Spinebreaker Atifa tells us about her work experience in the Marketing and Publicity department of Penguin Children’s.
Day one of my 3-week work experience placement at Penguin Children’s and I’m standing blinking in the bright sunlight streaming over a wonderfully empty Trafalgar Square, first thing on a Monday morning. As expected, I’m feeling slightly nervous.
But I take a deep breath and walk somewhat purposefully down the Strand, twirl my way through some revolving glass doors, get taken to the right floor and introduced to everyone in the Marketing and Publicity department.
My first hour at Penguin was a whirlwind of information. I was given my own desk, a health and safety briefing, a security pass, a welcome pack and computer log-ins. There was a tour in which I saw (mostly) BOOKS- books in cupboards, books on shelves, books on tables, books shoved under desks and piled on top of boxes (these boxes, no doubt, contained even more books) It’s was like Narnia, if Narnia was made of books and office equipment.
From then on, members of the department began giving me tasks to do and I settled in.
The welcome pack included, amongst other things, a desk plan of the department and general duties like collecting and distributing the post each morning. As you can imagine, the desk plan came in handy when I was trying to figure out who everyone was and by the end of my placement I had proudly managed to learn the names of each and every person in the department so that I barely needed to glance at it before handing out the post.
I undertook a variety of other different tasks each day, which kept me busy from 9.30am when I walked into the office until 5.30pm when I left. On some days I mailed out more than 100 packages, running down to Stationery periodically to stock up on envelopes.
I ran errands for people in the department like collecting train tickets, buying sweets for a cake decorating activity at an author event and picking up packages.
I rang for Porters and arranged overnight Couriers, packed up books in boxes and unpacked books from boxes. I created showcards, selected colours for friendship bracelets and printed and bound more than 25 manuscripts using a rather terrifying-looking machine called a binder comb.
I had the opportunity to write for the Puffin Blog - albeit it was about The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but writing is writing after all. It challenged me to write for a specific target audience and whilst the thought of doing it utterly terrified me in the beginning, I did it nonetheless and am rather proud of the end result.
I spent time watching the printer, muttering under my breath about the printer, shouting at said printer and even (embarassingly) watching a video about how to scan. The printer and I, we’re now the closest of friends but it was rocky for a while. I can now boast that I know the exact location of the bypass tray AND how to clear umpteen paper jams without referring to the instructions.
When I walked into Penguin at the beginning of my placement, I felt like I had stepped into a whole new world of publishing. Everyone else knew so much more than I did and it would have been easy to feel as though I’d never catch up with them or never learn enough to feel at home there.
But this placement has given me the confidence to be assertive in a work environment; I introduced myself to people I’ve never met before, learned so many new skills that it would be impossible to list them all and most importantly, gained an insight into how the largest book publisher in the world is run.
Penguin is one of the most interesting places I have ever been and I loved every single minute of my placement. Words cannot adequately describe how lovely everyone was there. They were incredibly generous and kind towards me, making me feel so welcome. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever met and I count myself lucky to have worked with them.