Director of Content Management at Research Solutions
Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).
I was born and raised in the greater Chicagoland area and graduated from a Benedictine high school in the western suburbs. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. I moved to Switzerland in 1997. This change of venue was not as abrupt as it seems. Having studied a semester in London and completing an apprenticeship in Germany shortly thereafter, I developed a passionate affinity for European cultures and travel. Learning German from scratch at Creighton fostered my interest in foreign destinations and put me on a path to learn other languages. This only served to broaden the perspective of my twenty-something self. While working at Berlitz after college, I met people from all over the world who were learning a new language for work, travel or adventure. It was a highly stimulating environment with lots of languages and cultures flying around in the breakroom. During that time, I learned a bit of Japanese and later some Italian. I even seriously considered moving to Japan to further explore the language and culture, but I chose a different path.
Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.
In 2017 I became Director of Content Management at Research Solutions, a content workflow company serving the document acquisition needs of top pharma, chemical, bio-tech, and medical device companies as well as discerning academic institutions and individual researchers. We help accelerate the speed of scientific investigation by facilitating the discovery and fulfillment of original research articles. I foster relationships with our agreement publishers and communicate our value proposition to publishers who might not yet know about our services. A connector by nature, I help publishers large and small find new audiences for their publications and support researchers in their quest to access content when and how they need it. We’re a cloud-based company, but we have a physical headquarters in Encino, California. I work from my home in Switzerland. I’m close to Basel, but also very near to the French and German borders.
What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?
As with many people in publishing, I did a backwards flip-flop into my first job in the STM industry. In equal measure of luck and skill, I landed with both feet on the ground at the onset of the online publishing revolution. It was 1999 and a friend called me to see if I could help him out by reading over a few contracts after he had returned from the Frankfurt Book Fair. I obliged and after one week of a two-week stint, his company offered me a permanent position. At the time, this publisher was unsure of the way electronic publishing would develop, but they knew they needed some out-of-the-box thinkers to sort it out. Having never been in the box in the first place, I was in a good position with my business background to help develop their platform in the market.
If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.
Leaving the safe haven of a publishing house after 18 years was a huge game-changer for me. I took a lot of time and energy to reach that decision. I was at the top of the STM food chain, so to say, and I walked away from a comfortable and predictable job for a new opportunity. Working in the vendor space, I’m in the middle of a market equation instead of at either end. It requires a more balanced and agile approach to problem-solving. It’s a skill that’s terrifying at first and exhilarating once mastered. Working in the cloud requires a lot of self-discipline, something I continue to work at each day.
What tools, web sites, and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?
SSP, my LinkedIn connections, and my own trusted network of colleagues are most valuable to me in terms of relationships. On the data resource side, organizations such as Crossref and PubMed were invaluable resources when I was a publisher. I continue to rely on these entities for accurate citation and source information in my current job. Without proper citation and attribution, the market could not function as it does today.
What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?
In the past, people talked about the glass ceiling, which I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced. It may have shattered shortly before I was in striking distance. What I’ve experienced is what I call the Teflon wall. Behind the wall is a sort of inner sanctum of decision makers. This has less to do with gender and more to do with power. However, this could be the same thing by another name. I am less interested in moving up the ladder than I am with moving beyond my boundaries. Hence, my interest in scaling walls as opposed to breaking ceilings. In any case, I found a solution to move beyond my Teflon wall. These challenges tend to be highly individualized. The best advice I can give is never give up and think out of the box.
What do you wish you knew more about?
Writing code, how to fix a WLAN connection, and other technology conundrums.
What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?
Having a complete picture of the publication cycle from manuscript submission to metadata dissemination is invaluable. Try not to get stuck on one side of the equation. Know and understand why people publish, how publications are utilized, and what role everyone plays in the ecosystem. Big picture understanding contributes to big problem solving.
What advice would you give to people already working in scholarly communications?
This advice can be applied to any industry. Take opportunities when they arise, even if you’re in a “comfortable” position. The growth you experience builds upon itself and you’ll further develop your skillset. Staying too long in one organization could stifle career development. Yes, it’s comfortable to stay put, but life (and growth) begins outside your comfort zone.
Check out Sharon’s blog post at the Workplace Equity Project.