. Going into the role, I had the impression that managing someone was something that tended to take care of itself. This was a notion I was very quickly dissuaded of. Managing a department of 6-8 people who had different backgrounds, different skillsets, and different aspirations was a real challenge. This was especially so for someone as inexperienced as I was, and for someone who was tasked with managing former co-workers. Unsurprisingly, I had some early struggles in the role while I figured out what being a manager actually entailed. It took a lot of work to improve, particularly around communication. Being transparent and putting everything into context is something I’ve worked hard to do over the past few years, and I think I’ve been able to evolve as a leader during that window.
What do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I had a broader technical skillset. I’ve been telling myself that I want to learn SQL for about two years now and haven’t made any progress on it whatsoever. And beyond some limited HTML knowledge, I’m basically code-illiterate. When I’ve been involved with hiring, I’ve always been impressed with people who have this knowledge. It’s transferrable to a number of roles and acts as a great differentiator on a resume. If I could change anything about my own skillset, that’d be at the top.
What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?
The interplay between publishers, authors, readers, reviewers, researchers, institutions, organizations, government – it’s hard to keep track of all the groups that come into contact with this industry. But ultimately, being able to understand what each constituent group wants will allow you to solve their problems proactively. Entering this career with the mindset of “How can I have the answer before anyone asks the question?” sets you up to succeed.