I never anticipated a career in publishing. I was all set to focus my job hunt on the Hawaiian Islands when a posting for National Geographic Learning popped up on LinkedIn. The D.C.-based position required the artistry to wear 50 hats for the dauntingly complicated and lengthy publishing process and an ability to withstand copious amounts of coffee while networking. I started researching the NGL publishing sphere and was subsequently funneled into a universe I never knew existed. It was almost as if I’d stumbled upon this immensely complex puzzle that I didn’t even know how to take out of the box. It was a puzzle I intended to solve.
Six months later and I’m starting to wrap my head around what I actually do. Because each day is so different, I find it challenging to explain. Rather than regurgitate a disjointed summary, let me walk you through a day in the life…
Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
I let out a sigh while I drop my tote to the floor and sink deep into my swivel chair. I don’t know how it’s possible, but my tote is getting heavier every day. Maybe it’s the oceanography textbook I’ve started taking home at night. More likely, it’s the dense leftover pasta I packed for lunch.
8:55am. I log into WebEx. Today I’ll be training media researchers and editorial assistants from the UK, India, the UAE, and Singapore on using the National Geographic photo database. I begin my introduction and dive right in, but it’s a large and tricky audience to read. I’m receiving little feedback, so I breeze through penguin workboxes and Mars graphics, worrying that I’ve lulled the entire group to sleep.
I end the eerily quiet training and glance at my wristwatch: 9:45. Aha! I still have time to make it to National Geographic’s campus for the 10:30am matinee. I grab my MacBook and soak in the early spring sunshine as I trot over to 17th Street. Today, an aquanaut is giving a talk on ocean engineering. SO COOL. I want to be an aquanaut. Too bad I nearly failed basic calculus twice.
My colleague and I wait for the aquanaut ‘Under the Stars’ in the M Street lobby after her talk. The three of us head to City Place Café for lunch and chat about areas for potential collaboration in our book programs while we make messes of our greasy paninis (dense pasta is a no-go). Who wouldn’t want to read about what it’s like to live underwater? We also chat about eagle rays, Greenland sharks, and how French cheese becomes even smellier at 2.5 atmospheres underwater.
Before parting ways with the aquanaut, we stop for coffee at Peet’s and feel collectively guilty about forgetting our reusable coffee cups. Single-use plastics and all. We sip our coffees in shame.
My colleague and I leave campus and head back to the bigger office space in DuPont. A new intern will be arriving soon so we’re brainstorming intern tasks as we swerve past aggressive cars and even more aggressive tourists. The fresh air and caffeine take hold and I’m re-energized for a long afternoon of asset clearances, contracts, and emails.
Back at the office, I start brainstorming how we can ‘opt-in’ two photographers who contributed to the NG Magazine’s April issue on race through our preferred content licensing agreement. Our media researcher wants to use the assignment photographs in an English Language Teaching book series. Time to write.
A few minutes later and I’m distracted. There’s a cool NG video circulating about a Japanese puffer fish – I’m mesmerized for 3 minutes. I subsequently discuss having a documentary showcase with the office downstairs and plug Chasing Coral as the preferred selection. I shall plug it to you now. This is that plug.
The rest of my day is a blur. I reserve a spot at the Nat Geo Nights happy hour next Thursday to meet with one of the archaeologists who’ll be in town. I look into the contracts and clear some of the National Geographic texts and graphics that my project teams have asked about permissioning. I send the more complicated texts to the Society for additional clearance. I email and I swivel and I write post-its.
Eventually, my dense pasta calls and I must go.