Alumni in the Spotlight – May

Alumni SpotlightThomas DiMascio is a 1994 Pace University MS in Publishing Alumni.  Since graduating from Pace, Mr. DiMascio has had a successful career working in book publishing and is currently the Director of Supply Chain Management for D.C. Comics.

In this interview  in addition to offering up a bit of advice to students and alumni, Mr. DiMascio will tell us a bit about how his career has evolved and continues to grow in today’s dynamic publishing environment.

If you are an alumni and would like to be interviewed or, if you would like to suggest alumni for future interviews, please email Professor Jane Denning at jdenning@pace.edu. Be sure to include all of the relevant contact information.

Prof. Denning: Hi Tom and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 17 years since you graduated from the M.S. in Publishing program.  What have you been doing with yourself since then?

Tom at DC MuralTD: Trying to figure out the meaning of life.  No joke. I’m very introspective and for me to understand where and who I am, I try to learn as much about the world as I can.

I was very fortunate to have been able to travel for business.  I spent a lot of time in England, China, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, and Italy, where I met my wife between press-checks.  I also took the time to return to school yet again for my MBA at Rutgers University.  That was a very intense program.  I called it boot-camp for the brain.

Currently I’m in my eighth year at Warner Bros. / DC Entertainment and raising my family in New Jersey.  Because I can never sit still, I began teaching Business 101 at my local community college last fall and this summer I will teach a course in Supply Chain Management in our Masters in Publishing program.  I can’t wait.

Prof. Denning: How has the industry changed since you began your career?  What was the work environment like then (in terms of job opportunities) as opposed to now?

TD: From the beginning I knew that this industry, while rewarding, is not the best place to be if you want to be rich.  That was fine with me then and it remains so today.

I began working for Viking Penguin during the summer during my undergraduate studies.  This was way back in the late eighties.  There were only a few personal computers in the office and I spent most of my time glued to one crunching data on how many books we picked, packed, and shipped to the world.  Nowadays I am stilled glued to a computer but I am answering e-mails every second of the day.  They come in faster than I can respond!

As far as job opportunities go, they are tight.  Publishing houses have been transforming for over two decades from the old-world stodgy houses of the past into modern businesses.  Just as this change was moving into its final stage, the industry has now arrived at a crossroad with the new world of digital publishing.

Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how our educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

TD: There are two ways to learn about the publishing industry in a relatively short amount of time. One way, that I believe to be illegal, is to clone yourself many times and go to work in every department at a large publishing house.  The easier way is to go to enroll in the M.S. in Publishing Program.

When I enrolled in the program, I had an operational / business perspective on the industry. For me, it was incredible to see how a work makes it from the slush pile or agent; then to a finished work. The more I learned about the process, the better I became at my job and the more I fell in love with the industry. There is nothing like knowing that you are an important part of either entertaining or educating the world.

Prof. Denning: How have you been involved in the program since graduating?

TD: I had lost touch for a number of years. About two years ago, you and a former colleague of mine from Wiley, Linda Bathgate — yet another Pace graduate — were instrumental in bringing me back to the program as an adjunct professor. Last year, I was honored to perform a guest lecture for a group of executives from the publishing industry in China. This summer, I will teach a course in supply chain management in the publishing industry. I can’t wait to share what I have learned!

Prof Denning: Where did you intern when you were in Graduate school? Was it a valuable experience?

TD: I was lucky enough to have already been working in the industry. While studying for my bachelors at Rutgers, I had worked at Viking Penguin and John Wiley and Sons. Upon graduation, I remained at Wiley. It was while I was at Wiley that I entered the program. Those two publishing houses are two of the finest examples of excellence in global publishing and were fantastic places to learn about the industry. I would go back to either in a heartbeat!

Prof. Denning: What was the topic of your thesis paper? What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?

TD: My thesis was a study of the function of book packagers. After I completed my coursework, it took me several years to sit down and write it. My first bit of advice is not to do that. Yes, you have time, but don’t let life get in the way of your thesis. That said, I had devoted much time to researching the topic, attending events, and interviewing book packagers around the world. I was fascinated with the process, as it entailed every aspect of running a publishing house, short of making and selling copies of the work. Book packagers create works but do not publish. They sell the rights to publish the work to publishers throughout the world. Publishers are happy because they can simply add works to their front-list without having to acquire and develop it.

Prof. Denning: I know that this semester you were given an iPad to assist you with your course and that you are also working with an internship student (who was also given an iPad) as a faculty mentor. Can you tell us about your impression of the iPad? The experience of working as a faculty mentor?

TD: Having an iPad has changed how I personally view e-books. I think that the device itself is revolutionary. Oddly, it really does nothing more than a laptop can do; but it is so damn  portable and the battery lasts forever — that’s what makes it a game-changer. I read books, check my e-mail, watch movies, surf the web. It is incredible. If I was first given a Kindle, I don’t think that it would have made the same impact as the iPad has. It will be super-interesting to see how the tablet and e-book reader market develops.

Being a faculty mentor is a really nice experience. I am a father, a coach, a boss, etc., so being a mentor comes naturally for me. Clare, the student who I have been assigned to is a dream. She is so smart, driven, and mature. I’m sure that before I retire, I’ll be reporting to her.

Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing? Where did that passion come from?

TD: As I mentioned earlier, my love for publishing sprung from a simple summer job at Viking Penguin while I was an undergrad. It was love at first sight (pathetic but true). I was just enamored by all of the books; thousands of them surrounding me. I said to myself that I wanted to be a part of making books. Well, that was 1988 and I’m still here. I love it.

Prof Denning: Can you tell us a bit about DC Comics and what it is like working there?

TD: Unique! I am not a fanboy like most here. That makes me stand out. However, I’ve been here over eight years and I do enjoy it immensely. What I do really like is the business itself. I deal with conventional hardcovers and paperbacks; but it doesn’t stop there. Comics themselves are periodicals like magazines; so I work with the subscriptions and newsstand channels too. We also publish MAD magazine. It is published by a small and very intelligent team of nuts who are great to work with.

Then there are the collectibles. They are way cool. I’ve been to China several times managing the relationships with our factories that produce our action figures, statues, and movie props.

Since DC is part of Warner Bros. and Time Warner, I also have the privilege of working on and with projects that sometimes touch our movies, games, and animation business. Also, I often  work on inter-company projects with my colleagues from other Time Warner divisions: TW Corporate, WB, HBO, CNN, Turner, and Time Life.

Finally, there are all of the Top Secret things that have to deal with saving the universe… Unfortunately, I can’t go further.. You don’t get much cooler than that.

Prof. Denning: What do you think the future holds for DC Comics? The graphic novel book/comic book industry in general?

TD: We recently reorganized our business. We’ve been a publisher for over seventy-five years and that says a lot about our business. The world has changed, however. Warner Bros. wants us to be more adept at working with them to bring new projects to the big screen and television; not to mention games and of course electronic publishing. We shall see were this takes us in, say, five years. I guarantee you that the business will be very different while still having the publishing team at its core.

Prof. Denning: Tell us a bit about what your job entails—what is “Supply Chain Management”?

TD: Supply Chain Management is like marketing on steroids. The discipline examines all functions from the point after R&D until the moment that the product is placed in the customers’ hand. Then we are charged with working with all business units to make sure that we are providing the customer with exactly what they want, when they want it, and in the most efficient manner.

What the heck does that mean? Well, before supply chain management, there were all of these silos of business units — marketing, production, manufacturing, sales, distribution, customer service — doing their jobs as best as they see fit. Unfortunately, that often translates into the customer NOT getting what they want, when they want it. Things unintentional get lost in translational. For a business that means a loss in productivity and unhappy clients.

The skill set of someone in supply chain management is two-fold. You need to be good enough in mathematics and statistics to be able to handle forecasting as well as remaining very politically savvy. In business, working between business units can be dangerous. Towers with high walls and moats are often created around departments. Department heads don’t often want to work together with others because it reduces their power. Sound crazy? It is.

Prof Denning: What do you think the future holds for book publishers? Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

TD: There is no doubt that the industry has changed. I think that it is a change for the better. Good, smart publishers will survive. The art of publishing does not discriminate from the form the final product takes.

Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?

TD: From my perspective, the biggest single trend that I see is that publishers are finally understanding that “content is king.” With the real birth of an e-book market, all publishers are learning how to publish in electronic format. An offspring seems to be a resurgence in the concept of on-demand printing. With a combination of on-demand technology and e-books, publishers theoretically never need to place a title out-of-print. This will have a huge positive impact on a publisher’s bottom line — assuming they can adapt.

Prof. Denning: Would you like to speculate on the future ebooks? What areas to you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, childrens, trade, graphic novels, romance etc.)?

TD: They are here to stay. The question is in what format and on what platform. I think that any publisher can create a great e-book for their particular genre.

Prof. Denning: What do you think the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

TD: In my opinion there are two fundamental traits: a deep understanding of the content and a strong marketing skill set. If you have a strong connection with the content you will be able to relate both with the creators and customers. With a strong skill set in marketing you will understand how to use data analysis in locating and satisfying your customers.

Prof. Denning: Can you tell us a bit about the course you will be teaching this summer?

TD: The course is an introduction to supply chain management in the publishing industry. Most courses in the program focus on creating the original work within a publishing house. For the first time, we will take a look at how works mysteriously make their way from the publisher and into the hands of the consumer.

Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

TD: Like anything in life, hard work and perseverance go a long way.  Best of luck to our students!!!

Prof. Denning: Thanks, Thomas!