My Path to PRH: Becca Dvorak on "Learning in the Flow of Work"
Everyone has unique career stories to tell. In our My Path to Penguin Random House series, PRH colleagues share how they entered the world of book publishing, what led them to our company, insights into their jobs, and their future professional aspirations.
This week, we’re featuring Rebecca Dvorak, Director of US & Corporate Learning and Global Talent Projects, as she tells us her story in her own words.
How would you describe the course of your path to book publishing and PRH, including practical, professional, and educational?
My path to publishing probably started out like most of my PRH colleagues: staying up way too late reading on a school night. I spent my grade school summers vying for the top spot on the local library reader board, cashing in on the unseemly number of Tamora Pierce and Dear America books I was reading for a chance at literary glory. I was an Art History major in college and loved the idea of combining my love of visual stories with written narrative through picture books and was incredibly lucky to land an internship at Penguin Young Readers—reading slush and basking in the expertise of the incredible editors at Putnam and Philomel. After graduation, I reconnected with my PYR colleagues and got a job as an Editorial Assistant at Razorbill. I loved the creative energy of the team—particularly the work we did creating IP for writers. I found the process of working with the authors and partnering with them to develop the content along with their own identity incredibly exciting. After three years, I realized that, though I loved being part of the publishing process, editorial wasn’t the right path for me. So, I looked for other roles at PRH that would put my love of learning, storytelling and people development to work. I interviewed for a Coordinator position on the PRH Learning & Development team and have been here for the last nine years! Currently, I serve as the Director of US & Corporate Learning and Global Talent Projects. Basically—I look after employee learning and development specifically in the US while also supporting a number of global initiatives in partnership with HR colleagues across PRH and Bertelsmann. I absolutely love my job. Specifically, I love developing programming and initiatives that support employee growth at PRH. One of the most amazing parts of my job is organizing a program, or course, and seeing it’s immediate impact on how an employee is able to approach their work, thrive in their day to day, and grow the business in a more meaningful way. I’m also incredibly grateful to work with such a talented team of learning professionals—I admire my team members so much for their endless curiosity, thoughtfulness and professionalism, and just generally enjoy spending time with them each day.
What are three key elements that you prioritize when developing programming and initiatives?
The most important element we prioritize when building programming and initiatives is relevance to the business. Everything we do must be aligned with growing and supporting our employees in creating the best possible books and helping those books find their audience. We spend a lot of time on our team making sure we are connecting and listening to colleagues from every level and role to make sure we are focusing our efforts and resources on initiatives that will support them directly. The second thing we prioritize is quality of the learning. PRH employees are busy! We want to ensure that everything we are rolling out to employees and offering for their development is thoroughly vetted, carefully crafted, and just a good use of their valuable time. There are so many other big considerations when building our curriculum, offerings and resources, but the final one I’ll highlight is connection. We know that employees learn the most from each other and so with all our offerings we work hard to incorporate moments for peer coaching or collaboration. The most successful elements of so many of our learning offerings centers around creating opportunities for employees to gather best practices and learnings from each other. This also encourages what my boss, Jo Mallia, likes to call “learning in the flow of work” which is crucial for a successful learning organization.
In your 9 years on the Learning & Development team, what is one initiative you feel most proud of and why?
I love so many of the programs I’ve been a part of creating and running! From the Mentor Match Program, the People Management Program, the Moving Toward Equity Program, the Growth Tool Kit rollout all the way to the most senior leadership programs like the PRH Circle, I love working so closely with colleagues from across the company in so many different roles and departments to figure out how we can support each and every employee do their best work and show up for themselves, their teams and the business every day. This year, I think the initiative I’m most proud of is the Emerging Editors program. This program, which was designed to support Assistant and Associate level editors through a pivotal career moment and transition, is particularly close to my heart as someone who started my career as a junior editor and struggled to find my footing in that role. To create this program, I partner with a group of incredibly impressive senior-level editors or publishers at PRH to create an entirely virtual, discussion-based, six-module workshop that exposes junior editors to different editorial styles and approaches. Small group work is supplemented by panels and presentations from internal experts and accomplished editors. The program focuses on creating opportunities for junior editors to challenge their assumptions about success and create individual plans for how to take responsibility for crafting their own careers. We just finished up the final module of the 2023 program in May and it was phenomenal to hear from all of the participants about the projects they had workshopped throughout the program. I felt so honored to be a part of it!
What’s a perfect weekend with your growing family?
Most of my weekends these days revolves around hanging out with my husband and two-year old daughter. On Saturday we might head to storytime at the library after soccer practice and grab pastries at our favorite bakery for lunch, or hang out at a friend’s house for a play date in the morning before coming home for an afternoon of playing with bubbles in the yard (bubbles can be a multi-hour event if given the chance). In the winter, Evie and I did a lot of craft projects or coloring together which felt like peak mom-ing in my book. On Sunday, we sometimes set out on a bigger adventure— taking the train to the Botanical Gardens or into the city to the Natural History Museum, or saying hi to the animals at the Greenburgh Nature Center near our house. I’m nine months pregnant now so in general we try to keep things pretty low key and flexible!
You love train travel. Tell us your top 3 audio books for the perfect train trip!
I do love traveling by train! It helps that it’s the only mode of transportation that doesn’t give me motion sickness. 😊 My favorite trip by far was a trip my husband and I took to Switzerland in 2018. The trains there are so efficient and the scenery absolutely gorgeous. Nothing has compared since then! I do love listening to audio books— it’s the ultimate multi-tasking hack! Some of my favorites from the past year have been The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (I loved hearing all the Italian pronunciations!) and Matrix by Lauren Groff. Of course, any audiobook list would be incomplete without mentioning my absolute favorite, Agatha Christie, and at the top of that list is And Then There Were None. I started listening to Agatha Christie back when they were actual cassette tapes you could check out of the library. My little sister and I would make string kit bracelets in our yard and listen to her mysteries all summer long (also aiding in my high status on the library reading challenge). One day I’ll take a train trip through the British countryside and listen to Agatha Christie along the way.