The judging is finalised and preparations are being made for the Educational Publishing Awards shortlist announcement and awards ceremony. The EPAAs this year will be broadcast via YouTube on 9 September.
One member of the SEPC, who oversee the EPAA, is Thuong Du, Publishing Manager at Cambridge University Press. Thuong has been with the company for 13 years after an internship placement during her studies. Thuong has been an EPAA judge in 2015 and 2016 and even won an award alongside her team in 2020.
We chatted with Thuong about her career progression and her involvement with the EPAA awards over the years.
You were an intern in one of the very first APA Publishing Industry Internship Programs. Can you tell us how that opportunity set you on a path in publishing (and at Cambridge)?
I graduated with a Media and Communications degree from the University of Melbourne and completed some publishing subjects during my last semester which opened my eyes to the field as a career path. For one of the assessment tasks, I discussed the future of the book – how digital technologies were changing our understanding of the book, how the book of the future might differ from books of the past and how they might be packaged, marketed, and sold – a topic still relevant for publishers today.
After doing some research, I discovered the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Internship Program. Before the program, there was no means of linking interested graduates with publishers wishing to hire interns. I recall the APA Project Manager, Libby O’Donnell, stating that the program had received over 700 applications from across the country! I was extremely grateful to have been offered one of five internship placements and to eventually be promoted to a senior role at Cambridge University Press.
You mentioned that your parents weren’t so sure about you starting a career in publishing. Why was that and why did you do it anyway?
They didn’t know much about careers in publishing and, to be fair, neither did I at the point! However, they’ve always encouraged me to follow my interests – I was taught that passion + hard work would lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career. I’m lucky they were supportive, patient and believed in me (even when, at 15 years old, I told them I wanted to be an artist and signed up for a life drawing course at the local community centre…that’s another story!).
Tell us about your job now. What do you do on a day to day basis? Why do you like it?
I work closely with the Publishing Director, Linda Kowarzik, to manage a team of staff and ensure the successful delivery of a publishing program for the Australian secondary education market. I’m also responsible for the management of a list area(s). On a day-to-day basis, you’ll usually find me in meetings, preparing manuscripts for handover, responding to customer queries, briefing authors etc. One of them asked recently, “how many others (authors) do you work with?” It was 43 by my count last year!
Looking back on the last thirteen years from intern to Publishing Manager, I feel a tremendous sense of pride to have worked on many challenging and interesting projects. The Press has endured for almost five centuries and, much like the Press, I’m still learning and growing every day. I truly believe in the organisation’s motto – advancing knowledge, learning and research – and it is a privilege to work alongside colleagues who are passionate and strive for quality and excellence in serving teachers and learners. The organisation is filled with people who really care and encourage innovation and knowledge sharing.
What’s something that most publishing degree graduates don’t know about the educational publishing sector that they really should? Is it a place where they could exercise their skills learnt at uni?
Publishing is a fast-paced, deadline-driven, constantly changing environment that requires innovative approaches to overcoming challenges. Colleagues and authors are driven by a genuine commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. I think you can only be happy if the organisation’s values align with your own and it is important to love what you do – this is what will keep you motivated and sustained, and ensure success, along with exercising the skills learnt at university.
You were part of the judging panel a few years ago. What did participating as a judge do for your professional development?
I was a judge and Chair of the panel for the EPAAs from 2015 to 2016. It’s a rigorous process but I really enjoyed my experience. As well as celebrating excellence in educational resources, it’s a wonderful opportunity for educational publishing professionals to meet new colleagues, network, and share expertise and knowledge. It’s also a time of the year where we all get the chance to take a step back from our day-to-day tasks, recognise our hard work and give ourselves a pat on the back!
You’ve been part of a team that’s won an EPAA award. Which resource/s was it for? How did it feel to win? How do you benchmark what makes an excellent resource?
Last year, our years 7–10 science resources, Cambridge Science for the Victorian Curriculum won in the category ‘Secondary Student Resource – Junior – Mathematics/Science’. Our Publisher, Naomi Sutanto, delivered a brilliant series and it was great to see our enthusiasm for it reflected in this win. We strive to publish resources that raise the benchmark for quality, innovation and excellence. The judges said that the series “has a fresh, engaging design and is easy to follow, with seamless integration of digital and print products…a large variety of high-quality questions and activities, along with real-world investigations to enrich curious students’ learning”. It was the good news staff needed whilst enduring very tough lockdown restrictions!
You’re now a member of the Schools and Education Publishers Committee. What’s the biggest thing that needs to be addressed for the growth of educational publishing as a whole? How do you hope to help while on the committee?
I recently joined the Schools and Education Publishers Committee and am excited to participate in this forum. I think one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed in education publishing is our engagement with important stakeholders in the educational arena. We need to work collaboratively to ensure the industry’s contribution is better understood and appreciated and to allow us to produce the best resources possible – resources that innovate, are published in a timely manner, and address the requirements of local curricula.
Who from the industry would you say has been the biggest support to you in your career? Who would you like to give a big shout out to?
This is a no-brainer. Biggest shout out goes to Linda, my boss. It’s important to develop great relationships at work and to look for mentors who can support you along the way. Linda took me under her wing since starting at the Press. I’ve always been inspired by her confidence in my abilities and felt supported throughout my career. I have a lot of respect for her – she’s a doer and leads by example. And I’ve always admired her ability to ruthlessly prioritise and deliver with urgency. She also loves a good quote and I know she’ll be reading this, so this one’s for her: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
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The EPAA shortlist announcement will be made on 19 August 2021.