Dior Vargas is a 26 year old Latina activist who works full time as a Production Manager at Barnes & Noble/NOOK Media. She is a steering committee member of the New York Chapter of National Women’s Liberation. Dior is also a board member at the Third Wave Foundation. In 2012, she organized the first Feminist General Assembly in New York City with Women Occupying Wall Street. She has interned for The Feminist Press and for Gloria Feldt, former CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She has a B.A. in the Study of Women and Gender from Smith College and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Dior is a native New Yorker and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Prof. Denning: Hi Dior and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It has been two years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program in 2011. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since then?
Dior: It’s been quite busy since I graduated from Pace. I was already working at Random House at the time but only as a temp. Later that year (2011) I was offered a full time job as a eBook Production Assistant Manager. I gladly accepted and worked on many interesting books such as American Grown by Michelle Obama and Beyond Outrage by Robert R. Reich.
Then in March 2013, I started a new position as a Production Manager of International Digital Operations at Barnes & Noble/NOOK Media. It has been extremely busy and intense since I started working here but it’s great and I have learned so much in a short amount of time!
Other than my career in publishing, I have been strengthening my activist work. I became a board member of an amazing organization and became more involved in my passion which is feminism.
Prof. Denning: As a Production Manager for International Digital Operations at Barnes & Noble, what does your job entail? How do you interact with the other members of this international bookselling company?
Dior: I work with the Nook Digital Newsstand so I work with publishers around the globe so we can get their magazines and newspapers on the Nook platform. Then I manage production of those publications. I talk with publishers over the phone and through email. It gets a bit challenging at times but overall it’s a great learning experience.
Prof Denning: What are some of your favorite parts of your job?
Dior: My favorite parts are learning about the culture of the publishers that I work with. Also seeing the similarities and differences between U.S. and foreign publications.
Prof Denning: Tell us a bit about new technical developments and initiatives that Barnes & Noble has taken in recent years? Will they be implementing anything new?
Dior: From my work in the NOOK newsstand, I can say that Barnes & Noble has really paved the way for reading digital magazines and newspapers. You get the magazines before it even goes on sale in print. We also have catalogues where you can shop directly from them. It’s a great interactive experience. In addition, we are growing our international newsstand where you can get magazines and newspapers from around the world.
Prof Denning: During your time at Random House, you worked as an eBook Production Assistant Manager. What was the transition into the arena of international digital operations like after spending time in eBook productions?
Dior: Going from books which I focused on during my years at Pace to magazines which I didn’t have a background on was a bit daunting. I don’t look at magazines and newspapers the same way I did before. Once you’re finished on production for a book there are not many times where you have to go back and continue work on the book. With magazines and newspapers it is an ongoing process that involves daily involvement. Also, working with publishers from multiple countries is challenging but extremely rewarding.
Prof. Denning: What advice would you give to a young publishing professional looking for their first “real” job?
Dior: I would tell them to learn as much as they can and make connections with people in the business. My position now is based not only on hard work but on the people I met along the way. Also, you need to be passionate. This goes for any industry. If you have passion and drive for what you do then that’s about 50% of the work!
Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.
Dior: There were many times when people would mention terms like wholesale model versus agency model and I knew exactly what they were talking about. It gave me the confidence and the knowledge to perform better at my jobs. I think having an educational background in this industry helps no matter what people might say otherwise. It gives you an edge and it sets you apart from other candidates. It shows how invested you are in this industry.
Prof. Denning: What advice would you give to students who still have to write their graduate thesis papers? What were the most important points you learned from your own thesis, titled “The Feminist Press, 1970-Present: Telling a Different Story?”
Dior: I would tell them to seriously think about what they would enjoy writing about. It’s a long arduous process so you might as well have fun while working on it! The important points that I learned from my own thesis was that no matter what publishing is still alive and running. It might take different turns but people are still interested in reading and learning more. It might be a different format but it’s still the same business: ensuring that your customers have something to read and immerse themselves in. Publishing is a daily part of people’s lives. The industry will adapt to what it needs to so it can keep on going.
Prof. Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other job applicants? What specific details should they include on their resumes or in an interview?
Dior: I think students entering the field should be open to the changing landscape of publishing. They should show that they are adapting to the changes and that being part of digital is something that they’re not afraid of. Having knowledge in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and other programs that work with HTML, XML is extremely valuable and important.
Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing and digital media? Where did that passion come from?
Dior: I wasn’t always interested in the publishing business. I loved writing and reading but in terms of the business aspect I didn’t spend too much time on it. Then I became an editorial intern for Meridians, an interdisciplinary journal at Smith College about race, feminism, and transnationalism. That was what changed things for me. I learned more about what was involved when publishing a journal and I knew that I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to be part of what educates people, what gives people a break from their day to day lives, and what makes people rethink the world they live in.
Prof. Denning: You have held many different internship positions, including a Social Media internship at Endangered Bodies, a PR, Marketing and Social Media internship at Gloria Feldt, and an Editorial and Developmental internship at the Feminist Press. What have you learned from these positions and what advice would you give to students looking for or currently in internships?
Dior: I have learned so much from my past internships. I was able to work and develop skills on things that I knew would help me in the long run. These internships have given me connections that I am certain will last me for a lifetime. I’ve learned that content is important but also how you present it is important as well. You need to be able to market your brand, product, whatever it is that you’re selling. I’ve learned about helpful programs and tips to make the work of social media a lot easier. You have to put yourself in the mindset of the consumer. What would garner their attention? I think you have to keep that in mind when you’re in media in general. I think that students should definitely take advantage of internships to develop their skills and try out things that they otherwise wouldn’t. It can lead to many open doors and something that you didn’t think you’d love. Find a mentor within these internships. I’ve gained so much from mine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are people out there who are willing to help you navigate your career.
Prof Denning: What do you think the future holds for companies like Barnes & Noble, and their competitors? What should graduates expect as they enter digital media and the publishing world?
Dior: I think that content is the most important part about publishing. It doesn’t matter what format it’s in. There will always be a demand for things to read. Digital media is challenging but very rewarding so don’t worry. Just make sure you’re on your toes for the next big development!
Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in magazine publishing are today? What are the biggest challenges that publishers face?
Dior: I think that publishers have to remember that reading is no longer a static experience. It needs to be interactive. Having an app that connected to the publication gives more value and leverages its importance and worth.
Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students and to those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?
Dior: Just hang in there. You might think that things are hard in this industry but with the passion and investment in your education it will work out in the end.
Thank you Dior for your insightful and informative interview!