Izzy Voice's Alumni Story
Izzy Voice studied BA Literature and History and MA Early Modern History at UEA. Izzy is now a Commissioning Editor for History of the Americas, Routledge, Taylor & Francis. Here Izzy reflects on her career and time at UEA.
[UEA] was a really great place to study, and I do think that my lecturers/advisors in my third year and MA year genuinely wanted to see me succeed.
What have you been up to since you graduated?
I graduated from UEA with a BA in Literature and History in 2018 and decided to stay on and study an MA in Early Modern History, finishing in September 2019. Whilst working as a Temporary Receptionist at a local school and proofreading a manuscript for a local historian, I was applying for jobs in publishing, eventually starting work as the Editorial Assistant for Medieval and Early Modern History at Routledge, Taylor & Francis from February 2020. During the pandemic, I made the most of the mandatory working from home rule and decided to relocate to Edinburgh for 9 months with two friends. I later moved to London and was promoted to Senior Editorial Assistant for History in November 2021 and then to Commissioning Editor for History of the Americas (as maternity cover).
What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?
I had absolutely no idea what career I wanted to do when I started at UEA. During my third year I was manically applying to anything from the Sky Graduate Scheme to the Civil Service Fast Stream to jobs at Bloomsbury. I thought I might want to be a History teacher, and so I spent a week observing classes at my old school (from which I learned that teaching was not the right career path for me at the time).
To continue studying History I decided to stay at UEA and do a Masters. I worked at Concrete as the Co-Chief Copy Editor and later learnt that I wanted to work with authors’ content as a career, so I started to think more seriously about careers in publishing.
Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA.
Sadly my journey to UEA is very uninteresting as I initially found out about it from a university brochure at a career’s event at my college. I decided to go there because it was a campus university, the Literature and History course looked good, and I’d seen that UEA had also hosted a lot of music artists that I was interested in.
My best days at UEA were during my Masters year because by that point, the friends I had made on my course had decided to also stay on and do the same Masters. Realising that I wanted to work in publishing also felt like a huge relief to me, in contrast to the year before where I was manically applying for anything and everything.
Did you participate in any clubs or societies while studying at UEA?
I was a member of the Boat Club (Rowing) for a year and a half, a member of the History Society, and was the MA Early Modern Course Representative from 2018-2019.
Did this influence your outlook, give you skills that made you more employable, or expand your network?
The most useful experience was probably being the MA Early Modern History Course Representative. It wasn’t a very demanding role, but going to Student Staff Liaison Committee meetings (albeit not many) was something I could put on my CV and cover letter to demonstrate skills such as communication, working with different departments, organisation, etc.
In your career what key tasks & skills are involved on a day-to-day basis, and what are/have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects?
In any role I’ve had in publishing, organisation is the number one key skill I practise all the time. I’m responsible for managing multiple projects through the publication process from commissioning, proposal, review, contract, to submission. I use multiple ‘trackers’ (mainly Excel spreadsheets) to manage these and they are used at any given time to provide an update on any project. Other key skills include communication (e.g. when talking to authors at conferences etc), attention to detail (e.g. when drafting contracts and looking through manuscripts), collaboration (e.g. when working with other departments such as Royalties, Marketing, Production etc), and time management.
The most rewarding aspects have been when I’ve seen an initial idea come to fruition at proposal. The first handbook (a multi-edited project with 35+ chapters) I commissioned was The Routledge History of Masculinity in Early Modern Europe. From my Masters degree, I knew that this was an emerging field and was something that we were lacking on the publishing list, so receiving the positive peer reviews of the proposal and seeing it eventually contracted was a really encouraging experience!
Another rewarding highlight was attending the 2023 American Historical Association Conference in Philadelphia. I attended alone, and was responsible for setting up 30+ author meetings and meeting them all over three days to discuss their current research, writing projects, etc.
However, publishing is a very fast-paced environment with high demands and high targets and it can sometimes be difficult to keep up, but the rewarding aspects and the lovely colleagues and authors I work with definitely make it worth it.
Has your degree influenced your career?
Definitely! The historical knowledge I gained at UEA for four years has helped me when publishing history books as I am already familiar with some scholars and their work, know what textbooks are most useful in seminars, and know what the emerging fields and ‘hot topics’ are.
In terms of skills, communication and confidence are skills that I gained at UEA which now help me on a day-to-day basis. For example, I’ve learnt that sharing your thoughts on a reading in a seminar is very similar to putting forward your ideas to an author or editor about what books to publish.
What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?
I feel very fortunate to be able to say that I got my dream job, completely related to my degree, very soon after leaving university. Publishing jobs are notoriously hard to get (I was against hundreds of other of applicants for my initial Editorial Assistant role) and to get one in not just my ideal subject (history) but ideal period (early modern) is rare. Progressing in the field has been very self-affirming!
What were your experiences of Norwich as a city? Is there anything in particular that you miss or have fond memories of?
I do miss the individuality of Norwich (the Norwich market, the independent bookshops/cafes/restaurants, all the different pubs, Eaton Park, etc) and the cheap rent (!). I also have really fond memories of my time on campus (BBQs by the lake, going to the LCR, sitting in the square, the bars, etc).
Would you recommend studying at UEA? Why?
I can only speak from a Humanities side, but it was a really great place to study, and I do think that my lecturers/advisors in my third year and MA year genuinely wanted to see me succeed. There was a huge module selection so I felt that I could really tailor my course to suit my interests and if you can appreciate campus life and the benefits of living in Norwich, then I’d recommend it to anyone.
Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?
If you’re looking at a career in publishing, then I’d say to try and not give up (understandably easier said than done). I applied to three or four different jobs at Taylor & Francis before I got my Editorial Assistant role (as well as countless other jobs at different companies, too). Even if you don’t get a job, it’s always good to keep a positive mindset and view every interview as good practice which you can only get better at.
More generally, just do what you want to do and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. If you feel like you’re not ready for starting a new job, then don’t do it. You’re perfectly entitled to take a break, go travelling, etc!
What is next for you?
Moving to a different subject and getting a permanent Editor role at Taylor & Francis and exploring where I want to live next!