Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brook Farling, Manufacturing Buyer, Pearson Technology Group

Today I am very happy to introduce you to one of the coolest and nicest people I know. Brook Farling is a longtime Pearson person who has one of the less common (but more interesting) jobs in publishing. He is the one who manages the process of getting the books printed. Here's his insider view of the job:

How long have you worked in this job, and what other publishing jobs led up to this one?

I started out as a compositor, then I took over the supervision of a production team comprised of compositors, proofreaders, and indexers. I've been in my current position for over ten years.

How do you keep your job fresh and interesting?

Hmmmm. Well, it's never dull, because there's always some element of managing chaos. The processes are generally the same each day, but it's the little problems that pop up that chew up a good portion of my day. I generally enjoy tackling those issues and helping others find resolution. I also enjoy helping people find ways to make their books better, or finding ways of saving them money (and in turn making their books more profitable). This might involve suggesting an alternative paper, cover stock, or some other solution, or maybe it's a new printer.

What is your job description, and what do you do on a typical day?

My job is mostly about managing titles at the printer(s), once the final files have been shipped off for printing. That may involve everyday things like cutting purchase orders, finalizing shipping instructions, working with our warehouse to ensure that books arrive on time, etc., but it also involves working out problems that might pop up with book files, planning future titles at the printer, ordering paper, ordering covers or media, etc. The list of little things goes on and on, but it's never not a challenge to stay on top of it all.

What skills are needed to do your job?

You have to be organized and work well under tight time constraints. A whole lot of what I do involves making things happen in a timely fashion so books aren't delayed. There's a lot of detail involved (sometimes more than I like), but I wouldn't call it dull. You also have to be good with people. I spend a good portion of my day talking to people both within and outside of the organization, and excellent written communication skills are a must.

What did you major in?

I have a degree in Journalism from Ball State University.

What advice do you have for college students who might want to get a job like yours—what can they do to prepare for it?

Hmmm, don't do it! Just kidding. Being a manufacturing (or print) buyer is not exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my career, but I certainly see many sides of the business and you learn a tremendous amount by being exposed to a lot of different areas of the business. I would recommend it as a good position for anyone interested in the business side of publishing, as opposed to the editorial side. Probably some business classes would be helpful, but any exposure to commercial printing certainly will help.

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