Alumni Spotlight: Megan Ashdown '16

Interview by Rylee Jung '22, professional writing communication program apprentice

Megan Ashdown

  • Editorial Project Manager, Elsevier 

  • 2016 BA in professional writing | editing track | concentration in innovation, creativity, and design

Miami Experience

What drew you to a professional writing degree? How did you choose your concentration and track? 

I grew up reading and writing short stories and I always loved English class. An English degree seemed like a natural fit for me. It made sense. But for a while I struggled whether to go into creative writing or professional writing. I ultimately chose professional writing with an editing track because I decided to lean toward a career in publishing. That was my big dream. 

At the time, I envisioned magazine publishing rather than books, so I chose the concentration called “Innovation, Creativity, and Design.” And that was really cool! It really drew out my creative side and, right now in my current job, I work a lot on book covers so that particular class was really useful when thinking about design and creativity. 

Which Miami classes impacted you the most? 

Literary Marketplace! The class discussed all the ins and outs of the publishing industry. I just remember leaving lectures feeling so inspired by the possibilities of working in publishing. The professor gave advice on what to do if you want to work in publishing, how Amazon has impacted the publishing industry, all about trade publishing, etc. That was my first real taste of what the publishing industry looked like. It was super invaluable to me. 

Which Miami professors stand out to you the most? 

One particular professor, Tim Lockridge, really stood out to me. He taught me everything I know about digital rhetoric and I still think about his lectures on composition theory and the principles of design. He gave a lot of really practical advice for a digital marketplace and his class and content has translated into the workforce I’m in now. 

Braving the Job Market

What key steps did you take to find a career? 

One of the big things I did before applying to any jobs after college was I focused on writing a really strong cover letter. For me, your cover letter should say what your resume doesn’t. An employer doesn’t want you to be repeating what you already have on your resume but rather elaborating and giving more details on how your strength skills translate to the job role and really taking that opportunity to sell yourself. 

The second big step is following up. After my first interview with Elsevier, I called the HR representative consistently for weeks. I wouldn’t let up because there was something in me saying that this was the job for me. I knew that’s where I needed to go so I just kept calling. I think it showed them how passionate I was to start my career and that was one of the big things the hiring manager said about me when I first got on board: how tenacious and relentless I was. That ultimately got me in the door. 

What advice would you give to students thinking about a similar path?

A lot of it comes down to being hungry, and when I say that I mean wanting it more than other people. I think me calling and calling Elsevier showed that I was hungry. It makes employers think, "okay, if she’s calling me this much, imagine what she’ll do for our company once she gets in the door." So staying hungry has paid off tremendously for me. 

For more practical advice, I suggest subscribing to Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a great subscription site for the publishing industry and it allows you to stay up to date on industry news, updates on specific publishing companies, follow book publishing shoutouts, and overall, just a lot of great information. Mine comes through my email every week and when I have time, I try to go through it. 

Working at Elsevier 

Tell us about your current position. 

I work closely with authors and editors throughout development, production, and manufacturing. It’s my job to ensure that the current year front list is delivered or exceeded. I also manage the publication pipeline to deliver projects in a timely manner. Elsevier is a pretty cool company. It’s technically called a global information and analytics company. We fall into more of a broader umbrella than just a publisher because we do provide products and services. It’s been really rewarding to help healthcare professionals and researchers advance science. 

What is the most exciting part of your job?

It’s really exciting to know that my work directly impacts scientific discovery and know that I help authors and editors turn their knowledge into impact. It’s really rewarding to see someone’s passion project come to life. 

What part of your job challenges you the most? 

The most challenging thing is working in an ever-changing industry. With this overall shift to digital content, publishers in general are constantly adapting to meet the needs of our customers. In turn, my job is always changing which can present challenges, but it also keeps me on my toes. It makes my job not as repetitive which I like. 

What are your most notable projects and contributions? 

Beyond my daily responsibilities in 2019, I participated in an apprenticeship program for acquisition. I formed a publisher mentorship and prospected and signed eight book contracts. That was a career development move on my part, it was not part of my daily responsibilities but I was really interested in learning about acquisition and how to prospect for new authors. It was really fun and definitely one of my largest contributions to Elsevier that I initiated on my own. 

This year, my focus shifted to collaborate with the project development team on launching our new authoring platform called “Elsa”. Elsa takes traditional desktop publishing software and transforms it so that it’s easy to use and becomes a platform for collaborating online so that authors, contributing authors, and editors can write, edit, track progress, and collaborate all within our platform rather than using Word functionalities. In the past there have been a lot of issues with version control and collaboration in general, so our tool [Elsa] aims to solve that problem. I took on a big role in this initiative by providing product feedback, testing new features, and helping streamline workflow processes for employees.