Rachel Jacobs is the Group General Counsel of Springer Nature and a member of its Management Board. Rachel is passionate about the importance of scientific discovery and education having worked as a teacher in Nepal and holding an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from the University of Leeds. She is also the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion champion at Springer Nature and believes that embracing and valuing our differences is key to unlocking our collective potential. Prior to Springer Nature, Rachel was a corporate lawyer at CMS Cameron McKenna and held various senior positions in the legal team at the FTSE listed media business, Informa plc.
To celebrate Work in Publishing week we spoke to Rachel Jacobs, Group General Counsel at Springer Nature, about her decision to move into the publishing industry.
Hello! First up can you tell us a little about your current role at Springer Nature? What does it involve?
Hello! I am very lucky to have three main aspects to my role at Springer Nature.
My ”day job” is Group General Counsel, working with a fantastic global team providing advice across a wide range of areas including legal, company secretariat, governance risk & compliance, anti-piracy, data protection and editorial rights.
In addition, I am a member of the management board of Springer Nature which means, together with my board colleagues, having overall responsibility for the management of Springer Nature.
I am also the DEI Champion at Springer Nature, ensuring that internally Springer Nature has a diverse and inclusive culture that supports equitable opportunities and externally that we champion DEI in the research, education and professional communities we work with.
Prior to working in the publishing industry, and working in-house, you worked for a law firm. Why did you decide to move into this industry and how did you find the transition into a new sector?
Like most significant moments in my career, my move in-house was unplanned! An opportunity came up to work for Informa, a long standing client while I was in private practice. Looking back, I was totally unprepared for the move in-house: I had no direct publishing experience being a corporate lawyer or any experience of managing a team or working in a business that wasn’t a law firm. I loved working in-house from the outset and particularly enjoyed being part of the business, working together as a collaborative team towards a shared goal. But honestly those first years were challenging. I had an awful lot to learn in many areas but I was lucky to have a lot of support as I threw myself in at the deep end.
It taught me that I could achieve more than I thought, and that you are never prepared for your next role: the joy is in taking the next role in any event and learning what you are capable of.
I’d also try to dispel the myth that publishing roles are only editorial positions. Publishing needs lawyers, communications experts, salespeople, operations leads and many more.
What would you say to anyone reading this who is considering a career change and is interested in working in publishing?
I’d definitely recommend it. Ultimately, each new role should be a challenge, it should force you to develop and learn new skills. Otherwise it effectively becomes a continuation of what you are currently doing and where would the fun in that be?
I’d also try to dispel the myth that publishing roles are only editorial positions. Publishing needs lawyers, communications experts, salespeople, operations leads and many more. At Springer Nature we’re hugely keen on transferable skills and fresh perspectives from outside our industry and love to work with people with all sorts of different backgrounds.
Finally, Springer Nature is responsible for publishing trusted research across the globe that supports the development of new ideas and accelerating solutions to urgent challenges, whether that’s COVID-19 or climate change. I feel enormously proud to represent an organisation that plays such a key role in science, research and education, and I would urge anyone interested in working in an industry that offers so much to society – whether it’s academic, education or consumer publishing – to consider the move.
Why is it important to you to take part in Work in Publishing week and to encourage people to join our industry?
As DEI champion at Springer Nature, I’m keen to highlight the benefits of joining our industry so we can attract those who might not otherwise have considered publishing. I think initiatives like Work in Publishing week are a fantastic way to shine a light on our industry and increase transparency about how we work and how you can join us.
For anyone who thinks that people who work in publishing all fit a particular stereotype – think again! It’s essential that our company can be truly representative of the communities we work with. The 1,400+ members of our employee networks at Springer Nature constantly share ideas and drive forward projects that are helping us be more inclusive, leading to improved policies for all our colleagues (like our flexible working policy), better products (with accessibility built in by-design), and more engaging conversations with our audiences (such as our Black excellence speaker series).
I’m keen to make sure we throw the doors open as wide as possible to welcome new ideas, talent and people to our sector.
This interview with Rachel Jacobs was written for Work in Publishing week for publishers.org.uk.