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In conversation with Juliet Harrison - Episode 8 - Inspiring the Next CMO series

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

Join Lou in a conversation with Juliet Harrison, a senior industry publishing professional. Juliet talks with us about:

  • her favourite word 'schadenfreude'

  • her love of theatre

  • being resilient and juggling work-life with family

  • her career path in academic publishing and how she got to where she is today

  • tips about continuing to develop and adapt to changing environments

  • the best advice she has been given

  • a little bit of Yorkshire thrown in for good measure

  • and her favourite reads and podcasts

Podcast channel: Website, Google Podcast, Apple, Podbean, Spotify



Lou - Welcome everybody to our, "Behind the Fluff, Inspiring the Next CMO" podcast series. We have got some fantastic resources to inspire you at Now today, I would like to welcome Juliet Harrison. Juliet is an industry senior publishing lead and someone that I really admire and work closely with as part of our voluntary work with the ALPSP Membership and Marketing Committee. Hello, Juliet.

Juliet - Hi Lou, lovely to see you.

Lou - Lovely to have you here.

Now, before we get started, I have one question for you, something we ask everyone before we start is that we have a campaign called #IntBunchWordOfTheDay and we would love to know what is your favourite word and why?

Juliet - So I don't know what this necessarily says about me, but my favourite word is a German word that you may have heard called schadenfreude and the meaning is pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. The reason I like it is because it's such a human emotion to feel that and I think particularly with the onslaught of social media and the fact that people are always posting things to make other people feel bad, it's a real raw human emotion to take pleasure out of other people not doing so well and I just love the fact that there has been a word invented for it. So whilst it's not from the English language, I'm going to take ownership of it as something that we all secretly enjoy.

Lou - I think that's brilliant. I mean, I do love a bit of car crash TV. So that kind of stuff, yeah definitely, definitely resonates with me. Oh, I'm really looking forward to this interview now.

Juliet - I know. It sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Lou - You've set the theme now.

Okay, so first things first, we really want to know a bit more about you, so what's the best thing that you have discovered in this last, funny, old pandemic year, even longer than a year now that we've been in?

Juliet - I think the main thing and this is probably true of a lot of people with young children is that I can work really effectively in very, very short bursts. So I have, just for a bit of background, I have four and now seven-year-old boys, so during the peak of the pandemic they were three and five, so it was a very, very challenging time, but it showed me that actually I can be very, very focused and get a huge amount of work done in a very, very short amount of time and I think, probably what a lot of businesses have also now started to realize is that this standard working week from nine till five is not necessarily making the most productive use of people's time and people actually work better in different ways, so I hope that as a result of that when I go back to the office that they'll remain an element of flexibility, though it seems to be looking that way.

Lou - Yeah.

Juliet - But I don't think actually working big chunks of time is the most productive way that we can be and actually, I think sitting down and doing a bit and taking a break is a much more effective way of working and actually gives you the focus that you need.

Lou - Yeah, absolutely and taking breaks is so important and it's too easy for us to sit here and then a few hours later go, oh, I haven't even got up to get myself a drink or I haven't just got up to do anything, get some exercise and I think a lot of people have suffered with that over the past year, just that working so much and you know we've worked from home or remotely here at The International Bunch all of the time of the business and I've been working remotely since 2012 and it's just too easy to get stuck and you also tend to work more time because you're not commuting, so you're working more time somehow. So yeah, it's really, really important, our health and especially our mental health over this past year.

Juliet - Yeah and actually I think, I mean, it's useful that you can be flexible with your hours and I think that's something that will continue to be how people work, but then the boundaries of work and life can get blurred, can't they? And you don't ever really switch off and so we actually recently got a puppy which I never ever thought I would do, but actually, the physical having to go out and take a dog for a walk has been really, really beneficial because it gets you, it forces you into that different headspace and you always come back feeling more positive.

Lou - What puppy did you get?

Juliet - We got a little black Labrador called Mo, so not so little now, he's a giant now, but it definitely helps with kind of getting that headspace that you need, that otherwise, you wouldn't necessarily give yourself.

Lou - Yeah, absolutely. Pets are wonderful things, aren't they? There are several people I know that have acquired themselves pets when actually, they have a really very busy professional life and used to travel a lot, but now it's that re-adjusting and saying, maybe I don't need to do this or maybe I need to work out my balance, as they say, of my work and home life, but as long as you can shut that computer down and walk away from it and actually have some time, that's harder to do

Juliet - It's a nice thing.

Lou - And it actually makes you more effective, I think, in the long run. I think the longer you work without a break, the less productive you are or the quality of the work gets worse.

Lou - Know I think, absolutely right, absolutely right, so...

Who inspires you?

Juliet - Well, that's kind of an ongoing theme here, but I think probably at the moment it's people and particularly Mums who have had to work and look after children during lockdown. So I count myself in that group, but I'm also aware that I have a husband that works part-time and is a huge help in terms of childcare, so I've had a lot of benefit as a result of that, but looking at the research, the amount of redundancies and the drop out level of work from women over the past 18 months has been much more proportionally higher than that of men, so it's a really, really big problem and I think a lot of companies over the past few years have been looking at the gender pay gap that's a really important thing, but actually, we've taken a huge step back and this is in the developed world, if you think about the developing world, there's much, much bigger problems there. I think the other issue is that women, in my experience, tend to take on the mental load of things and not necessarily, they try and absorb and absorb and absorb without necessarily realizing that it's not good for them and so then you end up either getting ill or just suffering in silence. So I think we're coming out to the end of it and I think it has been useful in a lot of ways. It means you get to spend more time with your family, but it's not, parents shouldn't, my view is that parents shouldn't be teaching their own children, the dynamic is all wrong and it just doesn't work.

Lou - Yeah.

Juliet - So, I'm really, really in awe, particularly parents and single parents that have had to do it over this period and haven't had any kind of support layer.

Lou - Yeah, the resilience is incredible and I think we've all learned a lot from each other. I have to say that that first four months in the UK, when all the different nations in the UK went into that lockdown, I think that was probably one of, if not the most toughest, mentally time of my life.

Juliet - Yeah.

Lou - I mean, I say to people, it nearly broke me, but I think if I was completely honest, it probably did break me.

Juliet - Yeah.

Lou - But it's amazing how we just keep going. If we can, we just keep going and we prioritize things and then we just deal with things later because we know that our children still need to be fed, our partners still need to be happy, just keep them at that level, so that you're just not tipping yourself over the edge. Yeah, so yeah, absolutely, completely appreciate that and completely agree with that as well.

So, when you were young, I always when I say this question, I think of like, I instantly like put someone in some kind of like little outfit, like a little Superman outfit or Wonder Woman whatever, a little vets outfit, but when you were young, what did you want to be?

Juliet - I always wanted to work in the theatre actually. I did a Theatre Studies A-Level and I was really into performing arts and singing as a child and that was always the route I always thought I would go down. So I went to university and I did an English Degree and then a Film Studies Masters which I guess related to a point, but for whatever reason, it didn't come off. Probably I wasn't talented enough, but also I probably wasn't brave enough to pursue it, but whenever I go to the theatre now, I still get a pang to think, wouldn't it be wonderful to be the people on that stage. So yeah, that's if I wasn't, I think, if I wasn't doing academic publishing in an ideal world, that's what I would love to have been doing.

Lou - You still can when your children get a bit older and you get that bit more time, time is a wonderful thing if we ever get it back.

Juliet - Absolutely.

Lou - But you could join your local theatre club.

Juliet - Yeah, well, that was the plan actually, there's lots of amateur dramatics that goes on where I live in, Ilkley, so I am planning to sign up in the next couple of years, so watch this space, might be coming to the local theatre near you.

Lou - Yeah, amazing. Come to Swansea, that would be brilliant. When they all open up again, God, I just can't wait and I think that probably cinemas, libraries, theatres are going to see a real revival because we all really appreciate what we've lost and what we've not had for so long. So hopefully there's going to be some amazing things coming out of this.

Juliet - I think so. Since lockdown eased, actually, I've already been to the cinema twice, so I absolutely love it.

Lou - I'm not even sure if in Wales they're open or not.

Juliet - Well, it's a posh cinema where you can get a bottle of wine, so even more reason to go.

Lou - I love it. Our daughter is three, so trying to get her to watch a film for a concentrated amount of time is quite hard. We did one where we took our van and we did like, how they do in the US, those big screens and you sit in the car.

Juliet - Oh, a drive-through, yeah.

Lou - Yeah, so we did like a drive-through one and it was brilliant. Everything was bought to the van and you could order on your phone and it was so easy, it was so good and we watched "Shrek" and it was brilliant, but she did get a bit bored partway through and the tablet had to come out and we had to have lots of conversations, so yeah.

Juliet - It's about 45 minutes, that's their cut-off point, isn't it? Before you could lose them.

Lou - If that, if you're lucky.

So, if you were to have dinner tonight with anybody in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?

Juliet - So first of all, my Mum died a few years ago. She died in 2013 of breast cancer. So I was about 30 and it was a really, obviously, a really challenging time and it was just before I had my first child, so she never got to meet my children. So partly, I would invite my Mum so I could see her again and I could introduce her to my lovely boys, but in terms of famous people, I am obsessed with Stevie Wonder.

Lou - Really?

Juliet - Yeah, as a child, my Dad always, he had the "Inner Vision" soundtrack and always played it in the car on car journeys and so we all listened to it and I actually got to go and see him at Hyde Park in 2019, supported by Lionel Richie, so possibly the best day of my life. So I'd love to actually meet him and have a conversation with him. So he'd be on the list and actually, for my first wedding anniversary which I think is paper, my husband got me a poster of Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie at the GRAMMYs together which I have framed in the upstairs hall. That's the level of obsession that I have and in addition to that, I think probably Louis Theroux, just because he's so interesting and he's been taken to the nation's heart, hasn't he? And just the amount of interesting experience that he's had. I've also listened to some of his podcasts that he's done recently through his series. He did one with Jon Ronson, which I thought was fantastic. So probably that would be small, but perfectly formed line up.

Lou - That would be quite a dinner, wouldn't it?

Juliet - Quite the dinner.

Lou - What would your Mum think, being sat with Stevie Wonder and all these other guys?

Juliet - Oh, she'd have a great time. I mean, I might even add Stephen Fry to the mix just for a bit of culture as well. So yeah, we'd have great music as well, wouldn't we?

Lou - Oh, oh yeah, excellent. Now that would be quite a table. I would enjoy that table.

Juliet - Absolutely, you're invited.

Lou - And I can't believe that Lionel Richie was supporting Stevie Wonder.

Juliet - I know and I wonder how Lionel Richie felt about that? But I think that's the right order, isn't it?

Lou - Well, he did it, oh yeah, oh yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let's talk about your career.

Now, tell me about your career and how you got to where you are today.

Juliet - So I came to publishing, I guess, relatively late in terms of a lot of people come out of university. So I joined Emerald when I was in, I think, when was it? 2008? I was 25. So I had travelled the world before that and done kind of bits and bobs, so I started at the entry-level job, I was an assistant publisher and I worked my way up. I became a publisher on journals. I was a commissioning editor for about five minutes on books and then we restructured and I went back to being a publisher and then the head of publishing took a punt on me and promoted me to an Executive Publisher, so I was managing quite a big team. Initially, it was the social sciences team and then it was the business management and economics team and that was a team of publishers working globally, so I had a team out of Boston in the US, in a variety of subjects and on a variety of content forms, so books, journals and cases. I knew what I was doing with journals, I was confident in how the journals process merged on with books to a degree, but not really dug my toe into the teaching and learning space and also the cases role gave me an ability to dip my toe into the product management aspect of the role as well, so I felt it was quite an interesting move.

Lou - Yeah.

Juliet - I feel like I've had progression the whole time within that, so I don't feel that I've been static. I've tried a lot of different things and I've developed a lot of different skillsets. I'm also on a number of different committees, so as you said, I'm on the ALPSP Membership Committee and up until recently, I was on the STM Early Careers Publishers Committee which I decided that I could no longer consider myself early career, so I stepped down from that, but that's helped me to develop my networks beyond the organization that I work at. So I think for that reason, I'm still quite varied in terms of the relationships that I have.

Lou - But I think, yeah, there are pros and cons to being at an organization for a length of time and of course, if you work at different organizations, you're going to have different experiences, but I'm sure if you met that 25-year-old self back then now and looked at the organization that you joined then, it's probably completely different to what you have now. So you have grown with an organization that in turn itself has also grown and you've moved between departments which I think is also really important and you have work with so many different people and we as individuals are so unique, no one can replicate the experiences that you as an individual have had, even if I'm in the same conversation with someone, with you, we're both experiencing something different. So we're all incredibly unique like that. So I wouldn't see that as a downfall and at the end of the day, it's about the people and it's about the people that you have that join you in organizations. So I think, credit to you for managing to stay in an organization that's had restructures, I think that's a great thing.

Juliet - Oh yeah, yeah, it's obviously and it's always been pretty positive and actually two years of that I was out on maternity leave, so there's that element of taking time out and then having to get back up to speed, that's always a challenge as well.

Lou - So what have you been most proud of in your career?

Juliet - I think it's to do with the relationships that I've made actually. So I've talked about some of the committees that I've been on and particularly the Early Career Publishers Committee, I'm still in contact with all of those, the people that were on the committee when I was on them and actually, people underestimate the value of the relationships and the friendships that you make when you are in the workplace. You spend a huge proportion of your time at work and actually, those friendships can become really, really valuable to you and they become your allies for a period of time, so they remain really important to me. So there's people that I used to work with that I went to the cinema with on Monday, actually and I think the other thing is that you also don't necessarily realize the value of those relationships professionally until further down the line when you need to call on them.

Lou - Yeah.

Juliet - So I think that's incredibly important and then I'm also really proud of the progression that I've made. When I joined publishing, I didn't have a publishing degree, I was completely new to it and within a relatively short space of time, I was kind of promoted and promoted and got to a relatively senior point and I was managing people with a lot more experience than I have, so I think that's potentially down to the soft skills that I have. I feel that I'm a good manager and that I understand and can support people in the way that they need to be supported and I think it's helped that I've managed people from different cultural backgrounds and different parts of the world because it requires a different approach. So those soft skills, I think, have served me quite well and when you're new to a role, that's a really important part of embedding yourself within a team and getting people to like you, it just professionally is quite important and I think that's something that I'm quite good at.

Lou - Yeah, absolutely and it's like when we work together on the ALPSP Membership and Marketing Committee, your experience and expertise is so incredibly valuable to us, don't you go anywhere. But it's great to have such a mix and blend of different experience coming together.

So thinking about what you've been most proud of, then what have you found most challenging?

Juliet - I mean, we talked a little bit about the past 18 months and how difficult this has been, but there is also, as you probably know if you've ever worked in the publishing industry, there's restructures happen quite consistently and there was quite a big restructure that happened within our division last year which impacted me and it meant that I had to make this decision about what role I wanted to take and I guess professionally, it would have been considered a step-down, but I took it as an opportunity to say, actually, when I'm thinking about what professionally the next step is for me, there's certain skills and experience that I don't have. I've got a lot of experience in relationship management and stakeholder engagement and I feel very confident in doing that. Portfolio management is also something that I consistently do, but I don't have some of those more product management type skills and I'm not so familiar with this part of the teaching and learning space. So I took this role, but I also thought, well, what else is it that I need to do to make myself desirable? So I'm now doing a Degree in Project Management with the APM, so it's a four-year course, so by the middle of 2022, I'll be qualified and I just think it means that whilst it may open doors in terms of project management specifically, what I found working in publishing is that most projects that sit within a publishing company touch the publishing department in some way and there's always a dearth of skills and experience in terms of having someone that can support on the management of those projects and if you have someone that understands the workings of that division, but also can apply the principles of project management, I think that could become quite a compelling skillset. So I'm hoping that will make me more desirable and it will open up more opportunities for me in the future so that I can continue to progress and develop, but it's not been easy. You take these professional hits and it is difficult and I think it's about what you do next and what you take from that and what opportunities you create.

Lou - Yep. No, absolutely and the project management side is transferable skills to lots of different departments, so I think it's an incredibly important skillset and it's also a very sustainable way of thinking and about how you can continue to bring value to your organization because projects will continually need to happen.

Juliet - Yeah.

Lou - We need to make sure that projects get finished and often projects just get stuck and it's having that ability and that expertise and that know-how to say, right, we've got this blocker, now we need to remove that and we need to move this forward, even though it may end up in a situation of saying, this is not going to happen, this is not viable. You're making a decision about that project. So yeah, I think that's a really intelligent way of thinking about it and that's very exciting in what God, in only a years' time, you're going to be qualified?

Juliet - Yeah, yeah. So it will be like a junior project manager. So after four years, I'll be fully qualified, but enough to be able to start applying it, I think and some of the feedback I've had is I think that in the past, often companies bring in project managers externally and because of some of the industries that project managers work with, they often known to very rigidly apply the principles and actually within a publishing company, in particular, you have to be a bit more flexible about understanding what aspects you need to use and what aspects aren't necessarily going to work within that industry, so I think being able to use both skillsets is going to be incredibly important, but yeah, balancing a degree and a full-time job and two young kids is proving interesting.

Lou - And a husband.

Juliet - And a husband, yeah.

Lou - Yeah.

Juliet - Yes.

Lou - Yeah, very much so.

Juliet - I'm in the middle of my second assignment, it's going okay with it's financial modelling, so it's not my strong suit necessarily.

Lou - Yeah, I don't envy you at all. So what is though, when we talk about just the fact that you're doing the project management side and everything else that you've done and actually now you've moved to a different type of role and you're in a different sphere as well.

What is your ultimate career goal?

Juliet - So it's interesting, I think up until more recently or maybe up until I had children, I was very ambitious and I guess I was kind of saying, what's the next step? Where do I need to go? And it was always kind of a head of publishing type position and actually, I think the last 18 months have given me a lot of time to reassess and actually, what I want to ensure that whatever I'm doing, my ultimate career goal is that I'm enjoying it and I think you start to become more confident in your abilities and understand what you're good at and I think I want to be able to just continue to do what I'm good at. I'm very good at engaging with people and working with people which is why I like working in publishing because it's talking to people all the time and learning about different disciplines, but I think actually, it's very, very hard to find a job that you enjoy and not get caught up too much in the internal politics and find that you're actually doing all of the stuff that you don't really enjoy and have very little time to focus on what you do enjoy and I'm always quite inspired by my Dad who's a composer and for him, work is not work, it's just his hobby and it's doing what he loves, so I think it's continuing to develop myself to make sure that I'm employable and I'm learning all the time, but also saying, if I take a role and I'm not enjoying it, maybe it's not applying the skills that I most readily have and I want to be able to use. So it's actually quite a big ask, I don't think anyone enjoys their job all the time, but I think I've been quite lucky in my professional career so far, that on the whole, I have enjoyed it. It's an interesting industry to work in and there's lots of really clever people with lots of interesting ideas and because it's changing all the time, you don't have the ability to get stuck in a rut because you having to adapt consistently.

Lou - Yeah, it's an ever-changing landscape.

Juliet - Oh yeah, absolutely.

Lou - And then something else comes in and that was low priority and so that becomes a massive priority and changes the whole landscape, like open research, for example.

Juliet - Oh yeah, yeah.

Lou - Open access has always been around in some form or another, for years and years and years and years, but open research is kind of wider adoption of it, the acceleration of it, it's much more prominent and so, yes.

Juliet - And there are so many opposing views isn't there as well? So navigating the landscape and also just staying up to speed with the industry developments is a job in of itself, actually. So finding the time to carve out that time to do that work is really important.

Lou - Yeah, it's really hard as well because there's so much noise out there and it's trying to find the right channels that you're going to get the right information and also, you're not just going to have someone's opinion, you're actually going to read some authoritative news and we've had some recent changes in the industry that I think, what's been really interesting is when people are quite isolated in terms of the team that they work in and they don't have enough knowledge or the broader knowledge about what the whole of the ecosystem of academic publishing or scholarly comms is, from the libraries and the service providers between publishers and libraries and then the publishers themselves and the societies and all the various different stakeholders, it was like the acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate Analytics.

Juliet - Yeah.

Lou - And when I spoke to some people who are very focused in the publishing sphere because that's where they spend their time, that when I talk to them about, oh, did you hear about this? And they didn't know so much about ProQuest, they kind of heard of them and didn't know so much about them and they were like, "Oh, millions surely, not billions" and I'm like, no, no, billions because they just didn't know how big that these other types of organizations are that are also in the sphere. So it's such a complex and huge industry.