Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

In Orbit: The Joys of Working in a Satellite Office

satelliteCommon wisdom generally states that, short of becoming a Rockette or a ticket-taker at the Empire State Building, there are few careers likely to place you in New York faster than publishing. While it’s true that almost everyone with weight to throw around the global book industry has a foothold in the City That Never Sleeps, it’s also important to note that, even in the past, a sizable portion of the publishing houses housed in New York were and are satellite offices of publishing corporations headquartered elsewhere: Hachette is headquartered in Paris; Macmillan, in London; and Bertelsmann, the media giant that owns now both Random House and Penguin, in Gütersloh, Germany.

Now, I know, I work in publishing, and I ended up in New York. As it happens, I work in the New York satellite office of Cambridge University Press, which is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with many other satellite offices around the world—Cape Town, Taiwan, Melbourne, New Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Barcelona  (to name a few). In the age of increased globalization and a digitized workforce, many industries (not solely publishing) are increasing their global presence and opening offices across multiple time zones.

With this new development comes the challenge of having workers scattered across different towns, cities, and countries. Many who have to deal with this set-up day in and day out do view separation as a significant challenge, and others, as a downright bane of productivity. Yes, sometimes it’s challenging when things take an extra day to be processed. But as many higher-ups in many companies see (and as I am slowly but surely learning to see), there are numerous advantages to working in a satellite office—and being part of a company’s global network.

As anyone in publishing will tell you, the industry’s general direction is a bit uncertain right now. It can be challenging to hold on to old customers—much less gain new ones—and some argue that with digital communication technologies, actually being in the location where you want to sell is quasi-irrelevant. Working in a company that has defied that mindset showed me it’s truly much easier to grow when you are close by and in sync with the people who breathe life into your business—authors, potential employees, booksellers, and consumers.  Here are a few of the advantages I’ve discovered from my own experience:

1. Learning about a new culture

While it’s been wonderful to learn how many hours ahead of New York the UK is and if employees there exhaust their tea supplies at twice the rate of our office, I’m talking more specifically about book culture. Being in the book publishing capital of the world makes it easy to think that the occupants of the New York Times bestseller list and top-selling textbooks here enjoy the same kind of relevancy and dominion the world over. But different markets have different preferences, and in an increasingly worldwide business model, it’s a plus to automatically have a finger on the pulse of a number of markets, learning things like what garners a larger print run in the UK, or how marketing schemes have to be adjusted for each territory.

Our company-wide website includes monthly updates from our headquarters in Cambridge, but also keeps us up-to-date about the goings-on in the Philippines, Madrid, and other satellite markets. These updates can range from an office event, to a major deal signed by another office. It’s a great way to see what lists (e.g., history, medicine, geology) are doing well where, and also predict where they may do well in the future—if we just signed a big-deal obstetrics textbook series in Malaysia, our medicine editors may focus more of their efforts to that area.  That means more books signed—and sold. The difference between learning about multiple markets and actually being entrenched in multiple markets remains significant, but all this knowledge is certainly an indispensable first step.

2. Double the colleagues

As I’ve written about for Trendsetter before, I interned for multiple organizations and companies in the publishing world before actually becoming employed. I thought for a while that it would be a breeze to transition from being the temp to the permanent worker. On my first day of work, I discovered it wasn’t quite that easy. Whether you’re just entering the industry, joining a new company, or have been with your organization for years, help never hurts.

Each organization has its own idiosyncrasies, office systems, and basic ways of functioning—and it’s difficult for all of that to be intuitive. It’s great to have double the people to help guide you, or just to bounce ideas off of. I don’t want to say the more the merrier, as many companies function excellently at a smaller level, but in my case, being connected to more people  than just those in my immediate vicinity that I can go to for assistance and guidance has been fantastic—and I’m not sure if I could have learned as quickly or efficiently if I only had one.

3. More opportunities to move up—and out into the world

This, of course, is an extremely preemptive perk for me at the moment. I’m still thanking my lucky stars to have found something—anything—in this economy, and especially this industry. But even though I (and mostly likely you) are at the entry level, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t all dreamed about becoming sales directors and commissioning editors. What’s nice about a company with multiple offices is that there are more higher-up positions to fill. As with any business, promoting from within is usually preferred to hiring from outside, and a global corporation offers a legitimate world of opportunities down the road.

 Working in a satellite office, like any work situation, has its ups and downs. But in my experience, it’s allowed me to make connections to both more employees and more markets—something I am immeasurably lucky to have done. It definitely reminds me that the world does not revolve around me, my company, or even New York—something that can be hard to do when that really is your world.

I’d love to hear about your experience working in a satellite office—or in the headquarters of company with global satellite offices. How do you make use of your global resources?

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