Chemists in the Real World

Jeremy Lewis

 

Jeremy Lewis, Senior Editor

Oxford University Press
B.A., English (with two years of coursework in the chemical sciences); M.A., Book Publishing


Jeremy Lewis works for a major publisher acquiring new books on chemistry and other sciences and seeing them through their development, from concept to finished product. To perform his job, he relies on knowledge of a broad cross-section of scientific disciplines, as well as specialized knowledge of book editing and publishing. He also oversees the day-to-day business operations for four journals his company publishes on medical and life sciences.

Early in his undergraduate career, Lewis took approximately two-and-a-half years of science, including chem I and II and organic chemistry, as well as courses in biology, physics, and genetics. Later, he decided to change his major, and completed his B.A. in English with honors.

After earning his Masters degree in 2002, Lewis worked briefly for another publisher in New York City, and then learned of the opportunity at Oxford University Press. He began at OUP working in its literary studies area, and when the chemistry acquisitions editor position opened up a few years later, he applied for the job and was hired.

What is your major responsibility in your current position?

I am responsible for acquiring books in chemistry, earth science, biology, and physics. I am also responsible for four journals on our medical and life science lists. For books, I look after the entire lifecycle, from idea through publication. For journals, I oversee day-to-day operations and make sure they continue to run without problems.

What's a typical day on the job like?

Because of the variety of my responsibilities, there really is no typical day. But generally my work consists of project management, and on given day I move from project to project, reading proposals, answering questions from authors and colleagues, and making sure my books and journals are smoothly going through their lifecycles. I spend about 60% of my time on books and 40% on journals. I have one direct report that I co-manage with another editor. I work from home, so I don’t have to attend many meetings, which frees up my time to actually do my job. Every day is different, as every day brings new questions/challenges for a particular project.

Typically, how many days each month do you spend away from your workplace on travel?

It works out to 1-5 days per month. For the book editing side of my job, I go to the two ACS national meetings each year, where I either work in Oxford’s booth selling books, or meet with authors and try to acquire new books. I also go to the Ecological Society of America meeting in my role as book acquisitions editor, to sell books, meet authors, and acquire new books.

For journals, my travel is more focused on going to brief meetings with my editorial boards, where I provide “state of the journal” updates covering production, impact, and marketing issues, and also listen to the board members’ concerns and ideas.  

Are there any apps/software/instrumentation/tools that you can't live without?

I rely on Microsoft Outlook and my phone for keeping in touch with colleagues, and on the Internet for research on authors and topics.

Describe your work environment.

I work from my home in Michigan, in my home office. I have a computer, phone, and recently published books and journals for reference.

How many hours do you work in a typical week?

I typically work 40 or so hours a week, with overtime only rarely required. The environment is usually relaxed, with some fast-paced instances when project deadlines come down to the wire.

What do you like most about your job?

The ability to be creative. I have the opportunity to acquire/commission books that I am interested in, and that makes my job fun. I also work with a very interesting cast of authors and colleagues, which makes most every day fun and original.

What is your best productivity trick?

I don’t really have any tricks I can think of. But when working from home, it’s really just having the motivation to sit down to work and not be distracted — such as on days when it’s beautiful outside. Fortunately, I find that there are many days where I barely have time to look away from my work before the day is done.

What's the best career advice you’ve received?

When I made the move to work from home, a colleague told me to make it as much like working in an office as possible. Make sure you stick to your routine and be at your desk working when you’re supposed to be there. Having worked from home for 8+ years now, that advice was priceless.

Originally, I was working in our New York office, and the biggest difference now is not having coworkers around — that took some getting used to. But it’s an amazing way to work if you’re suited for it, and if your company will let you do it.

Do you have any special talents or traits that make you a great fit for your job?

I think being able to relate to many different types of people has helped immensely. Every author/colleague/editor is different, and being able to relate/deal with many different types of personalities is essential to getting anything done.

Is there anything else you would like to mention about your career?

Having a background in science has been very helpful in understanding my subject area and not being intimidated by new projects that are coming in. I think having a basic understanding of the various disciplines has been extremely helpful in my career.

What essential habit do you have now that you wish you'd started much earlier?

Learning about cutting-edge science has been good for my job. I just wish I started reading/paying attention to the new findings earlier.