My Inside Story - Publishing Director for Hodder Education

My Inside Story: Publishing Director, Hodder Education

Katie Blainey

21 Aug 2017

Katie is the Publishing Director for Rising Stars and Hodder Assessment at the Hodder Education Group. Here she tells us what her job involves and how she got to where she is today!


What is your current role and what does it involve?
Publishing Director for Rising Stars and Hodder Assessment for the Hodder Education Group. I manage the publishing team who are responsible for commissioning new assessment products for primary and secondary schools, in line with our strategic priorities. My role requires a good understanding of how both primary and secondary schools use assessments and what changes to the curriculum, national tests and accountability might drive new needs within schools. With so many governmental changes to all of these areas I have to be very in touch with the key people and listening out for emerging trends (e.g. how technology is being used to support assessment in schools). Not having been a teacher myself I try to surround myself with teachers by visiting schools, running focus groups and meeting our teacher authors regularly. All with the aim of developing products and services that deliver long term customer value.

As a manager and being part of the exec team in Hodder Education Group I am also responsible for setting the wider strategic priorities for the assessment business and feeding in to the wider Group strategy. I work closely with my colleagues to ensure we have a team that is appropriately trained and skilled to deliver our plans, which increasingly is moving towards more technical and digital delivery for schools. All of our plans are underpinned by meeting sales targets so I am often found with my head in a spreadsheet reviewing our sales and pre-orders for new products, then working with our sales and marketing teams to help instigate changes to our plans if we’re not quite there yet.

How and when did you start in publishing and how have you got to the role you’re currently in?
I completed my further education at a 6th form college in Southampton, with A Levels in Maths, English Language and Geography which led me on to Kingston University to study English Language and Linguistics. During my last year of university I made sure I built my admin skills by signing up for temp office work, as I knew these would be valuable in starting my career. I started my publishing career with Hodder Education as a Secondary Maths Editorial Assistant. I very quickly decided I wanted to work in commissioning so worked hard to develop the skills required for that role even though that meant taking on extra projects. Throughout my career I have jumped at the chance of new challenges meaning I had the opportunity to commission a lot of different series for both primary and secondary schools. I also made sure I got hands-on experience of commissioning digital projects because to futureproof our business we must ensure we think of how print and digital interact to provide our customers with the most compelling products. In the middle of my career I briefly worked for an online educational company which gave me great insight in to the importance of data, web development and a whole new subscription sales model. My varied experience gave me the perfect basis to work in assessment which spans both primary and secondary and involves a lot of digital and data working.

What do you like most about your job?
That no two days are the same. Working on the commissioning side means one day you might start the day speaking to a teacher before they start school for market research, spend the morning working with a spreadsheet to check the financials on a new project, the afternoon discussing a new collaboration with an external company, ending with a meeting to discuss the latest marketing strategies to launch a new series. My colleagues also help; we have such a fantastic group of passionate people here, it makes it a great place to work. 

It is also incredibly gratifying to visit a school and speak to a teacher you have never met before who tells you how the assessment product we have developed has really helped save her time and get better insight on her pupils’ strengths and weaknesses so she can now help educate them more effectively. That is job satisfaction!

What advice would you offer to people wanting to work in publishing and a role like yours?
Develop a variety of skills: try out different areas of publishing, make sure you’re involved in digital, don’t shy away from a spreadsheet, numbers are as important as words in publishing!

Be confident: commissioning requires quite different skills to editing, including an entrepreneurial approach, listening to the market, decision making, collaboration and financial acumen, plus the confidence that your product will succeed.

Flexibility: it is hard to exactly define this role, as it will change as the market changes, so be prepared to change with it!