Jessica Yee (’11) works with Publishing in New York

New YorkWhile moving to Brooklyn during the summer of 2011, I had the quintessential, clichéd “New York is so inspiring” experience. Although the physical trip to New York was terrifying (my parents and I had several extremely close calls with aggressive cabbies), seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time was exhilarating and inspiring in a cheesy kind of way, especially when it hit me that this would be the new place I’d call home.

Fast-forward a week and I was bawling uncontrollably on the phone to my best friend in Michigan, moping in my unbelievably hot, air-condition-less apartment with four gigantic mosquito bites on my ankle. I was physically and emotionally miserable, and I was 100 percent convinced that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

But things worked out, as they always tend to do. I started my graduate publishing program at NYU, got internships and jobs, made some fantastic friends, and conquered my fear of getting lost on the subway (though for the first six months I was always afraid that each time I left my apartment I would somehow get lost and end up in some obscure neighborhood in Queens with no idea how to get home).

Moving to a big city where I had no friends, family, or connections was the last thing I thought I’d be doing after I graduated from UNCA with a mass communications degree. I was a bookish, painfully shy kid when I was younger, and I was terrified of being vulnerable in unfamiliar or intimidating experiences. But around the middle of my senior year at UNCA, I realized that I co uld not see a future for myself in journalism. The thought of staying in my comfort zone and settling for a job I wasn’t excited about really pushed me to explore new opportunities. At the suggestion of a colleague on The Blue Banner, I completed editorial and art internships at Lark Books, which sparked my interest in publishing.

Once I decided to pursue publishing as a career, furthering my education seemed like the obvious (and only) option at the time. I was accepted at four graduate publishing programs iOpen Roadn cities across the country: Portland, Oregon; Washington DC; Boston; and New York. They were all tempting in different ways, but as the mecca for publishing, New York edged out the other options.

I’ve been in the city for a little more than four years now. I work in publishing at Open Road Integrated Media, and I’ve been at the company for almost three years. I started in 2012 as a managing editorial assistant, and back when our department was basically just me and two other NYU publishing grads, I had to learn extremely quickly and on the fly. After a year I became the metadata coordinator, and I’m now the associate digital asset manager. I’m responsible for all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our entire catalog, which at this point is about 8,000 titles.

I’m responsible for data entry and supervision of our title management system, and I handle all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our title list. As part of the managing editorial department, I often work with our editorial, art, and marketing teams as well. In particular, I work closely with merchandising and marketing to set up price promotions and monthly campaigns at retailers. I also work with Ingram and other printers to make sure our paperback book assets and metadata are complete and correct in their sales catalogs. Customer-facing data is also my responsibility, so I maintain regular correspondence with our 30+ retail partners to make sure our books’ product pages are up-to-date and formatted correctly on their sites.

The fact that my job is significantly data-driven gives me a wealth of opportunities for the future, should I decide to branch out and pursue a job in a different field. Data has never been more vital, especially since digital commerce has become the norm and transactions are instantaneous. It’s more and more important for all companies to use their data to support discoverability, customer analysis, and general operations. As Open Road’s title list has grown, I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for managing our books in both internal and customer-facing systems, and I’ve gainOpen Road maped a lot of technical skills that apply to data management in publishing and other industries.

Working at Open Road and going to NYU forced me to do a lot of things I used to dread—public speaking, presentations, leading training sessions, and diving into new experiences without knowing exactly what I was doing. It’s made me more assertive and confident, both personally and professionally. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and one that I’m still working on, is how to balance my work and my personal life.

When I fiOpen Road booksrst started at Open Road, the company was still very much in its start-up phase, and as such, we all worked extremely long hours, including taking work home on weekends. Now that we’re more established and our company is constantly growing, I don’t necessarily need to work on the weekends or stay for 10-12 hours during the week (though forcing myself to leave at a reasonable time is still a struggle). I’ve had to accept that the work will always be there, and that it’s important to take breaks and maintain perspective. I’m not a doctor or a public leader. I work in publishing and help make books. If something goes wrong or a project has to get pushed back a day, it really isn’t the end of the world.

That’s a lesson that I wish I had learned a year or two ago—how to relax and not take everything so seriously. Big changes are intimidating, and leaving college and entering the real world can definitely be a daunting experience. I went directly from UNCA to NYU, and I think my fear of idleness was the biggest reason I didn’t take a couple of months to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I hope current students don’t feel like they have to settle for the first job they can find. Even though I’m not in a position where I use my degree on a daily basis, it was a huge stepping stone that allowed me to get where I am now. Don’t feel like you have to follow a specific track just because you studied a certain subject in college.

However challenging my experiences in New York have been, being here gives me opportunities that I never would have had if I had stayed in my comfortable, safe bubble. Not only do I get to work in an industry I love, I’ve made wonderful friends, learned from some inspiring professors and colleagues, and accomplished personal goals I didn’t even know I had.

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