14 October 2014 is Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace was a gifted nineteenth-century mathematician who worked on the Analytical Engine and may be considered the first computer programmer. She stands as a symbol of the often under-recognised contribution of women to science.

Ada Lovelace Day is an initiative to celebrate women’s scientific achievements by blogging about them. The organisers invite us to ‘Write about a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths [STEM] whose achievements you admire.’

What, only one? How could we choose? From Hypatia through Rosalind Franklin to Jocelyn Bell Burnell, there are just so many.

Much of our work is in STEM, and many of the authors we deal with are women. So are many of the publishing professionals. In our own company, 23 of the 26 employees are female.

We hardly feel the need to single out women in science for special treatment. For us, every day is Ada Lovelace Day.

However, if you want to take part and missed it this year, next year it’s Tuesday 13 October.

From the beginning of June until the end of July I worked as this year’s summer publishing intern. At the start of August, I was hired as a full-time employee. I was lucky enough to be offered the internship before I was due to graduate from university, so I went straight from being a student to working at Prepress Projects. The picture shows me (left), with journals director Lucy Harrier (right).

My interest in publishing was piqued the previous year, when I’d been on a short placement at a different publishing company. That experience had given me some insight into this area of work, and I started to seriously consider a career in publishing. Then, when I heard about the summer opportunity at Prepress Projects, I knew that if I was offered the internship it would give me invaluable experience in the field.


During the internship, I was involved in real work right from the start. I worked for two production teams, which meant that I was given a wide range of tasks and was able to develop a variety of skills. I thought that I knew what ‘editing’ meant before I started the internship – I soon learned that it involves much more and that a huge amount of work and effort is required to prepare an article or a book for publication. My degree (Law with French) had taught me to value attention to detail, and the organisational and time management skills that would be needed at work, but I still had a lot to learn and I was given a lot of opportunities to do so.

I learned how to style articles in Word to prepare them for copy-editing, something which was totally new to me at the start of the internship. I was also taught how to collate and check proofs, which introduced me to proofreading symbols, and a few weeks in I was given the responsibility of administering the production database for an important client, the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, which involved direct contact with the client’s staff.

There was a lot of information to take in when I was first given these tasks, but I had a lot of practice with everything as there was something for me to do each day – and if I was ever stuck with anything, the other members of staff were more than happy to help. Even using a Mac, which I hadn’t done since primary school, became second nature very early on. Learning how to use shortcuts on the Mac made tasks such as styling much quicker and easier!

Throughout the internship, I felt that my contribution was valued and I was treated just the same as the other members of staff. I really enjoyed my time as the intern and it definitely sealed my decision to pursue a publishing career. I had been given a lot of hands-on experience and developed many skills which would have been a great boost when looking for further publishing opportunities after the internship. I was delighted when I was offered a full-time job with the company; having spent two months in the office, I felt like I fitted in and I would have been quite sad to leave. I felt really lucky to have been offered a job so soon after graduating and especially one that I enjoy so much.

I’m now a full member of the editorial office team. Like last year’s intern, who was also offered a permanent post, I hope next year’s intern enjoys his or her experience as much as I enjoyed mine.

Claire and-Alex-at-project-leaders-away-day
Claire and Alex, two of our project leaders, at coffee break.

Occasionally in Star Trek, the entire command crew beams down to a planet, only for some emergency to befall the ship. It falls upon the junior officers to manage the situation (which of course they do admirably).

Something like that happened to us yesterday.

We’d arranged an away day at the Salutation Hotel in Perth for all six project leaders with the management team – basically the entire senior staff. We were discussing the company’s desired behaviours and values and how to model and implement these, with specific reference to the role of the project leader in various types of project and in the giving and receiving of feedback.

This was very helpful for all of us. We identified our own strengths and weaknesses in how well we matched up to the company’s ideals, and did some fine-tuning to the values and behaviours themselves. We discussed the wide variety of projects we can be expected to lead – not just production projects but, for example, client development, marketing campaigns, internal infrastructure upgrades, and recruitment – and the typical tasks and workflows involved. And we spent some time talking in particular about feedback, referring to the results of a recent staff survey on the subject.

While we were at lunch, our directors checked their email, as they often do. An email had just been sent from the building manager of our office block, warning them that the power company had decided to do some urgent repairs. The electric power would be out for up to an hour. Starting in a few minutes’ time.

Gillian, Andrew, and Norma, three more of our project leaders, at lunch (very good, by the way).

We quickly phoned Kat, one of our Editorial Office Co-ordinators and the nominated in-charge person back in the office. She took a lot of persuading that we weren’t pranking her! Finally we convinced her that we were serious and set her to shutting down all the workstations in the office in advance of the power cut, ensuring all work was saved.

Meanwhile, we used the hotel’s wifi to remotely log in to our office-based servers and shut them down. They are on a UPS (uninterruptible power supply – basically a giant battery) so they probably wouldn’t have noticed, but we didn’t want to take chances.

Of course the next thing that happened was that the power company decided they didn’t need to cut the power to the building after all. Now Kat is sure we were pranking her.

Earlier this month, my colleague Laura Fulford and I attended the University of Dundee’s life sciences careers conference (that’s Laura on the left and me on the right). Both Laura and I are alumni of the university. Laura graduated in 2012 with a PhD in molecular biology and I graduated last year with an honours degree in biochemistry. Prepress Projects has strong ties with the University of Dundee: 7 of our 24 employees are graduates of the university.


We had initially been in contact with the university to advertise our upcoming summer internship and as a result of this we were invited to speak at their life sciences careers conference. Many life sciences students are unaware of the career opportunities that their degree can bring, often believing that research and teaching are the only options open to them. The conference takes place every year and is aimed at third-year undergraduate students to offer ideas for future career paths and broaden their horizons. This year’s event hosted a variety of speakers, including scientific consultants/recruiters, PhD students, doctors, professors and representatives from Dundee Science Centre, to name but a few.

Around 50 students came to hear our presentation – another presenter kindly commented that our talk was clearly a highlight of the day. We spoke about our individual career paths, scientific publishing in general and Prepress Projects in particular. We wanted to appeal to those who were interested in research as well as those interested in publishing, so we spent some time talking about editorial office management and how a piece of research transitions from initial submission to publication in a book or journal. We also had the chance to advertise our summer internship, which, not surprisingly, generated a lot of interest.

We also manned a small exhibition stand, showcasing the variety of publications we work on and enticing students with free chocolates. Our stand was extremely busy, particularly with students interested in the internship, several of whom had already applied. There were also quite a few individuals with general questions about how to get started in publishing, as it was not a career choice they had previously considered. We were impressed by the level of interest the students showed, the questions they asked and the number of chocolates they ate.

The day was a great opportunity to put Prepress Projects onto the map and develop a range of contacts. Just before leaving, the university’s life sciences careers advisor offered us the opportunity to come back to the university at any time to talk about scientific publishing or publishing in general. We really enjoyed the experience – it was a fruitful way to promote the company and inform undergraduates about publishing as a career option.