Job Title: Production Specialist
Type of Company: I work for an Association that supports workplace learning and development. The members are generally Human Resource professionals and the print collateral supports their efforts to train and support the workforce.
Education: BA in Dance/Theatre, Goucher College, Baltimore MD MAS (Master of Administrative Science), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Previous Experience: Just out of college I worked in the editorial, and then production departments at the Johns Hopkins University Press. I relocated to Kansas City and took a job with a large commercial web printer, managing print production for large national companies. After some time overseas, I returned to the States and worked as Reprint Coordinator for a major weekly news magazine. After another period overseas I returned and worked for a small print shop, handling work for the hospitality industry. Again, overseas and upon return took my present job with an Association doing print production for books, magazines and marketing materials.
Job Tasks: As production specialist, I evaluate the print requirements of various projects as they are submitted to the Creative Services department of our organization. The projects range from simple marketing postcards to monthly magazines. Generally, I handle all of the books and reprints (approximately 100 per year), two monthly magazines, catalogs, and collateral material for these projects, such as "blow-in cards" (the random cards that often fall out of magazines), outerwraps, bellybands, etc. These are somewhat technical terms, but basically they are the supporting promotional materials associated with each larger project.
Once a project is submitted we evaluate the required elements in order to produce it within a specific budget and time period. We prepare a detailed request for estimate for each of the elements that we submit to at least three competing suppliers. We evaluate the bids for adherence to the specifications, select a vendor, prepare a detailed work order and schedule for distribution within the organization and to the vendor, and then oversee the job as it moves through editorial, creative, marketing and out the door to the vendor. We see and approve proofs of each process involved, and check the final product for adherence to quality control standards. We confirm that the job has delivered as planned and approve invoices for the work.
Another very large part of "print" production is to ensure that the content is usable and captured in a variety of formats (xml, html) and that projects are available electronically as well.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is finding a way to produce something complex within a limited budget. This involves having a technical knowledge of the processes as a good relationship with the vendors involved. The worst part of the job is that production is held responsible for all aspects of a job being the last department to handle it. A system of checks and balances and an electronic or paper trail is critical.
Job Tips: 1, Understand the technology as it is changing all the time. Take advantage of any classes in Flash, Indesign, Photoshop, etc.
2. Take a job as an intern with a traditional print company to really understand print on paper "the old way."
3. Develop a process for tracking details that works for you, whether it be assigning tasks to yourself, keeping a desk calendar, or organizing your files in an order that prompts the appropriate follow up.
Additional Thoughts: The most important qualities are organization and attention to detail. I don't know of many jobs that don't require these qualities. The difference may be that mistakes in print production cost real money and everyone in the organization sees the cost of an error. I really like my work, but I've also had the opportunity to live overseas and work in jobs completely outside print production. Any work that involves dealing with a variety of people to get something done on budget and within a time line would apply to a career in print production.
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