The Trajectory of a Career with Some Observations – Part 2 (Mentorship)

Laura A. Lander | December 11, 2018

Both personally and professionally, my life has been influenced by a few important people. I consider my first mentor to be a college professor of German, Rick R., whose support and enthusiasm steered me to include German as a major to my already selected major in French. He bolstered my confidence and not only recommended that I apply for a Fulbright to study in Germany but simply assumed that I would be awarded with that prestigious scholarship, which indeed proved the case.

My next mentor, Philip T., whom I only knew to credit as such later in life, taught me some valuable skills on the newly introduced PC, especially how to use the precursor of Excel, and took me with him to another organization. He was my advocate, never failing to give me credit for work he presented to his own superiors. After that, Simon K. – the Dutch publisher of my previous post – took me under his wing for a six good years of my life (if not the most stellar in my career). I did not consider him a mentor, but he was nevertheless important both professionally and as a friend.

My third and most influential mentor, whom I credit with taking the time and at great effort to introduce me to the brave new world of digital publishing, was Jennifer E. of the renamed Springer Science + Business Media (now Springer-Nature), where I first ended up after a 12-year stint outside of scholarly publishing. Jennifer taught me journals management and more, and because of her, in 2011, I found a better job at ACM as Journals Manager.

In my professional life I have had many positive experiences. Gender discrimination has not been the dominant force, although I was not setting out to break any glass ceiling. Additionally, I am matter of fact, pragmatic and have mostly learned how not to be overwhelmed by, or react negatively to, unrealistic workload expectations. I also did not have children, although I have had health issues. I mostly kept them to myself but they did manifest themselves in needing more time off than others around me, including a break of six months many years ago. With the possible exception of that long break, I was never given to think these illness-related absences (all within the scope of what I was granted by my employment agreement) were a detriment to my professional progress.

That’s not to say I have not experienced difficulties, especially in the way of subtle chauvinism or occasional disrespect in the workspace, be that onsite or off. At times, I have had the courage to confront this head on, to the betterment of the situation. Even being fired by a challenging boss was the one of the better things that happened to me, both personally and professionally. Ageism might now work against me in a job hunt, but I can comfortably say at my current place of employ, this is not an issue. Our staff and executive management engenders a great mix of age and gender, and to a certain extent race (at least relatively speaking).

But to return to the issue of mentorship – I am grateful for what I had, and probably could have asserted myself and asked for more from others along the way. In return, I try to act as a mentor to my junior colleagues. I aspire to be patient and teach them the tools they need to get their job done efficiently and effectively, especially how to think through the issue at hand to solve a problem using the knowledge at their disposal, or knowing when to reach out for more information. I give encouragement when deserved and when not, present the problem for discussion and suggest as how it can be resolved and with my assistance if necessary.

My rewards are deeply satisfying. Gaining respect from my colleagues and watching younger professionals mature and grow, and in turn also like their work, are a few. These relationships are in turn a great source of inspiration and one of the reasons that I enjoy my professional life.

Laura A. Lander has been working as Journals Manager at the Association for Computing Machinery for over the past seven. Her time at ACM has allowed her hands-on management experience in many areas of publishing, not only editorial and peer-review management, but also production, rights and permissions, ethics and plagiarism, IT, finance, membership, and marketing. She has some degree of insight into almost every operation of the organization, as well as the scholarly publishing industry itself.