A Publishing Career Will Put Your MBA To The Test!
Jennifer Smith is co-lead of Bath's New York alumni chapter, and helps Bath grads acclimate to life in the city
This week we caught up with Jennifer Smith who is Director for Digital Marketing Solutions for book publishing group Macmillan, based in New York City.
Jennifer, 35, grew up in Philadelphia before leaving for college at Drexel University. She gained her Bachelors in Marketing and Information Systems in 2000, and her MBA, with a concentration in Marketing and E-Commerce in 2002 from University of Bath School of Management.
From her office on the 38th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, Jennifer told us why it's exciting time for an MBA graduate to pursue a career in publishing. She also gave us some great insight into Macmillan’s higher education business, a market where both MacMillan's products, and its customers - higher education institutions - are changing at breakneck speed.
Can you tell us about your main responsibilities as Director of Digital Marketing Solutions at Macmillan?
I work with various publishers to provide service support and strategic tools for marketing. My department is reponsible for conducting marketing campaigns online and piloting new marketing strategies.
My focus is on higher education so the products I am directly involved with are education materials for university students and high school students. In this capacity, we do a lot of work on the higher education support website using search engine optimization tools to make it more accessible.
Do you view digital media is a threat to paper publications?
At the moment, I wouldn’t say digital media is a threat, at least not in higher education. Publishing is certainly changing. In higher education there are new players coming into the market and this is changing the business model. There are companies lending textbooks, meaning that students no longer need to buy, and learning itself is changing.
It’s no longer about taking a textbook and making it appear in a pdf document online but about recognizing that learning happens in different ways. Businesses like ours have to ask whether we want to branch out into lending books or if we want to outsource this service through a different provider.
Our aim is to become more accessible to readers by improving our online services. Bearing this in mind we are working on our subscription model so that our content and authors are protected and our user experience becomes more interactive. We want to add more pictures, videos, note-taking facilities, and optimize our e-versions to work across different platforms and applications.
We’re also moving away from the parameters of the bound book. This means that we can provide useful chapters or sections of certain books to instructors rather than an entire book that they may not need. One of our main competitors, Cengage, already offers 99 cent chapters and when we start marketing more to students we will let them pick and choose useful cross sections too.
We are forming relationships with instructors who participate in our online communities, and through some of these portals, instructors can share course materials, rate books, and upload their own materials. We engage directly with institutions using our account representatives. We use things like Facebook and Twitter to maintain dialogues with students and instructors.
What’s the most exciting thing about working in publishing?
It has to be the reason I joined the industry and it hasn’t changed after more than six years. It's the love of reading and being part of an industry that enriches people, and gives them escape. I have met some really interesting authors and editors.
I’m also glad to be part of the industry right now when the model is changing and forcing us to think differently about the part we play and the values we want to bring. When I first started publishing, revenue from online was only a small percentage. Now it’s double digits. Its nice to work with core business leaders who are rethinking these key strategies.
Do you think now is a good time for a recent MBA graduate to enter the publishing world?
An MBA gives you a very good sense of the different functions across business and how they work together. MBAs coming into the industry can make a difference because in many ways this is still a traditional business with writers and editors, therefore MBAs will balance out very well between the content folks and the business folks.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
I’m currently reading Paris: The Collected Traveller; a collection of interviews and stories about various things to do in Paris such as restaurants and cooking workshops. This book is different from typical travel guides because it really brings in the perspective of the locals. Aside from reading, travelling is my other passion. My next trip is to Cap d'Antibes, France for our annual family holiday.
What’s the least exciting task you have to face regularly as part of your job?
Paperwork! There is always something you have to fill in every few months.
Are you active in the Bath MBA community?
I am. In fact, I’m co-lead of the New York alumni chapter. I feel that the alumni community is important for any Bath MBA graduate who comes to New York. We offer support in terms of how to find an apartment, how to get around, and generally getting oriented. I really appreciated the support of the school when I was new to England so I understand how it is to be new to a place. We love catching up with our members and hearing what everyone is doing, meeting new members and discovering new opportunities through the network.
I recently attended a course for future business women leaders at UCLA hosted by Banco Santander. It was the Bath Alumni Committee that recommended me for the W50 programme. We were given an introduction to board governance and the other women selected held leadership positions in companies around the world.
At first I expected I would be initimidated by going into a meeting with fifty strong-willed and opinionated women but we were all interested in each other and being supportive. The instructors had all served on or are currently on boards so it was a chance to learn from their experiences. I recently tried one of the exercises - a communications exercise - with my team in New York and they loved it. The programme has a 20 per cent acceptance rate and it was something I wouldn’t know about if not for Bath.
More stories about students, alumni and programmes at University of Bath School of Management here
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