George Robertson Award winner Heather Fawcett reflects on more than 30 years in an ever-changing industry

Director of Higher Education at Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, Heather Fawcett, was last week awarded a prestigious George Robertson Award by the Australian Publishers Association. Heather tells us about her experience in the Australian publishing industry and why she welcomes change.

I’m thrilled to be a recipient of a George Robertson Award, and very touched by the generous response of colleagues to this recognition.  

I came to publishing after a short teaching career; my first publishing job was a Brisbane based primary sales role, the key product being large reading schemes that were typically a whole school purchase.  

I moved into the tertiary sector in a Sydney sales based job and eventually found my way back to Melbourne where I was hired by OUP in 1993. The role, Academic Sales Manager, was my first management job, and I really loved the mix of my own territory and people management. Since then I have had at least a dozen different job titles at OUP across sales, marketing, publishing and management in Higher Ed, Academic, Trade, ELT, Dictionaries and Schools.

I’m somewhat reluctant to offer career advice, so please accept these thoughts in the spirit of reflection. In my experience, career advancement is supported by engagement with commercial imperatives and with the objectives of the organisation, a preparedness to take opportunities as they come along, and a genuine interest in customers. Opportunities abound when an organisation is in a growth phase, so by contributing to the growth of a business the chances of career growth are increased. If you happen to have young children while advancing a career, a supportive partner and awesome parents are a great asset; also know that if you do happen to work the odd long day, travel for work or miss the occasional event at their school, they will probably still turn out okay.

We hear much about the demands of managing and coping with change in the workplace and in our operating environments. Most changes at work are for the better; believe me – email and Yammer are a whole lot better than handwritten memos in triplicate and faxes, sending digital files to print is better than film, and it is good that we are not allowed to smoke at our desks! Anyway, there’s little point wishing that we could go back to the way things were when our customers have changed.

What has kept me in educational publishing, and at OUP in particular, is the genuine commitment of colleagues to great outcomes for students of all ages. I can honestly say that I love coming to work because of the people I work with and the worthwhile work that we do.

I hope that many of you reading this find educational publishing such a satisfying career that you will eventually join me in addition to my colleagues, Florence Chin, Debra James, Richard Harms, Heather Robinson and others in the 30 year club.


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