Rising Star, Sanna Zahoor

Publishing quote young rising star in the industry

Our support in championing rising stars spans across a range of industries in the sector, from packaging to paper. We love finding out more about the roles our award winners are excelling in to demonstrate the wealth of career paths the sector has to offer.  

Sanna Zahoor, Associate Publisher at Emerald Publishing and 2019 Print Futures Award winner spoke to us about how she joined the publishing industry and her top tips for other young people looking to get into the sector.  

How did you get into the industry? 

I actually got into Publishing by accident. I have a degree in English, and a Masters in Management. I was unsure about the career path I wanted to pursue but during my Masters, Marketing was the module I enjoyed most. I applied for graduate marketing roles and ended up in the Brand team at Emerald Publishing. I loved working there but was covering a maternity contract, so when a permanent role in the Publishing department came up, I went for it! I’ve been working in Publishing for about 4 years now and really love it.

What appeals to you about the industry you are in? 

What I love the most about working in Academic Publishing starts first and foremost with the people. I enjoy speaking with researchers who are experts in their field and extremely passionate about their work – it’s really inspiring. At Emerald Publishing, our priority is to publish research that makes an impact in the real world and I love being involved in that. More recently, I have been commissioning and publishing research on the impacts of COVID-19, which has been interesting and rewarding.

What does your role involve? 

As an Associate Publisher, I manage journals and books across the areas of Education, Sociology, Public Policy and Criminology. Some of the components of my job include:

  •   Commissioning content for journals and books by engaging with author and editor communities
  •   Building a pipeline of content through commissioning and having strong editor relationships
  •   Attending conferences to keep abreast of what research is being published and inviting new authors and editorial stakeholders to publish with us.
  •   Staying on top of market trends within my subject areas, e.g what are the hot topics in a certain area

What is your award going to allow you to do?

Thanks to my Print Futures award, I’ve been able to attend a course run by The Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), which was extremely helpful. It was a strategic journal development course run by two executive publishers from Nature and Oxford University Press. I gained numerous insights about ways to improve author acquisition, understanding benchmarks for journal success, what makes a journal commercially viable, and how to build a journal strategy around this. 

What has surprised you most about the industry you work in? 

Some of the surprises about working in the publishing industry have been the sense of community and the importance of building strong relationships with stakeholders. Communication is a big part of this and takes place by email, telephone/video calls and face-to-face when travelling to industry events and conferences (pre-COVID!) I didn’t realise how much travelling I’d get to do and have been lucky enough to travel to Texas, Ohio, Toronto and Amsterdam!

What would you advise other young people looking to get into the same sector? 

There are so many great resources online and I would really recommend following relevant Twitter accounts to gain industry insights and opportunities. More specifically, I recommend subscribing to and following The Publishing Post, an online magazine packed with resources and information about Publishing, including the latest job opportunities, industry interviews and generally everything you’d want to know about Publishing, all in one place. 

Society of Young Publishers and Society of Young Publishers (North) are also great resources and I’d really recommend following their social media platforms to keep an eye out for  events and initiatives they’re running and jobs being advertised. 

Where do you turn for support in your career? 

I’m very lucky at Emerald Publishing that there is a genuine interest and investment in our career and personal development. The Learning and Development team offers lots of training courses as well as a mentoring scheme. I have a mentor and find this a really useful way of staying focused and being accountable for my development, while also gaining advice from someone with a lot of experience. If you are able to find a mentor, I’d really recommend it. 

What are your aspirations for the future of your career? 

Over the past four years, my career trajectory has taken me from being a Publishing Assistant to Associate Publisher. My next goal is to become a Publisher. I am currently focusing on further developing my strategic/commissioning skills so that I can publish excellent research and hopefully help make a positive impact in society.

If you’re 18-30 and looking to develop your skills for career progression, our Print Futures Awards could be for you. Awards are closed for 2020 but find out about the 2021 awards by signing up to our newsletter.

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