Shaping the Digital Future from the very Beginning

Sara on embracing the opportunities of change

How did you make the decision to come to Pan Macmillan?

In 2006, heavily pregnant with my third child, I was in a Macmillan group meeting about how the various areas of the business were moving towards a more digital future. Inevitably, consumer books seem to be changing in this direction, and the Managing Director of Pan Macmillan said he believed he needed a leader to help Pan Macmillan prepare for this change. Soon afterwards I wrote a short E-mail to apply for this job. A few days later we agreed on the terms of my employment, and I began my career at Pan Macmillan. Something I have always treasured about working at Macmillan has been the company's ability to listen, to be personal, to be creative and to take risks on people. I think it's something that engenders a lot of loyalty. I started my first job at Pan Macmillan in a role that had never existed before, that I was invited to shape for myself, and with a month to go until I was to have a baby. I know how lucky I am to work somewhere prepared to take that kind of punt on me. I've worked across the group in a great many diverse roles for over 27 years now!

What was your path within our Group?

In 1993 I joined the group in the sales and marketing department of Macmillan Reference, where I was thrown in at the deep end running every aspect of the marketing and publicity of some of our oldest and most prestigious major works of reference at the time. I worked extensively setting up new distributors for our encyclopedias around the world. I was 22 and had no sales or marketing qualification or experience: I just learned on the job, and somehow found my way, with the help of enormously generous, kind and lovely colleagues. It was the time of encyclopedia (pre-Internet: yes, I am a dinosaur!) and I developed curiosity about how these massive printed works might one day find their way into new innovative formats. I had started receiving letters from readers of the encyclopedia, asking whether we'd consider putting their contents onto disc or CD. I spoke to my bosses about it and started to explore ideas. A short time after that Macmillan set up a consumer-CD-ROM-publishing division and I became the Marketing Manager. Thanks to my brilliant boss and the creative energy I developed fast and my interest in the digital future started to become an obsession. After this I worked in several roles across the group, imagining new business models, creating new products and web services, and finding new ways to engage with customers online. I have been active for Nature, where amongst other things I worked on launching its first ever online journal, for Macmillan Reference, where I lead the development of web versions and also for the Academic and Education divisions. But it was the chance to work for Pan Macmillan, and return to my passion of helping publishing businesses find their way into a digital future, that brought me back to consumer publishing, and eventually back to my roots in marketing and communications.

What are the big opportunities ahead for you and your team?

Gosh! There is so much for us to do and we occupy such exciting times. There has been an enormous amount of change in the industry, and as a company we've embraced the opportunities of digital wholeheartedly - I'm really proud of the role I've played in that - but I'm also thrilled that books in all their formats have proven so resilient. What I enjoy most is getting books into people's hands, in whatever way and at whatever time suits them.

What do you love about working at Pan Macmillan?

First and foremost, it's all about two things: the books, and the people. It's in the company DNA. I remind myself how lucky I am, every day, to go to work with people I adore, from my wonderful colleagues to our incredible authors and illustrators, and I get to spend my time reading and talking about books, devising ways to get more of them into more people's hands - it's the dream. When people talk about the 'Pan Mac Family', that's the perfect description. The collaborative energy and the friendliness of the place is like nothing else; it's just a very special culture.

What advice do you have for job seekers looking to join as part of the group?

This place has buckets of personality, an appetite for change and a will to continually improve. I've never worked anywhere more ambitious for itself and for its people. You can bring your whole person to work here and if you want to change something for the better, people will listen and things will happen. If that sounds good to you, go for it. As we seek to be the best representatives we can of the society we serve, I'd also like to encourage people with transferable skills, who haven't necessarily worked in publishing before but have a great passion for books and reading, to give it a shot!

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Portrait photo of our colleague Sara


Digital and Communications Director at Pan Macmillan

"This place has buckets of personality, an appetite for change and a will to continually improve."