June16, 2016 – a rare first, for me. The first day at a new employer. After twenty years, I have left Elsevier and joined Digital Science. I may write about why and what’s it like to work at Elsevier one day. If it were a play review, the producers might summarize it as “***(*) … highly stimulating … excellent … a unique experience …”
June 16, 2016 is another first: writing a blog post. I became aware that I now have a plan for the next twenty years of my professional life. (I say ‘professional’ because I have numerous other plans – including the MA in archaeology, taking some public post, writing some more plays…).
What’s it like to work at Elsevier … if it were a play review, the producers might summarize it as “***(*) … highly stimulating … excellent … a unique experience …”
Part of the professional plan is understanding that I’m responsible for my own reputation and profile, and understanding that I need to invest in it. Maintaining a public profile is part of this.
One of the opportunities that a major change in life provides is the opportunity for self-reflection; stripping off the Elsevier skin and standing naked in front of the … no, I’m not standing in front of a mirror … it should be deeper than that – I’m performing a mid-life autopsy, a media-morte. What animal have I become after twenty years at Elsevier?
It turns out that the Elsevier skin was … skin-deep, and easy to slough off. I had a few meetings with Kathy and Daniel and Christian and Mario at DS, I knowingly chose between “going big or going home”, and with Juliana Wood’s stimulating words ringing in my ears, shook hands and switched allegiance in a heartbeat.
“Go big or go home”
It may be the case that I’ll carry on dreaming I’m working there for years to come (I still dream about living in Catherine Street, twenty years after I moved away). I wasn’t at all surprised to dream of being in the Mendeley office last night, it was a happy place. I shall very much miss Rich Lyne, Leah Haskoylu, Ian Harvey and the developers in my technology team.
However, for all my affection for the place and the people, I cannot say that ever became particularly corporate minded, or hegemonized, and this probably had two particular consequences: my utter lack of promotion at Elsevier (at least as viewed through the lens of ‘job title’) and also how easy it was for me to feel at home with the good folk at Digital Science.
But if I have not become an embodiment of Elsevier, what have I become? Remembering back to my pre-Elsevier life, I remember how much I wanted to work in scholarly communications, how frustrating it was to be knocked back by Blackwell Scientific, Heinemann, Elsevier, OUP…
My heart was not in the promotion of stationery and office supplies
I was running a production department for a small, commercial publisher, and while I was happy enough, my heart was just not in the promotion of stationery and office supplies. My heart was in the communication of ideas, in science, in research, in academia (in its broadest sense). Moving to Elsevier (or rather, to be specific, Butterworth-Heinemann, then part of Reed Education and Professional Publishing, part of Reed Business, part of Reed Elsevier…). I had, although it has taken me twenty years to recognize it, a vocation for working in this field.
And it’s that vocation that shapes a large part of my life. It’s surely vocation that has meant I’ve been working nearly full-time for the last month, despite being officially on ‘garden leave’ and in ‘support mode’. I’ve been analysing data, reading papers. Reviewing papers, working on two conferences, developing some plans for the governance of quality indicators, had a few meetings on NISO projects… I should have been writing a paper, but I had some gardening to do, and some prehistoric trackways to explore…
Assuming that this blog doesn’t wither on the vine, it’ll become part of my professional life: part of my vocation, a place where I can express that calling. Going big.