My Path to PRH: Ximena Gonzalez on How the Pandemic Kickstarted Her Career Goals
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 Ximena Gonzalez, Marketing Assistant with Penguin Press, as she tells us her story in her own words.
How would you describe your leap to Penguin Random House and why now?
I started at Penguin Random House on August 1, 2022, but this milestone was years in the making. Books have shaped my life from a young age. They’ve been a place where I’ve found escapism, inspiration, and connection. My dream has always been to work in publishing and to one day become a book editor. I cemented this goal as a high school senior when asked to create a bucket list for my life. I used this as motivation while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of North Florida. I’ve carried this dream with me and kept it at the forefront of my mind with every step in my career. It’s a blessing to know exactly what you want to be doing, but it gets painful when you realize you’re not living in that reality.
Like so many others, the pandemic shook up my life. It caused me to retreat inward and reevaluate what’s important. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to be doing more. I asked myself if I was living in my purpose and aligned with my passions. I knew I needed to make a change. On May 3, 2022, I turned in my resignation at my full-time job of nearly three years to pursue turning this dream into a reality.
This decision was met with voices of concern as I was turning down a salary, benefits, and stability with no job prospects in sight. Nevertheless, I persisted forward. Despite the unknown road ahead of me, I trusted my gut telling me that this was the right decision. I took up dog walking and dog sitting as a part-time job and hit the ground running. I applied to as many publishing jobs, including internships, as I could and to jobs within the vicinity of books, such as at libraries and bookstores. I was determined to get my foot in the door, and I wasn’t afraid to start at the bottom to do so.
On June 19, 2022, I applied to a Marketing Assistant role at Penguin Press. This was exactly one month from my last day of work with my former company. I wrote in my journal that night about the position and made a bold claim: I am going to get this role.
What attracted you to the company, and what have been some of the highlights of your PRH job and work life so far?
Since I was young, I’ve had a ritual with every book I read; I open the front cover and flip to see who published it. Penguin Random House became a name I cherished as it was responsible for so many of my favorite books. It transformed into a symbol of importance in my life that represented purpose. I dreamt that one day I would align myself with a company dedicated to producing meaningful work and bringing stories into the world. Penguin Random House’s commitment to creating a positive impact on the world by making the best books of their kind is what has kept me laser focused on my mission to join them all these years.
On my first day of work, I kept feeling like I was going to burst into happy tears just by the sight of my email address. From day one, everyone in the company has been so welcoming, and you can feel how many people value working here. I feel lucky that Penguin Press is the imprint I work for as they’re responsible for publishing so many impactful books. There is never a shortage of manuscripts to read, and each story is unique and enriching in its own way. I’m thankful to be working with a team of veterans I can constantly learn from and collaborate with. I love that my job keeps me on my toes every day. It is always challenging me to understand, grow, and think of fresh ideas for each unique title.
Above all, the true highlight of my work life has simply been having a seat at the table. Knowing how long it’s taken me to get here and how many others wish to be here as well, I don’t take a second of it for granted.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about publishing thus far?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned about publishing so far is the number of moving parts that go into publishing a book. From start to finish, there are several different teams working together to see this project come to life. Whether it’s editorial, creative, marketing, publicity, sales, or the warehouse, each is a vital piece in the puzzle. Each task requires meticulousness and flexibility knowing that things can change on a dime. A title can suddenly be postponed or be released earlier than anticipated, and you must pivot to accommodate those changes. I was also surprised to learn how far in the future you can be working on books. Your present-day work may include titles that will be publishing two years from now, but there is still work to be done up to that point. I truly learn something new every day in my job, and I look forward to uncovering even more about this industry that I love so much.
Tell us more about your podcast! What motivates you to pursue this passion?
My best friend, Alexis, and I have a podcast together called Inside Out. It’s something we talked about doing for years and finally pulled the trigger on in August of 2021. This show was born out of having so many conversations behind closed doors about our struggles, mental health, relationships, careers, friendships, etc. We would always turn to each other and ask, “Does anyone else feel this way? Is anyone else having these conversations?” This is how the name Inside Out came to be. By being vulnerable and sharing our “insides,” we hope people can feel less alone and see themselves in our stories. Alexis and I have different backgrounds and experiences, so we’re able to bring a unique perspective to the table, and listeners can usually find themselves nodding along to one of us. This podcast is purely a passion project, and what motivates me to keep going is connection. I am always in awe when someone shares what resonated with them during an episode or how it made them laugh. Knowing someone is choosing to listen to our show in their headphones is a privilege I don’t take for granted.