Tuesday, October 02, 2007

3650 days later

It’s coming up to ten years, must be. Let’s count back. I started there in March 1998. My second interview was early January 1998. Therefore my first interview was late 1997; I’m pretty certain it was November. So, we’re approaching the tenth anniversary.

I was climbing the walls in my job of six years, publishing IT-related journals, which I had streamlined to the stage where a trained monkey could do it. I knew I could handle much more, and we had become part of the Great Big Dutch International Publishing Company, who showed no sign of promoting me and every sign of wanting to make us all big and corporate and move us down to head office in London. Time to move.

My new employer was a four-year-old medical publishing company. They had about thirty forthcoming titles, all badly behind. In my letter I said, correctly, that I had got a list of journals back onto schedule. They welcomed me with open arms.

Strangely, no one at either interview asked if I was squeamish, which as all the books were fully illustrated in colour would have been useful. As it turned out I can look at pictures of diseased and excised genitalia until the cows came home. My weak spot was the book on knee surgery. Who knew?

Something that did come out at the interview was the oft-repeated mantra from my new boss, ‘I’m not a details man’. He said it right from the start so I have no excuses – I should have realised back then. Sadly I never heard what he was actually saying until it was too late. What I thought he was saying was, ‘I am not a details man, by which I mean, I have a full grasp of the details but choose to delegate them to capable minions such as yourself.’ ‘Knockout,’ I replied. ‘Point me at ’em.’

But no. What he was actually saying was ‘I have no idea what the details are, nor any intention of finding out. This will not stop me making grand and unworkable plans that I will expect you to implement.’

It was not a happy experience - disappointment and disillusion on both sides, for two years.

The really sad thing is that the fool thought things would get better by getting rid of me. This was a minority view amongst the staff, and three further people were to leave after I was given notice: the production manager because (as she told me) she no longer had faith in the man to make sensible decisions, her assistant who had no intention of being lumbered with her job, and the senior editor who was given my job on top of her own, with no commensurate increase in salary. But it all ceased to be my problem on January 7th, 2000. And by the start of the second week of January 2000, it had dawned on me that this was the opportunity to put my years of academic publishing experience to some practical use and start my own company.

Which, no, didn’t work out, but the experience opened doors, gave me a great time and had a knock-on effect of other changes in my life that included meeting my future wife.

So, happy anniversary, whenever it is.


  1. But they didn't, in the end, make us move to London, did they? They just let the company bleed to death slowly before relieving it of its few remaining valuables and finishing it off with a blunt spade.

  2. You're just jealous 'cos I got out ...


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