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Joanne - connections between your Phd and your current role
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Name: Joanne
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Publishing
Year of graduation: 2002
Date of Interview: 18/06/2008

Now Playing: Joanne - connections between your Phd and your current role
Joanne explores the connections between her PhD and her current job. She reflects on the attitudes of her employer, colleagues and clients to her PhD and identifies what it is about the PhD that equips her for her job.

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Transcript:

Does your job have any connection with the subject area of your PhD? 

No, well, not directly as sociology. But a lot of it is related to things I was doing. So a lot of my PhD was, I was looking at the development of sociology through the nineteenth century actually and social research in the 1930s so it's not a million miles away from my PhD. I mean I think it, I think it also, when I started at Palgrave, I worked on politics books and that was very different. It was a whole different language but they would talk about non-state actors, and actors, and I found that quite interesting how the whole discipline had a very particular language that you kind of, that you take on board sort of very, this is like, sort of a very osmosis-style process. Having done history since my undergraduate degree I don't, I wouldn't be able to say whether we talk about history in a different way because it's just how I would talk about my subject. But I thought that was very interesting in politics in particular, it was very off-putting to outsiders actually because you, its very hard to understand what they're talking about and it's hard for them to know that you don't understand that because it's just part of how they talk about their subject. But sociology and criminology you've got a much, it's, you've got a much clearer way in because they're often dealing with subjects in the news, you know it's not so jargon heavy. So, but there were, and I was always interested in the social theory side of my subject and theoretical aspects so – and there's a lot of cross-over there – so there is cross-over. I mean something like criminology I'm not, or psychology, I don't particularly have a background there but the kind of, Foucault is obviously a big kind of person in those fields and he was someone I used in my own work so there's definitely cross-over. 

Do you feel like you're using your PhD experience in any way in your current job?

Well, yeah, it think yeah, I use, I have my signature says PhD so I'm not sure if it's the experience but I'm using the cachet of it to get, especially the kind of people I, the kind of books I'm commissioning which are upper level research monographs I'm sort of flagging up to them that I have a PhD in a way to kind of say 'therefore I may have a sort of understanding of your work that maybe another commissioning editor wouldn't have'. I maybe don't mean it so arrogantly but I'm just trying to say I am, so I'm not, so maybe not the experience but the cachet it brings I'm trying to draw on I guess.

Also then could you say how you feel that your PhD and your status as someone as a PhD is regarded by your colleagues, your employer and then the people that you're working with externally?

I think, I think I, I think it was regarded by my employer as definitely an attribute and, but and this is going to take me into a whole segue of conversation. I think when I started out when trying to find work in publishing it was a, well not a hindrance particularly, you know I had no experience working in publishing and very little work experience apart from temping and the bit of work I'd done after my MA. So it was more about getting, you know, showing that I was someone who could do a job and you know hold down a job and things like that. But when I interviewed for my current job then because it deals with research monographs it suddenly – I think that's why I was able to go from editorial assistant to editor. Because I think that they thought that, well not that I'd be interested in working those kind of books because of my background, but also that authors would like working with someone with a PhD. So it then, because of the type, the specific type of books I commission, it did seem to have, it seems to be well regarded by them when they were employing me I think. I'm not sure, my colleagues I don't think particularly notice it or mention it or you know, I think it's, they're kind of interested that I use it but they haven't really brought I up. I think they would see that as a useful way of marketing yourself really to the authors. And authors, they don't often mention it, they'll, some, did they mention it or not? A lot of the time they will say 'oh what's your PhD in?' or I have had comments like 'well you know it is good that you've got a PhD because you can understand the process or you know how it works or you know we feel a bit more like you understand what we're doing because'. So I think it's good in kind of bridging a kind of them and us gap, which sometimes you can slightly feel that authors feel that you're kind of working, you're sort of clashing so it kind of bridges a divide there maybe? Not that you are clashing, you've both trying to publish a book together, you're not trying to clash at all but sometimes it can feel like there's a conflict of interests there somehow. Or authors might feel that we don't really understand the process of things so yeah, I think they might see that it's, that I do understand the other side of it.

Does the PhD experience equip you in any way to doing your job?

Yeah I think because I'm working on, you know, these, the type of book I worked on means I can – I'm bringing a kind of intellectual background with me to it. So I can go 'ok I can see why this particular, looking at this particular subject in this particular way is interesting' and then I, you know, that's not always, I guess I just have a kind of perspective on the way people approach research or do research so I kind of can see why that certain approach may be interesting. But you know I still think you could, you wouldn't necessarily need a PhD to know that and I'm not doing it in my subject so it's not like I'm you know, it's not like I do a lot of extra reading on my topic particularly. Although just by dint of knowing what I'm publishing I feel like I probably know quite a lot about sociology and criminology, these days.

When I look at editors who I think are really excellent, you know it's, it's nothing to do with their educational backgrounds really. They're really good at these like marketing or strategic planning for their lists or you know analysing sales and looking at trends. So in that way you know it's not like they're intellectually, how, how many qualifications they've got have got has much bearing on that, you know they're…

But is there something distinct that you think you bring to the role as someone with a PhD?

I think maybe it's, I don't know, I find it very interesting what authors are looking for in an editor. I think that's, you know what I bring to it which is not maybe that helpful is I have to theorise everything, you know. I went on a commissioning course, and it's like well you know 'how does this work, how does this process work, you know what are authors looking for in a commissioning editor, how should I think about this you know what are they, what are the key things are they looking for, how am I going to theorise my strategy?' So you know maybe other people aren't so bothered about that. We're setting up this course on, an in-house training on commissioning, and I'm fascinated by how you develop as a commissioning editor. You know it's a very complicated thing to do in a kind of way you're juggling so many things. But what I'm interested in was you know how can we, you know, break this down and what are your, you know what do you need to know and how do you, how to you make that leap from editorial assistant to editor? So, I don't know. I'm very unhelpful in over-theorising, I think (laughter) well maybe other people are just not worried about that and getting on with it. So I think maybe another thing, from the PhD is, you know your PhD and your work in that way really kind of is your whole life because you're putting, because it's your research and your interests and I kind of, I do bring that to it. I mean I think a lot of people do in publishing, it's not just a nine to five job. But you know, I suppose I bring that kind of attitude, you know I wanted a job like my PhD that interested me beyond it just being a job. So yeah it's kind of attitudes to work rather than maybe skills.

Would you say that you enjoy working nine to five after being absorbed by your PhD for years?

I think it's too, I think it's definitely, it's not as straight as saying I can, I definitely appreciate that I can, that I could if I wanted to do nine to five and switch off. I definitely like the fact that there's this distinction between my working life and my outside life. And yeah that means there's lot of opportunities to do lot of other things but at the same time there's no way I could do a job in the same way with my PhD that I wasn't really passionate about you know or really excited about or had that same kind of…You know there were moments of my PhD where you know when I was writing it up or doing research and you're kind of, just so exciting and I still kind of get those. When I've signed a really big name or I've on the verge of signing a really big name I get really, you know I have that kind of excitement with it. I think it's that aspect of my PhD experience that I have in my current job that you know crosses over so. But it's still, you know, when you've had a terrible day and it's all been about the admin and you've lost your big author to some other press you know – then it's good to come home and think about something else and be able to switch off.

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