From new recruit to project leader: Sarah’s journey

SarahOur Company

Up until August 2014, I was a research scientist, working in a laboratory and studying the molecular mechanisms underlying cell growth and division – a career that my 18 years of education and training had perfectly prepared me for. I’m now a project leader at a publishing company, editing, proofreading and writing a variety of materials, and helping to train other members of staff – a career that I have no formal qualifications or training for. How did all this come about in the last four and a half years?

When I returned to work in August 2013 after having my second child, I realised that the long hours and weekend working, the daily commute and the expectations to uproot every three or four years that come with working in scientific research were not for me. But what was I going to do instead?

I thought about what I did and didn’t like about being a scientist, and writing research and review articles and advising colleagues on their manuscripts were among the top likes. This led me to explore the possibility of moving into publishing.

I heard about Prepress through a chance conversation with a colleague and decided to write to the company to ask if there were any jobs going. I was invited for interview, then shortly after offered the position of project editor.

Having had no previous experience in publishing, I did have reservations about whether or not leaving my career as a scientist would be a good move. Would I like it? Would I be any good at it? I was very relieved, then, when it quickly became apparent that I very much enjoyed the work and that many of the skills I had acquired as a scientist – for instance a methodical, systematic approach and attention to detail – were applicable to the varied proofreading, editing and writing tasks I was given.

And it wasn’t just the nature of the work I liked, it was also the way of working: the expectations for my role and grade were clearly defined, for each task I had clearly defined objectives and deadlines, and there were well-thought-out processes in place for pretty much everything. This structure was something I wasn’t at all used to but very much appreciated. It made me feel more in control of my day-to-day work and opportunities for progression than I ever had in previous jobs.

At first, most of my training was on the job, and this learning-by-doing approach suited me well. This was followed up soon after with external proofreading, editing and writing courses, which consolidated my in-house training. With this solid training and having had the opportunity to get stuck into ‘real’ work right from the start, I quickly got to grips with the basics of my role as a project editor. My progress and achievements were regularly reviewed and as a result I steadily moved up the project editor pay scale. As I progressed, I was given more complex tasks and more responsibility: checking colleagues’ work, visiting clients, developing process guides and contributing to team training sessions. My experience in academia served me well here too: I was used to working independently, mentoring colleagues, and finding information and applying it. These transferable skills combined with the training and opportunities I was given at Prepress right from the start ultimately contributed to my promotion, in September 2017, from project editor to project leader.

My day-to-day work didn’t change dramatically upon promotion. I had gradually been taking on more responsibility prior to promotion and have continued to develop skills in leadership since, supported by, for instance, courses in training and coaching skills.

Having come from an academic background, where there was little in the way of guidance on what was expected of individual grades and few opportunities to progress on the basis of merit, I now realise that my decision to make the move into publishing, to an organisation that recognises and rewards ongoing, self-driven learning and development, was definitely a good one.