My Path to PRH: Kendra Sands on Finding Strong, Female Leadership at PRH
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 Kendra Sands, Director of Business Development, Penguin Random House, 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 PRH wasn’t traditional but I’ve always been engaged in business development. After studying Advertising and Anthropology at Southern Methodist University, I spent 12 years in the fashion industry working as both a buyer and as a product developer for brands such as Target, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, and Under Armour. I went into the fashion industry because I love fashion, strategy, being creative, and I am fascinated by the psychology behind consumer purchasing behavior (and how to influence it). These roles allowed me to get a crash course in consumer marketing, financial planning, product development, and trend forecasting. My roles also allowed me to travel the world including trend trips to LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, and product development trips to Hong Kong.
After 12 years in that world, I was ready for a new challenge, and I was really craving strong, female leadership. After a lot of networking, I connected with an old Target friend who had been doing consulting work for Penguin Random House. He had started a Localization project and said that PRH was looking for someone from the retail world to take this one full-time. This role, Director of Business Development, would include strategy, outreach, Localization, and the translation of retailer metrics and terminology, buyer constraints and needs, and motivations and pressures across multiple retail departments (planning, buying, merchandising, etc.). I have always been an avid reader and I grew up with an English teacher for a mother, so the opportunity to work for Penguin Random House sounded like a wonderful fit.
How did you apply your existing skillset to a new industry?
I believe that the core skill set necessary to drive a successful business can extend to any field: critical thinking, an innate curiosity, financial acumen, trend/market knowledge, and a drive to know your consumers like your best friend. If you know how to do those things, and you’re willing to learn quickly and work hard, you can work in almost any industry. My experience in running retail businesses, strategy, trend forecasting, product development, and financial planning have prepared me for work at PRH.
What have been some of the highlights of your PRH job and work life so far? Has anything surprised you?
The incredible collaboration and kindness between teams at PRH is something that I have never experienced before. I am constantly surprised and delighted by my experience partnering with teams to open new accounts. People are passionate about books, driving business, and finding a way to help amidst all kinds of new and unique challenges.
I consider myself to be a scrappy, entrepreneurial person so I have loved the opportunity to chase down outreach leads and create new business from scratch. During the height of the pandemic, with the incredible partnership and hard work of the Sales and Operations teams, we were able to open our largest Localization pilot ever. And it’s been fun and challenging to nurture and grow that business, along with others.
And I certainly got what I asked for as far as working with strong female leaders. I feel immense gratitude that I can work with and learn from some of the smartest, kindest women. They lead by example in their personal and professional lives every day.
Tell us about your work-life balance!
Work-life balance is a bit of a misnomer and sets people up for disappointment. I believe in the healthy fluctuations between work and your personal life. Some days it’s more work and some days you get more life in, and that works well for me.
In my free time I spend time with my husband (who I met at PRH!), walking or snuggling with my rescue beagle, Samson, traveling, reading (naturally!), being physically active (I love yoga, hiking, kayaking, swimming), and spending time with my family. I still love fashion, so you’ll still catch me reading industry trend reports, Vogue, and learning about new brands on social media. If you’re ever curious about a new trend or want a new brand recommendation, I am your gal!