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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.

In December, a client lured three of us to Vienna for a meeting. With the added promise of Christmas markets, we naturally accepted the invitation.

Our trip didn’t begin well: we travelled from Edinburgh on the wings of a storm, missed a connection and spent about seven hours at Schiphol airport. We arrived in Vienna just before midnight, many hours later than planned.

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Of course, the point of the trip was neither Christmas shopping nor sightseeing. We were visiting to meet our client and exchange ideas, and what a productive (and enjoyable) meeting it turned out to be: our meeting lasted from 9 am until 6 pm, with lunch at the promised (and impressive) Christmas market.

Meeting face to face allows the sort of informal discussion that other forms of contact don’t. Email tends to be focused on the task in hand. Conference calls can require a lot of concentration to pick up who is saying what, without the help of visual cues. Even videoconferencing, which is commonplace for us now, has its limitations.

Actually being with people and having time and space around the formal agenda helps to build relationships and create opportunities for mind to spark against mind.

We were delighted to see how excited our contacts were at the technical fixes we can offer for routine tasks. Making changes automatically using our suite of Word macros, even if some of them need to be undone by human intervention, frees up time for the real editing work, which requires informed judgement.

One advantage we have in being a small company is that we don’t have barriers between our technical people and our editors, and there are no cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for changing or customising our cleanup macros. We were able to show our hosts the sort of thing we can do. Comments we made in passing prompted them to mention options that we didn’t know they wanted and they didn’t know we could provide. These types of interaction are almost impossible to achieve by email.

It was also encouraging to establish how much common ground we have. Many clients don’t have an in-house team of professional editors, but this one did. We were editors talking to editors. We understood their requirements and constraints, as they did ours.

We left Vienna feeling that we had accomplished something worthwhile, and with a strong impression that our clients felt likewise.

Updated 31 March 2014: applications are now closed – almost 120 people applied.

We are looking for a summer publishing intern.

The job will involve assisting our editorial or production staff produce academic books, journals or short reports (for print or digital publication). You will be helping out during peak holiday season, so you will be kept busy and your contribution will certainly be valued. We can promise that you won’t be bored.

If you intend to pursue a publishing career then this could be the post to help you get started.

Last year we offered our summer intern a full-time job and you may wish to read about her time with us. While we can’t guarantee doing the same this year, we can guarantee that the experience gained will be relevant, useful and representative of what happens in a professional publishing office. And you get to meet nice people.

The internship post will run from June to August inclusive, for a period of 13 weeks. You will be based at our offices in Perth. Our interns get paid, so you definitely won’t be working for nothing. This year the salary is £1040 per calendar month (equivalent to £240 per 37.5-hour week).

If you are smart, resourceful and interested then send an email before the end of March to David MacDonald at telling us why you believe you would be suitable for this post (please attach a comprehensive c.v.).

Studying for or possessing a first degree in a science subject will be advantageous. Applications from postgraduate publishing students are welcome.

All emails will be acknowledged. We will contact you in late March or early April if we want to arrange an interview, which will include a short test.