Q&A with Catherine Beer

Catherine Beer, Production Director, Boardworks

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You started working at Boardworks as an editorial assistant and quickly moved to being an editor, then a publisher and you are now production director. Why this change from editorial to production?
As Boardworks is a small digital publisher there's quite a lot of overlap between editorial and production. Editorial assistants at our company are involved with the majority of the production process. Over time I’ve naturally worked more and more on the technical side of projects which has led on to the role I have now. My current job doesn’t involve any direct editing of content - I’m part of making strategic and project management decisions for what we’re doing with content and also technical developments - in particular briefing new functionality for our popular online educational platform, Doddle.

Digital is the cornerstone of Boardworks. As a production director, do you need to understand the intricate technical aspects of digital production?
The short answer is yes. Both for our resources and the platform itself, I need to understand what we’re doing and why in order to communicate processes to others in production and also in order to make decisions on priorities.

Is the new generation of publishers expected to understand digital production, workflow and publication as standard? 
Boardworks has always produced digital resources and we’ve always expected new recruits to be keen to get to grips with the production of these, but we never expect people to know the processes behind production when they first join us. A lot of our software and production processes are bespoke and need to be taught on the job. It’s a bonus if people are aware of other production workflows as they may make logical assumptions, but certainly not essential.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to make their way into production? Which skills are essential?
Whatever area you want to work in, work experience in invaluable. It may take a lot of applications to get a placement but it’s really worth it for getting more of an idea of how publishing companies function and which department is right for you - it might be one you hadn’t previously considered.
Production at Boardworks has a different meaning to the same department in a larger company, but for us the essential skills are organisation, a keen eye for detail, creativity and an enthusiasm for problem solving.

Ebooks, companion websites and apps are becoming mainstream nowadays. In your opinion, where is digital leading us? In particular, how do you think digital technologies are affecting how children take in content?
Digital has always been an interesting area to work in for education in my experience, but with more schools investing in technology there are new and different opportunities. Only a few years ago all our resources were CD-ROM based and now our main focus is online. Students are being given the opportunity to access more targeted resources than they’ve ever had before at home as well as in lessons or after school clubs.