NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute Alumni: The Inside Story

So many of you interested in NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute ask us what happens after the six weeks are over. Do you get a job? What’s that like? How did SPI prepare you for the real world? What’s the real world, anyway?  We figured the best way to respond was through the reflections of three recent SPI grads who are now, yes, gainfully employed in publishing.

RichelleRichelle Szypulski is the Editorial Operations Assistant at Travel + Leisure. She grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to New York for SPI in June 2015. In her (exceedingly rare) free time, she’s been known to dabble in the arts of photography, yoga, reading, thrift store scavenging, and partaking in as much travel and leisure as she can possibly afford.

CENTER FOR PUBLISHING: You’ve recently taken on an exciting new role at Travel + Leisure. Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on?

RICHELLE SZYPULSKI: I have! My current role doesn’t so much involve individual projects as it does ongoing responsibilities. I support the Editor-in-Chief, Executive Editor, and Managing Editor by scheduling meetings, booking travel, processing invoices and expense reports, answering phones, sorting mail, and anticipating and eliminating their productivity roadblocks as best as I possibly can. I’ve learned the most minute operations details—down to the office supplies—that it takes to publish a magazine, and that’s exactly what I was looking to gain from this experience.

CFP: What do you find most challenging about your new position?

RS: I would say it’s the need for meticulous attention to details and the ability to remember them all. (Surprisingly, this is also one of the reasons I really enjoy my job!) If one number is off on a billing invoice, a writer won’t be paid. Dates and times for meetings and events need to be checked and double-checked. I have to be extremely organized when keeping track of questions and requests not just from my bosses, but from the entire edit team. These tasks flex the same “pay-attention” muscles I use to catch spelling errors, stay alert for story ideas, and be quick to determine the whereabouts of new office snacks—a beneficial skill to sharpen!

CFP: Before starting at Travel + Leisure, you were freelancing in production for Vogue.com. Can you tell us a little about how you found that position?

RS: After SPI ended, I set up a bookmark list in Chrome of every career listing page that interested me. I made a habit of checking each link when I woke up in the morning for any new postings. After more than a month of searching, applying, and repeating, I saw that a Vogue.com listing had just been posted on Ed2010.com. I took about 20 minutes to tweak my résumé to emphasize the skills that best aligned with the requirements of the position; then, I crafted and sent a concise, but clever message to the email address listed. Just a few hours later, I was thrilled to see a response requesting an interview! The takeaway: Don’t wait if you see a recently posted listing that seems like an awesome fit for you and your qualifications.

CFP: What aspects of the Summer Publishing Institute have you found most useful in your career development?

RS: The most valuable insight SPI gave me was the glimpse into the mentality of all of the top editors we heard from during lectures and panels. The large majority of them worked their way up to where they are with a “no-task-too-small” attitude, and that’s where I’m at right now. That’s what convinces me to be excited about the persistence needed on my part to obtain labels for our new file cabinets. I will always welcome a challenge, no matter what it involves. I also learned the responsibilities of everyone on the masthead and that there’s absolutely no clear-cut path to a specific job. That opens up a lot of career possibilities for me—I’m still almost certain Editor-in-Chief is my goal, but the road there can be intriguingly divergent.

CFP: What were the three things you loved most about SPI and why?

RS: 1) The face-to-face time with publishing experts, some of whom I’ve idolized for years

While none of them glossed over how much work it is to be a storyteller, you could truly see how gratifying that work is. I left my last job in search of that feeling. The glow of enthusiasm these editors have for their careers felt familiar and attainable for me.

2) The industry visits to book, magazine, and digital media companies

It was invigorating to see the working environments behind the pages, posts, and photographs I’ve devoured for years. I know I toured Refinery29’s headquarters like a kid at the North Pole. The behind-the-scenes opportunities given to SPI students are such an advantage both to see what the industry looks like and to find your way in.

3) My fellow classmates

I remember watching the magazine project presentations and thinking, “Everyone here is brilliant. This room is full of the brains that will birth the big ideas of publishing’s future.” Or at least something along those lines. SPI brought together some of the most talented people I’ve ever met and turned them not only into my “network,” but my friends. To this day, I am still swelling with pride at the hires, promotions, projects, and hilarious Tweets from the SPI Class of 2015. I know the future will continue to bring success upon success for them.

CFP: What advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for the Summer Publishing Institute?

RS: Apply. If you have even the tiniest burgeoning interest in pursuing a career in publishing—books, web, magazines, anything—the six weeks of the program will give you an incredibly thorough crash course that will challenge, exhaust, and encourage you in the absolute best way possible. If you think, deep down, that nothing could make your heart happy like waking up every day to tell stories, then apply.


NathanNate Barker grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and attended Williams College where he studied English and Anthropology. Currently, he works at Open Road Integrated Media as a Sales & Merchandising Assistant. He is fascinated with photography and takes every opportunity he gets to take photos of New York buildings, parks, and, of course, his friends!

CENTER FOR PUBLISHING: During SPI, you were interested in both books and magazines. You wound up in a digital book company. How did you come to that decision?

NATE BARKER: In college, I had an internship at a literary agency, but I didn’t feel like that was enough experience to justify a job search focused only on book publishing. Since I enjoyed both sections of the publishing course equally, I applied to book and magazine jobs. I ended up at Open Road because of the connections I made through the program, and my particular interest in books and digital content. Open Road focuses on both. Though I primarily deal with the book side of the business, the company is fully integrated; I enjoy being involved with both elements.

CFP: Tell us more about Open Road and what you do there.

NB: I assist in managing our print inventory as well as overseeing book ordering through our printer and distributor. We run promotions with all our retailers and I coordinate the merchandising of our ebooks on a daily and monthly basis. Though I am on the sales team, I work directly with marketing, editorial, and production daily.

CFP: How did you become interested in sales and what’s exciting about it?

NB: I was the sales director for my SPI book imprint team, and learned the role of sales in the book publishing industry. Once I realized that I was actually interested in a sales position at a publishing company, I started doing research on what that would actually mean for me as an entry-level employee. What I find particularly exciting about sales is the necessity to understand and work with all the various departments at Open Road. Understanding each division’s role in the big pictures helps me to make the best choices to support our titles, and the company in general.

CFP: How else did the mock book imprint and mock magazine launch projects at SPI help you?

NB: During the magazine project I was the assistant art director. I took full advantage of the Photoshop and InDesign weekend workshops, which helped me develop a design for our magazine’s website.  I actually still use Photoshop and InDesign for various projects at Open Road.

CFP: Any advice to SPI applicants on how to get the most out of New York and still survive SPI?

NB: When I began SPI, I was a NY state resident, so my experience was a little different from many of the students. I did not live in the dorm, and thus did not spend as much time around the other students as my friends who lived there. I was perfectly all right with this, because I was able to continue with many aspects of my life before SPI. I feel it’s useful to point out that there is not one way to “do” SPI. Dorm life is always exciting, and it allows for more cohesive group work as well as networking (which is always a great thing). My advice is this: meet as many people as possible! The course is only 6 weeks, but you have the possibility of making many connections that could have a huge benefit in the future. I still keep in contact with many SPI students from my yearin fact, I work with two!

CFP: SPI offers career advice and opportunities through panels, resume review sessions, and the career fair. How did these help you?

NB: I enjoyed the alumni student panel because it allowed me to see where I might be a year or two after the program.  Like many students, I found the prospect of securing a job after SPI very daunting. But after hearing the stories of past students and having my resume reviewed by human resources representatives, I felt that I was in a better position than I had initially thought. When I went to the career fair at the end of SPI, I already knew about the job at Open Road. I discussed it with the Open Road human resources person, and she said they would love to have me in for an interview. My specific knowledge of the company (I had taken a tour the previous week during an industry visit) demonstrated to them that I was very interested. My interview was my chance to show them that I was the perfect candidate for the job. Clearly, I convinced them!


Caitlin Noonan HeadshotCaitlin Noonan is a Managing Editorial Assistant at Penguin Random House. She  grew up in Tennessee and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University last May with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Writing. She bravely moved to New York for NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute and is now a transplanted New Yorker. Caitlin loves knitting, writing, baking, playing tennis, and watching Netflix. In the rest of her free time, she enjoys “exploring this wonderful city I now call home.”

CENTER FOR PUBLISHING: Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day responsibilities as a Managing Editorial Assistant.

CAITLIN NOONAN: One of my main duties is approving jackets for hardcover books. I work with several departments such as editorial, marketing, art, and production. I am in constant communication with all of these departments and I am responsible for collecting the appropriate information from them in a timely manner. Everything has a deadline, and I am on the front lines to ensure that each department keeps to those deadlines. I start by receiving the flap copy from editorial and am responsible for getting approval of the copy and the jacket from the various departments. I am also in charge of updating all the specifications for our titles, such as on sale dates, page counts, BISAC codes [subject codes that help retailers position and track books], price, etc.

CFP: What makes you most excited about your job? What was the biggest surprise when you started?

CN: My days are never dull! I am constantly running to different departments, trying to drop something off to make a deadline or get approval for a jacket. I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of my job. Knowing that so many people depend on my accuracy and timeliness keeps me motived to continue improving my work ethic each and every day. I also love being able to walk into a bookstore and see a book that I played a part in publishing. To see a jacket that I approved is extremely rewarding.

The biggest surprise when I started working at Penguin Random House was realizing just how many people are involved in the book publishing process. It took a little while for me to get used to how far in advance we start preparing a title and all the steps taken up until publication. I knew Managing Editorial was involved in the entire process, but I didn’t realize to what extent.

CFP: What’s the corporate culture like at Penguin Random House?

CN: It’s a wonderful company to work for. My coworkers are extremely talented and hard working. People collaborate and work closely with one another. Everyone takes a great deal of pride in their work and wants to see their coworkers succeed as well. The people I work with were so friendly and welcoming when I started. They are always there to answer any question I have and are always willing to help me to improve my work.

CFP: How do you think the Summer Publishing Institute prepared you to enter the workforce and helped with your current position?

CN: Before attending the Summer Publishing Institute, my knowledge of book publishing was very limited. After attending SPI, I had a deeper understanding of the publishing process and felt more confident in pursuing a career in this field. Without SPI, I don’t think I would have been ready. I needed not only experience but guidance on how to make connections and how to write an appropriate résumé and cover letter. The Summer Publishing Institute provided that to me.

CFP: What session(s) or SPI events/programs made the biggest impact on you?

CN: Our industry visit to Simon & Schuster was extremely impactful. Employees from different departments spoke to us, explaining what they did and how that fit into the book publishing process. The Executive Managing Editor was one of those employees. After listening to her describe her responsibilities, I knew that Managing Editorial was a department I would enjoy working for.

Another impactful event was the career fair at the end of the program. At that point, I had already applied for my current job and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with an HR recruiter from Penguin Random House. I told her that I had applied for the position and two weeks later I received a phone call asking for an interview.  Very exciting!

CFP: What made you decide to apply for the Summer Publishing Institute?

CN: I always wanted to go into book publishing, but there are very limited opportunities to break into this industry in Tennessee. Once I learned about the Summer Publishing Institute in college, I knew that I needed to apply. Moving to New York to pursue a career in publishing was always the plan, but I knew that SPI would help me make connections in publishing and gain the necessary experience to get my first job.


Do our fabulous alumni have you convinced that the Summer Publishing Institute is right for you? We’re currently accepting applications for SPI 2016. Visit our website to find out more and apply today: sps.nyu.edu/spi

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