Meet Jonathan, Head of International Business Development


Posted 04.12.15 by prhcareers

“Where do you see yourself in three years’ time?”

A classic interview question – and one you’ve possibly had to answer more than once. But wouldn’t it be good to know the answer from the other side? What are the opportunities for progression, and once I’m in a role, how can I work towards the next step?

That’s why we’re asking colleagues from around the business who have been with us a number of years to share with us how their careers have developed since being with the company and their tips on how to get ahead.

“Find time to be as curious as you possibly can about other parts of the business and what people do.”

Phillips, Jonathan - photo

Hello, Jonathan – first up, what is your job title, and what does that mean?

I am Head of International Business Development within the International Sales team…which can essentially mean anything at any given time!

My team focuses on three key areas: custom publishing (creating lots of weird and wonderful formats using our amazing content), educational strategy (how do we get more of our books into the classroom?) and non-book trade B2B opportunities (pitching to everyone from banks, to fashion companies in South Korea or creating bespoke books for charities).

What is the best thing about your job?

I know this is a massive cliché but every day is different.

One day I might be bouncing around in the back of taxi in Hong Kong on the way to meet the corporate responsibility team of a bank, another I could be catching up with a UK based start-up who is interested in expanding overseas…or on another day we’re frantically trying to figure why a heap of Peppa Pig slipcases have ended up on the wrong side of the world!

What is the biggest challenge to your job?

The best thing about my job is also its biggest challenge: its diversity. When there’s so much exciting stuff happening all over the world, it’s really important to stay focused and try to deliver on the stuff that will make a difference.

Also, the fact that almost everything my wonderful team takes on sits outside Penguin Random House’s regular core business, means we spend a lot of time explaining to people internally about what we do and why we need their help.

It’s ultimately incredibly satisfying though as you end up pulling a wide range of expertise from across the business together to help on a particular project.

What were you doing 3 years ago?

I was here, working as an International Key Account Manager focusing on India and Africa.

I’ve been here pretty much since I left university (ignoring some ill-advised time spent after I graduated thinking I should be working in the Recruitment industry instead)!

What are the things that have shaped how you’ve progressed since that time?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic mentors and guidance since I started here. Working here has taught me so much technically speaking but also in terms of personal development, which I would argue is even more important.

I honestly wouldn’t be half the person I am today if not for the people at Penguin Random House.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever had?

No matter how experienced you think you are, you should go into every situation humble enough to learn but confident in your own abilities and knowledge.

Once you decide you can stop learning about something because you think you know everything, that’s when you become stagnant – both for the business and in yourself.

P.S. Not advice given to me exactly, but if you’re introverted (like me) read Susan Cain’s Quiet. It changed the way I view the world and myself.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to make the next step in their career?

Find time to be as curious as you possibly can about other parts of the business and what people do. The most interesting ideas and projects come from meeting new people, both inside and outside of the business. Carving out a niche for yourself with new insights is one of the quickest ways to get ahead.

Slightly more dull and obvious advice: don’t underestimate being a safe pair of hands for your line manager!

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