Editor: Kassel Pierre-Jean Company: Digitas Health Number of years in editing: 15 years
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I enjoyed reading and writing fiction as young as 6 years of age. English was always my strongest subject in school. (I was that annoying kid who could write a 500-word essay the night before it was due and get an A+.)
I attended college for print journalism, expecting to venture into news reporting. However, after submitting a few well-written articles, I was recruited to be Chief Copy Editor. I soon learned how much I loved and enjoyed editing. I decided to switch gears from news writing to copy editing.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
My area of focus is medical and pharmaceutical editing. I accidentally fell into it. After I got married, we moved to the metro Philadelphia area, which seemed to be a big spot for medical and pharmaceutical companies. I worked for a medical test development company that exposed me to medical terminology and the American Medical Association Manual of Style. I then began freelancing and edited pharma veterinary marketing materials. Now I edit marketing materials for human health. A mentor suggested I get certified by BELS as an Editor in the Life Sciences, and I received the certification in 2016.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
My typical workday starts off at 9 am. I check my email for anything that might have arrived after-hours. From 9:30-10:30, I'm in project status meetings that let me know what's coming my way for the day. After a quick catch-up on more email after 10:30, I settle in and begin editing various projects assigned to me by different project managers. My deadlines are not often generous and have a same-day turnaround. For example, a project sent to me at 10:30 could have a turnaround as quickly as 11 or 11:30. I often have to push back on deadlines I find unreasonable, but this only usually buys me an hour or two. Very rarely do I have projects that can be completed the next day. I often work through lunch (maybe take a 15-30 minute walk if I'm lucky) and may attend other meetings, general or project related, as needed. My day usually ends between 5:30-6, but there are occasional late nights and weekends.
I manage my time by using a ticketing system set up in our company that helps us prioritize projects by deadline. Time really is of the essence in my field, so depending on how quick the turnaround times are, I either have a quick chat with a coworker or plow through projects with little breaks.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
My favorite thing about being an editor is the subject matters I get to work on. Even though I'm working on marketing materials, I get to learn about different disease states, such as virology and oncology. A lot of these materials raise awareness about medical conditions, and I enjoy being part of an organization that aims to improve the lives of doctors and consumers.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
My biggest challenge is not being able to edit a piece as thoroughly as I'd like. I think editors by nature are perfectionists, so it's difficult to edit a piece with 1-2 passes and then just let it go because time's up. I rarely have the luxury of sitting on a piece to review at a later time. I've been at this a while now so my anxiety about mistakes has decreased but it's still a lingering fear. I just try to work as quickly and accurately to the best of my ability within the timeframe that I have.
What are you currently working on?
Different projects for various disease states. I work on both print and digital media so I get to review magazine ads, in-office brochures, TV spots, radio scripts, banner ads, and lately, a lot of social media content.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Always look for an editor who is better than you. I was lucky enough to work with an editor during my freelance career who is now my mentor. I was able to review her work and analyze all her edits, noting every minor detail she looked for. Being an editor is more than just reviewing copy. Good editors are error seekers—in text, images, graphics, tables, and more. Find someone who excels at the craft and ask them to mentor you.