Ain is the Events Programme Manager for Penguin Connect, part of Penguin Random House. Here she works within the Audiences and Audio division to connect authors with new readers through B2B events. Prior to this role, she was Senior Academic Partnerships Manager at Oxford University Press, where she was responsible for managing the inside sales team and driving sales across the UK & Ireland. Ain has also been part of the Society of Young Publishers, volunteering first as an Events Coordinator and then running the SYP as UK Chair in 2018. This position together with her successful work at OUP has earned her a nomination in The Bookseller Rising Stars in 2018. Recently, she has launched an Instagram Live series called Publishing Notes where she interviews colleagues across the industry to support aspiring and young publishers.
*Interview conducted by Aisha Bushby
- Can you tell us about your role and what it entails?
I work as Events Programme Manager at Penguin Random House, looking after Penguin Connect. We create B2B events with our amazing authors at the centre and in my role, I liaise with clients, create events briefs and programmes, and work closely with our clients to deliver the events. There’s a lot of sales, events management and operations involved. I also get to work closely with our authors which is always very special. It’s a brilliantly unique job, I’m very lucky!
- Would you be able to offer an overview of your publishing career so far? What position did you start in?
I always mentioned that my publishing career started long before I landed my first job in a publishing house. It took me a few years of building up my CV with the right experience, which for me included being a bookseller and completing a Publishing MA that I self-funded before I finally managed to get a job. I started as a paid intern (had bills and rent to cover, so unpaid work experience wasn’t an option for me) in a small open-access academic publisher. I was offered a full-time Publishing Assistant role there after a few months, but I knew I wanted to try work in Trade publishing and was over the moon when I moved to Penguin Random House as an International Sales Operations Assistant. Alongside my role there, I started volunteering as Events Coordinator for the Society of Young Publishers and decided to complete an evening diploma to become an Events Manager. My sales passion never really left me, so I had to wait for the right opportunity which was as a Partnerships Executive at Oxford University Press (OUP), where I was working on both sales and B2B events. During my time at OUP, I was promoted to Partnerships Manager and was lucky to lead a wonderful team looking after the UK, Ireland & Europe. When my current role was created and advertised at PRH, I knew it was going to be perfect for me and I started it last October.
- What does an average day look like for you (if there is such a thing in your role)?
It all depends on whether it’s event day or not. On a ‘regular’ day I will have calls/meetings with our clients or any potential prospects to discuss programmes. I liaise with our publishing divisions to make sure I am updated with our schedule and informed about books that will be published, and I also work with our authors to schedule and prepare the events. Basically, I talk with a lot of people. The current situation means it’s all done virtually at the moment, which is a little bit of a shame as I am an extrovert who loves spending time with people.
- What is your favourite thing about your job?
I have two favourite things: one is working with our authors, who are truly exceptional! The second one is the network of clients that we have and getting insights into different industries. Publishing can be quite traditional and closed off, so working with companies in tech, law, finance and advertisement, to name a few, is a great way to keep myself developing professionally.
- What is the hardest thing about your job?
The fact that is a multifaceted role means I need to be constantly training myself to stay on top of the different areas I cover, particularly when it comes to events. There’s always a lot to stay on top of, such as trends and technology used to enhance live experiences. We’re also a very small team with big ambitions, which can be challenging when you only have 24 hours in a day!
- What is something surprising about your role that most people might not know about?
I think the fact that I also sell our events. My job title makes it sound like I only programme them, but the actual role involves a lot of negotiation and consultation before we get to the planning stage.
- If someone was looking to get into a role like yours, what would you suggest they do outside of work experience to improve their CV?
Literally any customer-facing job. Retail and hospitality are great for example, but anything where you can learn to deliver good customer service. You need to be quick to identify a solution to a need and you can only do that if you are good at asking questions and at listening to what the clients are saying. You need to love people and love pressure. The good news is that most jobs outside of publishing will give some great transferable skills.
- How would you pitch your job in a sentence?
I connect inspiring authors with interesting businesses through bespoke live events!