|Language and Linguistic Science
|English Language and Linguistics
|Trainee Project Manager
|Newgen Publishing UK
|Journalism and publishing
|Medium-size business (50-249 employees)
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A day in the life of a Trainee Project Manager in the United Kingdom
I'm still learning in my role. I've gone from an Assistant Apprentice, to an Assistant, and I've just been promoted to a Trainee Production Editor (a position created just for me)! I would like to become a full time Production Editor or Project Manager.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
Newgen is a publishing project management services provider. Our clients are publishers, not authors! Essentially, a publisher will send us a manuscript and we then project manage it through production (copy-editing, proofreading, indexing etc.) showing the proofs to the author and publisher at every stage. We convert the print-ready proof into an ebook, and hand back the final version of the manuscript and the ebooks ready for printing/distributing.
What do you do?
I project manage titles from manuscripts to print. I book copy-editors, indexers etc., liase with authors and help mitigate potential issues such as delays, dissatisfaction with an editorial decision all to help keep the project running smoothly. I conduct quality assessments on the second round of proofs (manuscripts) to check that the author's name is spelt correctly and the table of contents matches the chapters, in addition to going through the index and references to make sure that everything adhere's to industry and publisher's style. I also sort out indexes, transcribe videos, format manuscripts and check hyperlinks in ebooks -- anything and everything, really!
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
I've always been good with words ad interested in publishing. Originally, after achieving my certTESOL I was going to teach abroad for a year, but this was quickly scuppered by the pandemic. In Easter of my final year (2020), I applied for the Production and Editorial Assistant Apprenticeship role at Newgen where I sent through my CV and a cover letter. The apprenticeship was being managed by LDN Apprentices, a training provider who had just launched a publishing apprenticeship. Anybody can apply for an apprenticeship with LDN as long as you do not have a degree/prior work in the sector. All that they ask is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.
I had an online interview with Newgen (due to the pandemic) which I passed and was offered the job. After that, I did a brief informal interview with LDN Apprentices as a confirmation, before enrolling on their next publishing apprenticeship intake day.
In total, the apprenticeship was 18 months, where I worked at Newgen every day and completed online course and workshops/seminars with LDN every month.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
Yes, in the sense that I had no idea that publishing service providers existed! Truthfully however, whilst I've always loved publishing it's so notoriously difficult to break into the industry that I didn't actually think I would work in publishing. Instead, I had planned to do a TEFL placement with the British Council, which was put on hold due to the pandemic.
Describe your most memorable day at work
The day I officially sent the final files to a customer for a project which I had managed from start to finish. It was an incredible feeling - pride, relief, euphoria. It's a rush every time you finish a project. It can also be sad; some of the people you work with are amazing and you feel emotionally connected to a book, espiecally if you've worked on it for months.
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Occassionally you will be assigned a difficult task or project. Authors can be (understandably) very protective of their work which sometimes leads to overcorrection of proofs or upset when their vision cannot be achieved due to varying reasons - publishing standards, series style, or time constraints, for instance. It can be very time consuming and laborous to go through their corrections and sometimes you dread receiving an email concerning the project, but it's worth it when it's published and you recieve a name check!
What’s your work environment and culture like?
I work remotely. This is in part due to the pandemic, but also the company is global and so some colleagues live and work abroad! As a result each department have set up coffee mornings where we join a videocall and can chat to colleagues about anything and everything. It can be easy to let working hours and home life blur and so it's helpful to have set activities in the evening which require you to finish at a certain time.
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
I helped found the Printing Press society. It helped give an edge to my application because it showed enthusiasm and interest in the history of the industry. Whilst you don't need to go as far as founding something, it's important to note that publishing is more than just fiction books so showing knowledge in the 'hidden' areas - printing, copy-editing, proofreading, indexing, academic and education industry - will put you ahead.
Having a society position (I was Secretary) is also good as it shows that you know how to handle responsibility and, in my case, could write emails and manage the inbox. Digital (communications) skills have grown in importance now and so it's a bonus if you can show you know the basics of Outlook/Microsoft programs.
Also, list a hobby that requires dedication and a determined mindset, such as music or martial arts. To achieve a high grade/belt shows that you persevere despite setbacks, once committed you see the job through, and that you are dependable with interests in other areas.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I'm still learning in my role. I've gone from an Assistant Apprentice, to an Assistant, and now I've just been promoted to a Trainee Production Editor (a position created just for me)! I would like to become a Production Editor or a Project Manager. Who knows, maybe I'll transfer and become a trade fiction developing editor one day!
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
Have a CV not a personal statement
Your CV should be two sides - use bullet points
Look for your local publishing company - you'll be surprised how many are around. Apply for work experience there
Don't dismiss apprenticeships - they offer amazing opportunities
Apply for jobs in the field even if it's not what you think you want to do. I wanted to be a Commissioning/Development Editor in fiction (working with authors to patch up all those pesky plot holes) but everybody wants to do that - trade is notorious to break into as it's so saturated. And actually, now that I'm in the industry I don't want to work in trade anymore. The academic and education industry is fascinating and severely underrated and undermanned.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
How to break into the industry
The difference between trade/academic/education
If you like the look of Mary’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Mary a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Mary to be your mentor.