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What’s it like to work in publishing? - Technology jobs

Ever wondered what it's like to work in publishing? Two Cambridge University Press & Assessment colleagues talk about their jobs in technology, unique career experiences, and working in publishing.

two Cambridge staff members smiling looking at a laptop screen

Work in Publishing Week (14 – 18 November 2022) is a chance for publishers to share insights about the industry and inspire people to consider a career in publishing.  

When you think of jobs in the publishing industry, technology and digital careers may not be the first that come to mind. At Cambridge, innovation and making improvements for our customers through digital technology are a hugely important part of what we do and central to our vision for the future.  

Our technology teams are helping us to maximise the impact our products and services have on millions of people around the world. That might be working on our online content delivery platforms for teachers and learners, or research and development of digital high-stakes assessments.

Here, two of our colleagues with different career paths talk about their jobs in technology and working in publishing. 

Carolyn Robson – Academic Technology Director 

Carolyn is Cambridge University Press & Assessment’s Academic Technology Director; she is responsible for providing the technologies needed to build and support our Academic publishing group’s digital product platforms and their components. This includes their development and operation, the relationships with third party platforms used by Cambridge, and ensuring plans drive forward the Academic strategy. 

 

The world of digital publishing is constantly changing and each change brings new challenges. 

 

How did you get into a career in publishing?  

By accident. I was working for the University of Cambridge and studying for an MA in Archive Administration when an opportunity to help build our first Digital Asset Management System came up at Cambridge University Press. I saw an opportunity to combine my inherent need to bring order to collections of content with my desire to work in a more technical, less paper-based world. 

What skills do you need to work as a technology director? 

There’s quite a list I could pick from here, so I’m just going to go with my top three: 

 

  • Leadership skills. Directors are nothing without great teams behind them, making this probably my top pick. You must be able to build and manage teams in dispersed locations, understand personal and cultural differences between people and teams and flex your management style appropriately.
  • Communication is key! You must be able to build effective relationships with stakeholders. In my case, within the Academic group, peers within technology, other senior business leaders and of course, my teams. I need to be able to be the bridge between the product and technical groups in order to ensure we are aligned in our understanding of what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it. 
  • Product knowledge. This means having a deep understanding of the academic research and learning product areas in order to deliver the technologies, platforms and solutions required to support the Academic strategy. 

 

Of course, it always helps to have technology qualifications (except I don’t; I studied Classics and then Archive Administration) or a deep and thorough understanding of one or more technical areas (in my case I am passionate about how content is structured and presented online) but I think all too often it is assumed that a deeply technical background is all that’s required when really, it’s one of many skills. 

What is the best thing about working in publishing?  

For me it’s about variety. The world of digital publishing is constantly changing and each change brings new challenges meaning endless opportunities to try new approaches and technologies. There simply isn’t time to get bored, or stuck in a rut. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to get into a career in technology? 

Technology covers such a huge range of roles nowadays that I would want to understand what field or area of tech someone is interested in before offering too much advice.  

I’d always recommend talking to someone in the field in which you are interested, understanding what the role really entails and what skills are required. Apply for roles that align with your skills and that interest you. If you’re not successful, seek feedback to understand why and, if possible, act on that feedback.  

Cambridge employee working at a desktop computer

 

Lee Kelman – Global Publishing Solution Manager 

Lee is a Global Publishing Solution Manager in our International Education publishing operations team. They work with teams across the group to oversee all aspects of a project. Lee represents the team to support their interactions with technology to develop solutions for specific issues or participate in project planning for specific products. They work with colleagues in the wider international education teams and with technology team members to understand both sets of requirements and priorities. Prior to joining the education side of the organisation, Lee was in the central technology team for seven years. 

 

The jargon and complexity of technology is often a barrier to understanding, but it doesn’t have to be. 

 

How did you get into a career in publishing?  

My background is actually in finance. I worked in Accounts Payable for a long time, before eventually transferring into the team that supported the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and related systems (such as Excel) as a finance systems analyst in an American-owned pharmaceutical company. I really enjoyed being the interface between finance and IT. Eventually I wanted to broaden my scope and experience a different industry, so I applied to Cambridge University Press as a senior business analyst in the technology team. I didn’t seek out publishing as an industry intentionally, but I admit to being fascinated by how such a ubiquitous thing as a book is actually produced! 

What skills do you need to work as a publishing solutions manager? 

As with any technology job, I think the most important things are an enthusiasm for learning new things and solving problems, and the ability to communicate with all kinds of different people. The jargon and complexity of technology is often a barrier to understanding, but it doesn’t have to be.  

In my role it’s even more important to be able to understand what parts of a system the business needs to know, and what business aspects are most useful for technology teams to know. Individual technologies and solutions will come and go (sometimes rapidly!). However, being able to listen to your customers and understand what they need, and design solutions that fit those needs, is a skill that is always important.  

What is the best thing about working in publishing? 

I think academic and educational publishing can seem pretty staid from the outside. But more opportunities are opening up for digital content, and our customers are evolving their expectations accordingly, so it’s actually very dynamic. It’s an interesting problem space.  

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to get into a career in technology? 

Technology has a very specific image – people writing code. But there are far more roles in technology than just programming, and there are multiple ways in. Your other skills are also very important, and you might have learned those already. 

 

To learn more about what it is like to work at Cambridge and to discover opportunities to pursue your potential with a career in publishing and education, visit our careers page